Best 2000s LEGO Sets

A Guide to the Best 2000s LEGO Sets: Bricks Belong Together

I vividly remember the turn of the millennium. 

People were rabidly terrified of “Y2K”, a phenomenon that they insisted would crash all the computers in the world and plunge us into a new dark age. Clearly, that didn’t end up happening. That doesn’t mean that times didn’t change. 

The end of a decade is considered a big deal, so magnifying that literally one hundred times over was a momentous occasion in the truest sense.

The times were changing, but that phrase doesn’t do justice to what was happening. The entire world was almost unrecognizable in 2009 from what it was in 1999. 

The rapid encroachment of technology into everyone’s daily life came about with a rapidity that no one would have believed ten years before. No one was unaffected. Especially LEGO.

The nineties had been a rough time for the company, and though they had put out some classic sets in that decade (PlugPlugPlug!), the company was hemorrhaging money. If a few key things had gone differently, LEGO might have faded away in the new millennium’s first decade.

That is NOT What happened (and we’ll get into why in a bit), but LEGO could feel the reaper breathing down their neck. They knew their old style just wasn’t working anymore. It wasn’t enough to “just” put out a quality building toy. They didn’t know how to fix it and stay true to their brand. 

So they didn’t. 

They decided to try a BUNCH of different things and see which worked best. Twenty of their most inspired examples are below.  

Also read: A Guide to the Best 90s LEGO Sets: Builder’s Paradise

Criteria

How am I deciding what merits the “best” sets LEGO put out in this decade? 

  • Invention: LEGO knew that if they didn’t do something different, they would have to declare bankruptcy. If something is particularly experimental, it will get higher on the list. Necessity is the mother of invention. 
  • Creativity: I Love LEGO. I love it because it lets people unleash their creativity with an intuitive and visceral toy. If it’s more creative, it’s going higher. I have nothing against licensing other products, but it’s cheating.
  • Economics: The economy was already shifting in the two-thousands, and money was harder to come by. If a set delivers more bricks for the buck, it will get a better ranking. 
  • Nostalgia: I won’t lie. I’m human. I was alive in the two-thousands and still playing with LEGOs. If I have fond memories of something, that will affect its place on the list. 

Spoiler Alert Up Front:  Toa Gali is one of the first Bionicle sets ever released, and Bionicle saved LEGO almost single-handedly. Gali is my favorite of that first run, so I can’t imagine any set more deserving than this for Best LEGO Set of the 2000s. 

With all that out of the way, let’s get started! 

Best 2000s LEGO Sets

20.) Nick (From Galidor)

nick lego
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Theme: Galidor
  • Pieces: 12
  • Minifigs: 0
  • Approximate Skill Level:  Not Applicable

The LEGO Galidor sets were a gamble that didn’t pay off. 

It makes sense. The Galidor sets were basically action figures with modular body parts. They were a licensed product from a failed show that cribbed off another LEGO property that had been much better executed. It was a double knock-off, and people weren’t happy with it. 

Still, it was LEGO trying something different. It wasn’t their fault this gambit didn’t pay off.  

19.) Droid Commandos

LEGO Droid commandos set 3343
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Theme: Star Wars
  • Pieces: 30
  • Minifigs: 3
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner 

One of the last things LEGO did in the nineties was to start licensing other IPs for their sets. The first one they’d done this with was Star WarsThey released several sets to dovetail with the prequel trilogy movies, and this is one of the minifig sets from that era.

I loved these little guys because they were really unique for minifigs. 

If nothing else, you could fold them up almost exactly like they did in the movies, and that absolutely THRILLED me. Not to mention, LEGO Jedi couldn’t do much if they didn’t have some rank-and-file guys to fight.  

18.) Steven Spielberg’s Moviemaker Set

LEGO steven spielberg's moviemaker set 1349
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Theme: Studios
  • Pieces: 442
  • Minifigs: 7
  • Approximate Skill Level:  Advanced

If extra toys wouldn’t do the trick, why not try something more functional? 

This set came bundled with a webcam and editing software. That way aspiring LEGO masters could build the including set and then use the webcam to film their own movie! The camera was okay. The editing software was more potent than expected but still limited. 

The LEGO set included unique minifigs and everything you needed to set up a Hollywood-style backlot setpiece.

An action hero and his love interest were running from a tyrannosaurus minifig as a camera crew working behind the set to film the movie. The idea was that you could then add other LEGO pieces and make whatever kind of film you wanted! 

The downside was that this set was PROHIBITIVELY expensive for the time.  

17.) Wild Collection

LEGO wild collection Sets  4101
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Theme: Creator
  • Pieces: 492
  • Minifigs: 0
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced 

The Creator theme was LEGO deciding, “What if we keep doing what we’re doing, but HARDER?!” 

The set was almost five-hundred pieces and aimed at a preteen or teenage audience. It included a lot of small, regular bricks that you could find in many other sets, as well as (surprisingly) a few that were unique to this set. Then it included instructions for how to make 63 comparatively accurate animals in LEGO.

The assembled builds were incredible. They were incredibly articulated, looked terrific (for the most part), and proved that LEGO still had the stuff to make a quality toy out of building bricks that didn’t need any licensing or gimmicks. 

Unfortunately, this never got quite the popularity it deserved since it was released amid all the other products that did rely on licensing and gimmicks. 

16.) Dino Research Compound

LEGO Dino Research Compound Sets 5987
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Theme: Dino Island
  • Pieces: 617
  • Minifigs: 6
  • Approximate Skill Level:  Moderate

LEGO didn’t always license other properties. 

Sometimes, they would knock the property off and wear their inspiration on their sleeve!

This set came out a few years after the second Jurassic Park movie, and its influence is all over the set.

Johnny Thunder (an established LEGO character that was basically Indiana Jones with a better mustache) has taken his crew on an expedition to Dinosaur Island. One of his team is Dr. Kilroy, a charmingly eccentric inventor with a pith helmet, glasses, and a unique cane. 

The set’s forensic storytelling implies that Johnny is here to explore the island and observe the dinosaurs, while Sam Sinister has followed them to exploit the poor beasts. The two groups have clashed, and the dinosaurs have joined the fray on… whatever side a gigantic lizard might want to join. 

There’s an airplane, a boat, and a car all here, ready for the LEGO builders to see who comes out on top in this battle of the setting-agnostic characters.  

15.) Minotaurus

LEGO minotaurus Set
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Theme: Boardgames
  • Pieces: 211
  • Minifigs: 12
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner

With their bricks not selling as well but the company in a much better position, LEGO thought the way forward might include board games. For a while, it worked really well. 

The basic idea is to set up the board with regular bricks and swap them with pieces from your other LEGO sets. It was delightfully charming.  

This was one I got for Christmas one year. I played it with my younger brother a few times, packed it up, and never thought twice about it again. The game itself was fun but forgettable and relied heavily on you being completely overwhelmed by the thought of playing a game made of LEGO. 

Still, it was a fun way for children to pass an hour, and it was something else new that LEGO tried. 

14.) Spider-Man Action Set

LEGO spider-man action set 1376
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Theme: Spider-Man
  • Pieces: 248
  • Minifigs: 5, (3 Unique)
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner 

Superhero movies enjoy a much better reputation today than they did in the early two thousands. Before the late nineties, superhero flicks were exclusively campy films that only “nerds” (while that word was still derogatory) could enjoy. 

The original Spider-Man movie is part of what changed that mindset. It wasn’t the first (that was arguably the Blade franchise,) but it was the most mainstream. It was a big-budget film that treated the subject matter with seriousness and gravitas. 

LEGO joined in on that by releasing a few sets like this. Except it split the difference and went with a more meta interpretation by making it a part of the Studios line. A director is filming the movie, making the LEGO set explicitly one that, within its own universe, is about the movie rather than within its universe. 

Of course, LEGO is all about building your own stories, so you don’t HAVE to use the director if you don’t want to. It was just always something that annoyed ME. 

13.) Drawbridge Defense

LEGO Drawbridge defense Set 7079
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Theme: Fantasy
  • Pieces: 335
  • Minifigs: 3
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner 

LEGO’s medieval sets also felt the millennial shift. Early on, the Castle theme had been predominantly based on history. During the nineties, the subthemes within the Castle line added classic folkloric elements like dragons, witches, and wizards. 

The two thousands saw LEGO making FAR more “Castle” themed sets, and throwing everything left in the fantasy kitchen sink, creating the “Fantasy” subtheme.

There were still knights and dragons and magic. Now there were also trolls, orcs, undead, and other giant monsters roaming the medieval LEGO landscape. 

This set is one of my all-time favorites. An old knight, clad in golden armor, goes out to battle with the personification of death itself as a soldier and a jester do their best to defend the tower from an undead horde. It just set such a beautiful, symbolic scene that I couldn’t help but love it.   

12.) Spider-Man 2 Combined Set

LEGO spider-man 2 combined set 65572
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Theme: Spider-Man 2
  • Pieces: 1017
  • Minifigs: 18
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced

LEGO also tried releasing some much larger sets this time; others were released in a big bundle. 

This is one of the latter, and it combines three sets released earlier in the year to make one massive set that celebrates the release of Spider-Man 2. 

Each set is a recreation of a different iconic scene from the film. Each set also includes a Spider-Man minifig and a Doc Ock minifig as they battle across LEGO New York City.

This one is another licensed property, but it’s getting a boost for being a set that includes over a thousand bricks for your LEGO collection, including some that were really difficult to find in other places, and being one of the few Spider-Man-themed sets LEGO released. 

11.) Grand Tournament (WITH SWORD AND SHIELD!)

LEGO grand tournament with sword and shield Set 65642
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Theme: Knights Kingdom II
  • Pieces: 314 (including the sword and shield)
  • Minifigs: 3
  • Approximate Skill Level:  Moderate

Another example of LEGO trying to release a very different product than they were familiar with. This one is even a twofer! 

They bundled a set released the previous year with a foam sword and shield that helped kids pretend to be a villain from their Knights Kingdom set. The foam weapons could have been better quality, but they were something LEGO was experimenting with at the time. 

The actual invention, however, comes in the form of the “Slammers” included in this set. The setting is another take on a joust.

Except for this time, after you built everything, you could load the knights onto their horses and then slam your fist down at two buttons to launch them at each other! Whichever build was left standing at the end won the joust! 

(I’m not saying I totally put the bad guy bricks together less tightly than the good guy to give him that extra edge… Except yes, I totally did do that.)

10.) Coast Guard Helicopter and Life Raft

LEGO coast guard helicopter and life raft Set 7738
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Theme: City
  • Pieces: 445
  • Minifigs: 4
  • Approximate Skill Level:  Advanced

The Coast Guard is a branch of the armed forces that should be talked about more. Worse, they’re often treated as if they don’t matter or have a “do-nothing” job. 

That’s just not true. 

What is true is that the Coast Guard patrols the shores and enforces laws in the waters that are a part of their country’s domain.

However, the one I consider more important is that they do a lot of Search and Rescue. If someone goes missing near the water, the coast guard steps in to handle looking.

Many of their duties are reactive rather than proactive, but that doesn’t mean they’re not busy. A bow requires a lot of muscles to stay drawn and ready at all times, after all.  

This build is a celebration of some of the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue duties. The Helicopter is a large build with many singular pieces, so I still thought it deserved mention even though it didn’t get a better spot. 

9.) Redbeard Runner

LEGO Redbeard Runner Set 6290
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Theme: Pirates
  • Pieces: 698
  • Minifigs: 7
  • Approximate Skill Level: Moderate 

Something important to understand is that some trends go in and out of fashion. Some trends, however, exist and then disappear. 

The Pirate trend looked like it was one of the latter for a long time. 

They served as stock characters much of the time, and they existed in other stories as bit players. However, stories that focused on them were very few and far between after a brief burst of popularity in the sixties and seventies.

That would change with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003. Just like that, pirates were back in the mainstream consciousness. 

This set comes from a few years before that. LEGO accurately predicted the return of pirates as a trend and capitalized on it.

Now the build is more focused on the older sixties impression of pirates. All of the rank-and-file sailors had bandanas, and the captain had a hat with the jolly roger on it, but LEGO used to love indulging in products that were just full of old tropes.

It was also a mix of unique and larger pieces that could only be used for this build.  

8.) LEGO Minifig Sculpture

LEGO Minifig Sculpture Set 3123
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Theme: Advanced Models
  • Pieces: 1850
  • Minifigs: “1” (FIGHT ME! THE WHOLE THING IS ONE BIG MINIFIG!)
  • Approximate Skill Level: Master 

LEGO had primarily advertised itself as a toy for children until the last two thousands. Before that, their demographic was expected to age out of playing with them and maybe pass off their bricks to other kids.

People who played with LEGOs into their adulthood were considered to be weirdos. (Although you tell me what actual child ever wanted to build the USS Constellation. …Other than me.)

The Advanced Models were the start of LEGO openly courting an older demographic. 

There’s not much to say about this build other than that it used primarily standard bricks to celebrate their now iconic minifig. 

7.) King’s Castle

LEGO King's Castle Set 10176
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Theme: Knights Kingdom II
  • Pieces: 869
  • Minifigs: 12
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced 

This is LEGO updating old ideas to a new release. There’s not a lot this set hadn’t done that hadn’t been done before, but it’s still a worthy set. 

I’m putting it so high because it represents LEGO still trying to remember what made them great in the place rather than abandoning it entirely. This exists in the Knights Kingdom II setting, but the minifigs involved are generic, aside from the one for King Matthias and Lord Vladek.

6.) Fire Nation Ship

LEGO Fire Nation Ship Set 3829
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Theme: Avatar, The Last Airbender
  • Pieces: 722
  • Minifigs: 5 (2 Unique)
  • Approximate Skill Level: Moderate

This is one time I’m breaking my own rules.

That’s partly because Avatar is a fantastic series, and anything that gets attention to it is good. The other part is that LEGO only made two sets based on the show. So it clearly wasn’t one of their focuses.

 Avatar wasn’t a huge success yet. It was a really well-written show that had a dedicated fanbase. LEGO saw that and made a set that let kids play with their favorite new characters in a fantastic world. (The show also gets bonus points for focusing on cultures that didn’t get a lot of focus at the time.)  

The build is made out of primarily standard pieces and intuitive enough that it doesn’t take a child long to put together, but it serves as a great introduction to a whole other world. 

5.) Danju

LEGO Danju Set 8770
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Theme: Knight’s Kingdom II
  • Pieces: 42
  • Minifigs: 0
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner 

In the early two thousands, LEGO released the Bionicle line. This had typical LEGO sets, but it also had larger figures based on a ball-and-socket system that could be assembled and disassembled. 

That set was pretty popular. Popular enough that LEGO used the same formula a few more times. The Galidor line was their attempt to take it in a more science-fiction direction. It flopped hard and early. The Knights Kingdom II line was a MUCH more effective reskinning of the design. 

Unlike the original Knights Kingdom, the second line depended more on world-building. Four knights fought against the evil Lord Vladek and his Shadow Knights to keep King Matthias’s kingdom safe.

The storyline would evolve with every new generation of releases, and different elements would be introduced and discontinued. 

Sir Danju was the Knight of the blue wolf and was my favorite from that first line. So he’d make an excellent representative of it. 

4.) Batman Arkham Asylum

LEGO Batman Arkham Asylum Set 7785
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Theme: Batman
  • Pieces: 860
  • Minifigs: 7 (4 Unique)
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced 

Another licensed product so late in the game? 

Yes. Because this one is also prescient. Three years after this set’s release, Rocksteady would release Batman: Arkham Asylum and finally give the caped crusader a proper video game treatment.

It had yet to be announced when LEGO released this, and developing a LEGO set can take years from conception to final product. 

Arkham is experiencing a breakout! (What else is new?) Batman is flying in to help the two overworked Arkham Staff and hopefully save their lives.

But he won’t have to do it alone! His former partner Nightwing has arrived to lend him a hand. Who is Nightwing, you ask? His real name is Dick Grayson, but many know him better than the first Robin. 

…Yes, the inclusion of one of my very favorite superheroes is a BIG Factor in why this got such a high place.  

3.) Werewolf Ambush

LEGO Werewolf Ambush Set 1380
  • Year Released: 2002
  • Theme: Studios
  • Pieces: 117
  • Minifigs: 3, (2 Unique)
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner 

The LEGO Studios line recognized the outstanding accomplishments of cinema throughout the twentieth century. 

This is from a particular subtheme called “Horror,” representing the classic “Hammer Horror” films of the thirties and forties. All of the classic movie monsters came from this era. Frankenstein. The Mummy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Wolfman. 

Werewolves are my absolute favorite monster, so this one was chosen to represent the line over some other builds. Not to mention, The werewolf represented a departure from the standard minifig. Typically, you had your humanoid minifigs and occasionally an animal or a dinosaur minifig. This was the first time they did both in one and frankly, the werewolf looked adorable.  

2.) Ultimate NBA Arena

LEGO Ultimate NBA Arena Set 3433
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Theme: Sports
  • Pieces: 491
  • Minifigs: 10 (8 Unique)
  • Approximate Skill Level: Advanced 

By this point, LEGO had created wide different varieties of the minifig. They’d made knights, astronauts, robots, superheroes, soldiers, and even classic horror monsters. But this set is when they finally released a minifig so out of the box that they never had so much as attempted it before: humans of different color shades! 

To be fair, LEGO had created the original figures to be bright yellow to make them completely race-agnostic. The child’s imagination was supposed to put whatever race they wanted on the figure in their hand, which worked for a long time.

However, this set included representations of actual NBA players, so LEGO wanted to be inclusive of their natural skin tones. 

This set let builders make and then play their own NBA basketball game (with a reduced number of players), but I’m intensely bored by sports. It’s mostly here because of its place as LEGO’s first attempt at more specific inclusion. 

1.) Toa Gali

LEGO Toa Gali Set 8533
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Theme: Bionicle
  • Pieces: 35
  • Minifigs: 0
  • Approximate Skill Level: Beginner 

I’ve briefly mentioned the Bionicle line earlier in this list. 

It released several sets, many of which are in the classic LEGO style. However, the more intriguing sets they released were single builds in canisters. Plastic tube and ball-socket pieces came together to form these warriors roughly the size of action figures and represented various characters from the world of Bionicle. 

The rough cut is that it was a fantasy story about non-human characters who tried to protect their world with the power of magical masks.

That world is profound and lush, with a lot of world-building that I wouldn’t be able to do justice to in the short space I have here. It was very detailed, and the released sets were very well done. The action figure type sets were incredibly unique, and overall, Bioncle was a fantastic line. 

It also almost single-handedly saved LEGO as a company. 

LEGO wasn’t sure whether it was the world-building, the ongoing storyline told only through the releases (at first,) or the different types of sets. Except it didn’t matter.

The sales were enough to bolster the company and let LEGO heave itself into the new millennium. They would later try to duplicate the success of Bioncle to varying results, but it all started with this first generation. 

The generations were released simultaneously, so there can’t be a “first set.” Instead, I chose Gali because he was my favorite, and if I didn’t choose a representative, this list would have been almost all Bionicle. 

Conclusion

The world changed in the two thousands. More and faster than it had done before. We lost many companies in those times, as those who couldn’t adapt quickly enough fell to the wayside.

Fortunately, LEGO managed to innovate sufficiently that it was not one of those we lost, and we’re still enjoying its products now, hopefully for centuries and even millennia to come. 

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