Is there a term for a dialogue-driven movie that takes place entirely on a single set? Some examples would be:

  • I've heard Chamber Play referred to in context of movies quite a few times. If I were you I'd consider putting it in an answer; I know I'd upvote it, especially since the OP seems to be talking movies specifically and John's answer is more TV-centric. I've never heard movies like Exam (to pick a semi-recent example) referred to as "Bottle Episodes," but I'm used to Chamber Play being a description. Here are a few more examples. Feb 8, 2014 at 18:27
  • @MeatTrademark Done
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 8, 2014 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


A possible term for this kind of movies might be a Chamber Play:

A chamber play is a play of usually three acts which can be performed with a small cast and practically no sets or costumes in a small space. The form became popular in the early 20th century, with leading exponents being Max Reinhardt and August Strindberg. First it was adapted to cinema in 1920s, being Kammerspielfilm and was later adapted for cinema by Ingmar Bergman.

The name is derived from the term chamber music.

While this originates from theatre, it is also used nowadays to describe movies that are not only set at a very confined space but whose action also pans out more through the dialog between very few actors and the intimate conflicts between them.

Considering your examples, while I'm not sure I would use it to describe Rear Window in its entirety (which more or less, even if not completely, still lives mainly from "external" conflicts and actions, I think), it seems a very good fit for 12 Angry Men (don't know the others, though).


In Television, the terminology would be "Bottle Episode".

It refers to an episode of a series that takes place within a confined setting: Ostensibly because of some plot development, but perhaps more likely as a budgetary measure to keep production costs down.

This has become part of a double-subterfuge of late, as the occurrence is so widely recognized and so commonplace that it has itself become its own trope, establishing itself within common practice.

Community (Which is unflinchingly post-modern) even has an episode in which the characters become 'self-aware' that the nature of their dialogue would indicate they are living within a bottle episode.

The phrase was apparently first circulated by the cast and crew of Star-Trek, so was used no earlier than the mid 1960's...

Note that the term has become synonymous with "single-location" episode, even though bottle episodes can (theoretically) have as many locations as a normal episode. All that matters is that it costs less, because the money is having to pass through a "bottleneck". The Star Trek cast and crew call this a 'ship-in-a-bottle' episode, which is where the name originated.

Whilst obviously originating in Television, the terminology has become used transmedially to apply to all formats that match the criteria to appear as a 'Bottle Episode': Video Games,TV & Animation and Movies included.

...And so, even though some of the films you have mentioned were made before the terminology existed, they still fall under the remit of its application, and are retrospectively re-cast as bottle episodes.

  • 2
    While the meaning of the term "bottle episode" might have loosened over time, from your descriptions the term still seems to come with some kind of financial/budget connotation and I'm not sure this really applies to all those movies (at least not as a major driving factor). All in all this term seems to more describe the possible reasons for this type of movie rather than its nature and style in the first place, but maybe this meaning has changed over time. But I'm also not an expert on the topic anyway and have never heard of this term before your answer either.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 8, 2014 at 19:06

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