Very seldom do low budget movies become big hits as they are generally not as appealing as their high-budget counterparts. However, there are some films that defy the logic of a high budget and eventually end up becoming extremely successful with earnings that blow all expectations away. Take a look for yourself with these 25 low budget movies that were huge hits.
“The Full Monty” Budget: $3.5 million Revenue: $257.8 million
Released in 1997, Full Monty is a British comedy drama starring Robery Carlyle. The plot revolves around six unemployed men who decide to form a malestriptease in order to earn money. The film received near universal acclaim and went on to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
“The Purge” Budget: $3 million Revenue: $89 million
The Purge is a science fiction horror thriller that was released in 2013. Written and directed by James DeMonaco, the film starred Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey and Max Burkholder. It surpassed its $3 million budget and grossed over $89 million internationally.
“Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels” Budget: $1.35 million Revenue: $28.3 million
This 1998 British crime comedy thriller by Guy Ritchie tells the story of a young card sharp who lost hundreds of thousands of euros to a crime lord and had to pay his debts by robbing a small-time gang.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels brought Guy Ritchie international acclaim and was nominated for a British Academy Film Award for the outstanding British Film of the Year.
“Sex, Lies, and Videotape” Budget: $1.2 million Revenue: $24.7 million
Released in 1989, this American independent drama film by Steven Soderbergh tackled sexuality and relationships. It won the Palme d’Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival of 1989 and was added to the US Library of Congress’ National Film Registry because of its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance.
“Saw” Budget: $1.2 million Revenue: $103 million
A gruesome independent horror film, Saw enjoyed spectacular success, grossing over $100 million and becoming (at that time) one of the most profitable horror films since 1996’s Scream.
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“Rocky” Budget: $1 million Revenue: $225 million
An American sports film, Rocky was written by Sylvester Stallone and directed by John G. Avildsen. Released in 1976, this film revolved around the rags-to-riches story of an uneducated debt collector named Rocky Balboa. The film became a sleeper hit, earning $225 million in global box office, receiving ten Academy Awards nominations and winning three.
“Napoleon Dynamite” Budget: $400,000 Revenue: $46.1 million
This 2004 comedy was directed by Jerusha and Jared Hess and starred Jon Herder as Napoleon Dynamite. The plot centers around a socially awkward high school student (Napoleon Dynamite) with a absurd set of life circumstance from living with a pet llama to training to be a cage fighter. In spite of the bizarre story, Napoleon Dynamite had a generally positive reception with praises from Rolling Stone magazine, the Christian Science Monitor and even Entertainment Weekly.
“Mad Max” Budget: $400,000 Revenue: $100 million
Directed by George Miller, Mad Max is an Australian dystopian action film that was released in 1979. Written by Byron Kennedy and George Miller, it starred Mel Gibson and once held the Guinness record for the most profitable film.
“Halloween” Budget: $325,000 Revenue: $70 million
Halloween is an independent slasher horror film written by Debra Hill and directed by John Carpenter. Released in 1978, Halloween became an inspiration for many slasher films testifying to the film’s genius. It’s hard to believe that this film had such a low budget. Interesting fact: Wallace created the mask work by Myers from a Captain Kirk Mask purchased for $1.98.
“Once” Budget: $160,000 Revenue: $20.7 million
An Irish musical film, “Once” was written and directed by John Carney and was set in Dublin, Ireland. It was released in 2007 and starred musicians Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, who composed and performed all the songs featured in the film. The film was both a critical and financial success and even a received a Grammy Award nomination.
“Night of the Living Dead” Budget: $114,000 Revenue: $42 million
Night of the Living Dead is an American independent horror film that premiered on October 1, 1968. It was directed by George A. Romero and starred Duane Jones, Karl Hardman and Judith O’dea. The film grossed $12 million domestically and $30 million internationally, making it a huge financial success.
“Eraserhead” Budget: $20,000 (estimated) Revenue: $7 million
This surrealist body horror film was written and directed by David Lynch and was released in 1977. Shot in black-and-white, Eraserhead was Lynch’s first feature-length film after a series of short works and tells the story of Henry Spencer (Nance), who is left to care for his deformed child in a desolate industrial landscape. Eraserhead eventually gained positive reviews with praises for its use of surrealist imagery, sexual undercurrents and intricate sound design.
“The Last House on the Left” Budget: $87,000 Revenue: $3.1 million
An American exploitation horror film that was released in 1972, The Last House on the Left was written, edited and directed by Wes Craven. Produced by Sean S. Cunningham, it was inspired by The Virgin Spring, a Swedish film that was released in 1960 and directed by Ingmar Bergman.
“PI” Budget: $68,000 Revenue: $3.22 million
A 1998 American surrealist psychological thriller, Pi was written and directed by Darren Aronofsky and served as his directorial debut. Pi centers around Maximillian “Max” Cohen (played by Sean Gullette), a number theorist who believes everything in nature can be understood through numbers.
“Super Size Me” Budget: $65,000 Revenue: $29.5 million
Super Size Me is a 2004 American documentary directed by and starring independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. The film documents the startling transformation of the main character as he restricts himself to a McDonalds-only diet for 30 days. This in turn, causes drastic effect to his emotional, physical and psychological health.
“The Blair Witch Project” Budget: $750,000 (depending on the source) Revenue: $248.6 million
This 1999 American horror film was written, edited and directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez and was produced by the Haxan Films production company. The story revolves around three student filmmakers; Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams, who get lost while on a hike in the Black Hills of Maryland in 1994. The film received an enormously positive reception and went on to gross over $248 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful independent films of all time.
"Bronson" Budget: $230,000 Revenue: $2.3 million
Bronson is a 2008 British biographical psychological drama co-written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. The film portrays the life of the notorious prisoner Michael Gordon Peterson (played by Tom Hardy) who was renamed Charles Bronson by his fight promoter who eventually became one of the United Kingdom’s most dangerous criminals.
“The Brothers McMullen” Budget: $23,800 Revenue: $10.2 million
A comedy drama film written, produced and directed by Edward Burns, The Brothers McMullen tells the story of the lives of three brothers from Long Island, New York as they learn about religion, love, sex, marriage and family.
“Clerks” Budget: $27,575 ($230,000 post) Revenue: $3.1 million
Written and directed by Kevin Smith, Clerks is a 1994 American black-and-white comedy film starring Jeff Anderson as Randal Graves and Brian O’Halloran as Dante Hicks. It was the first of Smith’s “View Askewniverse” film and introduced recurring characters such as Jay and Silent Bob. Clerks was shot for $27,575 in the convenience store where director Kevin Smith worked in real life and eventually grossed over $3 million.
“In the Company of Men” Budget: $25,000 Revenue: $2.85 million
This Canadian/American black comedy was written and directed by Neil LaBute and was released in 1997. The plot revolves around two male coworkers who, frustrated with women in general, plot to toy maliciously with the emotions of a deaf female subordinate. The film received generally positive reviews with a 89% in Rotten Tomatoes.
"Open Water" Budget: $130,000 Revenue: $54.7 million
This 2003 psychological horror film is based on the true story of an American couple, Tom and Eileen Lonergan, who were accidentally left behind while on a scuba diving trip. Open Water cost about $130,000 to make and was bought by Lions Gate Entertainment for $2.5 million. The film went on to make a total of $55 million worldwide, $30 million of which came from the North American Box office.
“Slacker” Budget: $23,000 Revenue: $1.23 million
Slacker is an American independent comedy-drama film that was directed and written by Richard Linklater and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival. A seemingly plotless film, Slacker follows various bizarre characters as they share a few minutes of screen time while discussing themes centered around social class, terrorism, joblessness, political marginalization, and even government control of the media.
“Paranormal Activity” Budget: $15,000 Revenue: $193.3 million
Written, photographed, edited and directed by Oren Peli, Paranormal Activity is a supernatural horror movie that centers around a young couple, Katie and Micah, who are haunted by a supernatural being. It was first released on January October 14, 2007 as part of the Screamfest Film Festival. Afterwards, it was acquired by Paramount Pictures, modified and given a limited U.S. release on September 25, 2009 with a full release on October 16, 2009. The film earned about $108 million at the U.S. box office and $85 million internationally for a grand total of $193 million. Consequently, it is the most profitable film ever made based on return on investment.
“Pink Flamingos” Budget: $12,000 Revenue: $7 million
Written, composed, shot, edited, directed and produced by John Waters, Pink Flamingos is a 1972 American transgressive black comedy exploitation film that sparked controversy because of its wide range of detailed perverse acts. Considered one of the most notorious films in history, it starred Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce and Edith Massey.
“El Mariachi” Budget: $7,000 Revenue: $2 million
This 1992 American action film was the first installment of Robert Rodriguez’s Mexican Trilogy which marked his debut as a director and writer. “El Mariachi” was written in Spanish and was shot in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico; the hometown of Carlos Gallardo.