10 Low Budget Movies That Did Exceedingly Well

By C.L. Illsley on June 17 2020 in Entertainment

Image credit: PhoelixDE/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: PhoelixDE/Shutterstock.com
  • The 2006 Broadway musical Spamalot was an adaptation of the film Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
  • The blood in Night of the Living Dead was actually Bosco chocolate syrup.
  • American Graffiti was shot in sequence.

Although it's been said that money makes the world go round, the amount of cash at your disposal isn't alaways a determining factor in whether or not a movie is successful. Regardless of the allotted budget, talented filmmakers can still find ways of capturing the attention of audiences. Low budget films are produced on small budgets (most independent of Hollywood), and yet manage to break through to become some of the big screen's most memorable, engrossing, and unique cinematic experiences. 

10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Castle Stalker, the location of the final scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Image credit: Norrie Adamson/Castle Stalker
Castle Stalker, the location of the final scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Image credit: Norrie Adamson/Castle Stalker

The guys at Monty Python struck gold with this mid 70s hit. Made on a modest budget of $400,000, this twisted historically themed comedy took home a box office total of five million dollars. 

The film was brought to the screen by the same British troupe that created TV's zany Monty Python's Flying Circus. Members included modern comedy icons; John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam. 

With lines like, "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!" Monty Python and the Holy Grail has remained a comedy fan favorite around the world. 

9. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the living Dead Logo. Image credit: George A. Romero/Public domain
Night of the living Dead Logo. Image credit: George A. Romero/Public domain

George A. Romero's black and white flesh eating zombie flick was produced on a budget of $114,000 but still managed to scare up a total of $30 million at the box office. The film ushered in a new genre of zombie films that included sequels such as Dawn of the Dead (1978), Land of the Dead (2005), and Survival of the Living Dead (2009). In 1999 the U.S. National Film Preservation Board awarded the movie the honor of inclusion on the National Film Registry.  

8. Super Size Me (2004)

This documentary focuses on the fast food industry; in particular McDonald's, and the harsh realities surrounding America's addiction to cheap, unhealthy food. Produced on a budget of $65,000 Super Size Me made $20.6 million at the box office. During the course of the movie filmmaker Morgan Spurlock endured a strict McDonald's only diet for thirty days in order to demonstrate the harmful health effects of regularly consuming super sized portions of meals high in fat and salt. Spurlock gained almost twenty five pounds while making the documentary. Apparently it was far harder for him to lose the extra pounds than it was to gain them.

7. Clerks (1994)

The plot of Clerks is deceptively simple. It follows the lives of a couple of young guys working at a convenience store.  Brought to the big screen by filmmaker Kevin Smith the comedy cost just $27,000 to produce. Box office returns for this low budget black and white film totaled $3.2 million. Smith not only co-starred as Silent Bob but he also wrote, directed, and co-produced the popular indie flick. 

6. Open Water (2003)

Image credit: www.eyeforfilm.co.uk
Image credit: www.eyeforfilm.co.uk

This modest yet intense flick was based on a real event. It was produced on a budget of $500,000 but more than made back its production costs with box office revenues totaling $54.7 million. Writen and directed by Chris Kentis, Open Water tells a horrifying tale of a couple left behind (in open water) on a scuba diving day trip while vacationing in the Caribbean.     

5. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Cast of the Napoleon Dynamite film and television series at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. Image credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America/Wikimedia.org
Cast of the Napoleon Dynamite film and television series at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. Image credit: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America/Wikimedia.org

This quirky comedy was produced on a budget of just $400,000 and yet earned a staggering $46.1 million in box office returns. It stars Jon Heder as the title character, a teen struggling to naviagate the demands of high school with the stresses of his unconventional family life. Napoleon Dynamite has beome a cult classic and even inspired an animated television series that ran on Fox from 2012 to 2014. 

4. American Graffiti (1973)

Featuring a virtual who's who of future stars (including Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, and Ron Howard) American Grafitti was produced for $777,000 and made $140 million. After his success with this movie filmmaker George Lucas went on to produce plenty of big budget box office mega hits with the Star Wars franchise.    

American Grafitti also provided actress Suzanne Somers with her first credited film role as the "Blonde in T-Bird". The actress went on to stardom as a co-star in the popular tv sitcom Three's Company which ran from 1976 to 1984.

3. Rocky (1976)

Sylvester Stallone not only wrote but also starred in this original Rocky film. It was produced on a $1.1million budget but took home a whopping box office total of $225 million. The film went on to recieve ten Academy Awards nominations; winning three including Best Picture. Stallone was nominated for his acting as well as for writing the film.

Rocky spawn numerous sequels including the 2015 feature Creed starring Michael B. Jordan. That movie earned Stallone a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role as well as his third Oscar nomination. 

2. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

This indie flick, composed of entirely of hand held so called "found footage", cost a mere $60,000 to produce and yet made $248.6 million in box office returns. Mathematically that works out to $10,931 in profit for every dollar spent on production costs. Interestingly the movie spawned two much bigger budgeted sequels;  Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) and Blair Witch (2006). Both of which bombed with both critics and filmgoers alike.  

The Blair Witch Project stars three unknown actors as film students travelling to the woods of Maryland in order to shoot a documentary about the local Blair wich legend. 

1. Paranormal Activity (2007)

This scary movie was made on a miniscule budget of $15,000 but collected a not so scary box office total of $193.3 million in returns. Filmmaker Oren Peli went on to make a couple of sequels as well as co- producing the horror franchise Insidious as well as the 2015 mystery/horror flick Area 51. 

One of the keys to the success of Paranormal Activity is the filmmaker's skillful use of static shots utilizing home security cameras. The movie has a deceptively simple premise and is set amid a seemingly normal unassuming suburban  household. The tension mounts as the young couple at the center of the film come to the spine tingling realization that a demonic presence has been making nocturnal visits to their household as they sleep. 

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