15 Low-Budget Films That Unexpectedly Turned A Huge Profit At The Box Office


Sometimes, the smallest budgets go a long way, and these movies prove just that.

Pulp Fiction – $8 Million Budget

Pulp Fiction has become one of the most iconic movies of all time and helped to define ‘cool’ cinema in the ’90s. Director Quentin Tarantino has gone on to become one of the most well-known names in Hollywood because of the success of this movie and garnered himself a Palm d’Or Award at Cannes, an Academy Award, and a huge fanbase. It went on to earn a whopping $213 million at the box office and has remained a cultural phenomenon ever since.

Pulp Fiction – $8 Million Budget

My Big Fat Greek Wedding – $5 million Budget

Nobody, not even writer and star Nia Vardalos could foresee the success that My Big Fat Greek Wedding would end up earning both critically and commercially. Despite only having $5 million at her disposal, she was able to conjure up one of the funniest comedies of the last two decades. Also, it seemed like audiences took well to the movie, with the flick eventually raking in a huge $368.7 million at the box office. Since then, a sequel has come out.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding – $5 million Budget

Mad Max – $300,000 Budget

Decades before Mad Max: Fury Road made a whopping $378.9 million on an enormous $150 budget, the original dystopian Mel Gibson action movie was made for peanuts — just $300,000. It would go on to make over $100 million when it was released in 1979. It even held a Guinness World Record for the best profit-to-cost ratio. Fury Road is the fourth movie in the series, with all of them being classics. The third, Beyond Thunderdome, stirred controversy. It wasn’t that people didn’t think it was good; they just couldn’t agree whether it was the best or the worst of the series.

Mad Max – $300,000 Budget

Juno – $7.5 Million Budget

When Juno debuted back in 2008, audiences both young and old were enchanted by its realistic look at some serious teenage issues. Playing Juno made Ellen Page a household name, as she held her own next to some major stars. Though the film also featured Jennifer Garner, its budget was so low, Garner agreed to take a lower salary in exchange for her appearance. Regardless, it earned $231 million at the box office as well as a Best Picture nomination.

Juno – $7.5 Million Budget

Moonlight – $4 Million Budget

They say the Oscars are all politics every year, and the 2017 ceremony was no exception. As should be expected, the Best Picture Academy Award went to La La Land, although Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who announced the winner,  then realized they had picked up the wrong envelope. The film that was actually the best picture was called Moonlight, about a young black man who comes of age in Miami. Against a budget of a mere $4 million, the flick snagged a whopping $65.3 million in box office revenue, as well as three other Oscars.

Moonlight – $4 Million Budget

Paranormal Activity – $15,000 Budget

There are so many horror movies on this list that did extremely well at the box office, despite a low budget. Paranormal Activity is a classic example of this, having only cost a mere $15,000 to make. In just seven days, director Oren Peli took a handheld camera and shot the entire movie! It was an incredible achievement, especially since it was Peli’s first cinematic outing. Now, it seems like everyone wants to make movies in the same style.

Paranormal Activity – $15,000 Budget

The Full Monty – $3.5 Million Budget

These days we may talk more about Magic Mike when it comes to the world of exotic male dancers, but long before Channing Tatum lit up the screen, we had The Full Monty. Following several unemployed English steelworkers who decide to dance in order to bring home the bacon, the film made $258 million. It was such a hit that The Full Monty was even nominated for several Academy Awards, proving once again that budget isn’t everything.

The Fully Monty – $3.5 Million Budget

Star Wars – $11 Million Budget

This one is a shocker. After coming out in 1977, Star Wars was an immediate hit at the box office. The movie, which was later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope after its sequels were released. This turned George Lucas’ production company Lucasfilm into an empire. The franchise went worldwide with dedicated fans from all over. The film became the highest grossing film of all time before E.T. came out, creating a huge $775.4 million in revenue!

Star Wars – $11 Million Budget

The Blair Witch Project – $60,000 Budget

There’s something about horror films that makes them particularly creepy when they’re low budget. The Blair Witch Project may be one of the most unsettling horror movies ever made. Shot in the style of a documentary, it only took $60,000 to produce. The element that really helped it rake in the dough, however, was the documentary quality. No one could tell if it was fact or fiction, which helped it pull in $248 million in earnings from around the world.

The Blair Witch Project – $60,000 Budget

Split – $9 Million Budget

M. Night Shyamalan is known for making dark and twisted movies attracting large audiences to the theaters. In 2017 he released his latest horror film, Split, which had a budget of only $9 million. This movie sees a man (played by James McAvoy) with a dissociative disorder and multiple identities kidnap three teenage girls. Although one of his “identities” is rather humorous, this film has everyone jumping out of their skin. McAvoy’s gripping performance is why the film did so well in the box office, earning $278.5 million.

Split – $9 Million Budget

Nightcrawler – $8.5 Million Budget

Nightcrawler was originally scripted as a film that was centered around dealing with some pretty tricky themes. The main point of the film is to depict the often unbalanced nature of unethical journalism as a means of satisfying customer demand and raises some pretty interesting questions about how far journalists will go to get the scoop. Starring Jake Gyllenhall, the movie had a budget of $8.5 million but wound up grossing $50.3 million at the box office. An impressive feat for such a dark and questioning film.

Night Crawler – $8.5 Million

Annabelle – $6.5 Million Budget

While he is probably best known for the Saw franchise, James Wan branched out to another area of horror a few years later with his hit movie The Conjuring. Soon enough, the talented filmmaker was able to create a new, fascinating film universe and eventually branched off with the flick Annabelle. The Conjuring‘s spinoff only required $6.5 million for the entirety of its production. The story about a creepy haunted doll made a stunning $257 million at the box office.

Annabelle – $6.5 million Budget

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels – $1.35 Million Budget

Besides being the lucky husband of pop star Madonna, Guy Ritchie is also a critically acclaimed director. He has been called the British Tarantino, as his films feature a blend of characters from all walks of life and are typically centered around anti-heroes in the world of crime. His action-packed films also feature tons of great lines that become instant classics. Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels went on to make $29 million at the box office and launched Jason Statham’s career.

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels – $1.35 Million Budget

Friday The 13th – $700,000 Budget

With one of the smallest budgets on this list, Friday the 13th is another that managed to make dozens of millions. Creator Victor Miller and director Sean S. Cunningham managed to somehow make this film so popular, reaching $59.8 million at the box office. Not only that, it was the start of 11 more movies to the series. These movies went on to make millions for the cult franchise, and that is not even including the video games and merchandise.

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Friday The 13th – $700,000 Budget

The Hills Have Eyes – $230,000 Budget

The Hills Have Eyes is one of the most popular cult horror films of the ’70s and has become a classic example of how small-budget films can turn over a huge profit. The film is set in the desert and follows the story of a family that gets stranded. However, they are soon attacked by a family of hillbilly savages and have to endure a lot of horror throughout the film. It had a budget of $230,000 but managed to gross an amazing $25 million!

The Hills Have Eyes – $230,000

American Graffiti – $750,000 Budget

Long before the Star Wars phenomenon, George Lucas was a new director with only THX 1138 on his resumé, which had starred Robert Duvall. The film had mixed reviews at the time and was considered a flop, so Lucas was only able to collect $750,000 to make his next movie, American Graffiti. Despite the budget, the coming-of-age drama resonated with audiences and was honored with five Academy Award nominations. In addition, it brought in a massive $115 million, proving to studio executives that the relatively unknown director could indeed produce a profitable film.

American Graffiti – $750,000 Budget

Night Of The Living Dead – $118,000 Budget

George A. Romero is officially the godfather of zombie films and the horror master has gone on to make some pretty impressive zombie films over the course of his career. He has garnered a huge fan base for his work and is often the first one people call if they’re trying to get advice on how to make a zombie movie. His career started with Night Of The Living Dead which had a small budget, but went on to gross over $30 million worldwide!

Night Of The Living Dead – $118,000 Budget

Goldfinger – $3 Million Budget

Anyone who is familiar with the James Bond franchise will certainly have heard of Goldfinger at some point in their lives. The movie is often regarded by fans as one of the best in the early series of films and Sean Connery’s performance is as cool as ever. Goldfinger is considered a success for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons it’s regarded as a success was because it managed to net a whopping $125 million at the box office, a very high amount for the time.

Goldfinger – $3 Million

My Left Foot – $600,000 Budget

Long before his incredible role in Gangs of New York in 2002, Daniel Day-Lewis did the same with My Left Foot. The 1989 film tells the true story of Christy Brown, a boy who suffers cerebral palsy from an Irish family. Almost completely paralyzed, Brown finds a way to control his left foot. Eventually, he uses this mobility to become a painter, and later an author and poet. The story was brought onto the silver screen on a measly budget of $600,000, garnering nominations, critical acclaim, and box office earnings that reached $14.7 million.

My Left Foot – $600,000

Blue Valentine – $1 Million Budget

Blue Valentine is a romantic drama that tells the story of a young couple from when they met to the chaotic and emotional end of their relationship. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams starred in the film and were largely considered responsible for the film’s success with their tremendous performances. Not only did they act in the film, but both also took on the role of executive producer. The film wound up turning over a surprisingly large profit, raking in $16.6 million at the box office.

Blue Valentine – $1 Million

Rocky – $1 million Budget

When you think of Sylvester Stallone, one of the first things that comes to mind is bound to be Rocky. There is no doubt that the classic underdog boxing movie turned Sly into one of the biggest superstars in Hollywood history. One of the cheapest movies to make on this list, Stallone and producers Bob Chartoff and Irwin Winkler only had $1 million to work with. $117.2 million at the box office, three Academy Awards, and seven sequels later, Rocky is one of the biggest film franchises ever.

Rocky – $1 million Budget

Lost In Translation – $4 Million Budget

This dark comedy starred the beautiful Scarlett Johansson and talented Bill Murray and became a huge hit. Sofia Coppola wrote and directed the 2003 film and instantly critics were raving about it, thanks to an Oscar-winning screenplay. The $4 million film was led by a college student and film star who helped captivate the audience and make the film a huge success. Lost in Translation ended up making $119.7 million worldwide, earning an admirable profit for the makers.

Lost In Translation – $4 Million Budget

The Big Sick – $5 Million Budget

Kumail Nanjiania is a well-known Pakistani-American comedian and writer who is known for his role in the HBO comedy, Silicon Valley. However, in 2017, Nanjiania decided to take the leap of faith into feature-length filmmaking when he decided to co-write The Big Sick with his wife, Emily V. Gordon. After the film was released, it was hailed as a critical success and did well internationally. It wound up grossing a total of $56.3 million at the box office!

The Big Sick – $5 Million

28 Days Later – $6.6 Million Budget

If you’re a fan of the zombie film genre, then 28 Days Later is definitely one to put on your must-watch list. The film features some pretty unique and scary twists on otherwise cliched themes in zombie films, but feels like it stays true to the genre the whole time. From the get-go, 28 Days Later grips you and doesn’t let go with action and horror all combined into a riveting experience. The film wound up grossing an amazing $85 million at the box office.

28 Days Later – $6.6 Million Budget

The Evil Dead – $400,000 Budget

Sam Raimi had a humble start to life and originally penned the script for The Evil Dead while he was working as a part-time cab driver and in his father’s furniture store. After saving up enough cash to produce the low-budget cult-classic horror film, he set out to produce what would become an all-time horror classic. The bizarre film that used humor in a way that creeped you out more than made you laugh went on to gross a whopping $29 million at the box office.

The Evil Dead – $400,000 Budget

Napolean Dynamite – $400,000 Budget

Jared Hess is known for having created a very distinct visual style. His films are like American versions of Wes Anderson’s movies and they’re known for having a cool style and dry, innocent comedy. When Hess set out to create Napolean Dynamite, he had a very low budget. As the filming process continued, he realized he was on to something and by the time the film had been released, it became a box office sensation. Napolean Dynamite grossed over $46 million worldwide – more than 100 times the budget.

Napolean Dynamite – $400,000 Budget

A Nightmare On Elm Street – $1.8 Million Budget

Freddy Krueger is easily one of the most recognizable and terrifying characters in film history. However, the man behind Freddy Krueger is considered a cinematic genius for having created a number of iconic slasher films that not only rocked audiences but the box office too! A Nightmare On Elm Street features a young Johnny Depp and an original premise for a horror film. The concept, casting, and weird use of grotesque humor was a success and the film grossed over $25 million.

A Nightmare On Elm Street – $1.8 Million Budget

Swingers – $200,000 Budget

With names like Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, it’s difficult to imagine a film that wouldn’t work out, at least now that is. Back in the early ’90s, these two prolific comedy actors had only just started their careers and were fledglings in the world of Hollywood. The film has largely centered around characters in a similar position as them and so the natural comedy worked pretty well. Audiences fell in love with the duo and the movie went on to make over $4 million at the box office.

Swingers – $200,000 Budget

Once – $160,000 Budget

Once is like watching a real love story play out on the screen. The small crew and cast, directed by John Carney, had little more than $160,000 as their total budget and went on to earn over $20 million at the box office with this charming and warm romantic movie. The stars of the film, Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard, were even awarded an Academy Award for the song that they wrote for the film. Once is proof that you can make a successful film on a tight budget.

Once – $160,000 Budget

Little Miss Sunshine – $8 Million Budget

The indie film about a young girl with dreams of beauty pageant glory managed to shine at the box office, despite being thrown together with a cadre of stars and a tiny budget. The film made a star out of Abigail Breslin while allowing many of its other stars to show a different side of their skills. With two Oscars to its name, Little Miss Sunshine deserved every cent of the $100.5 million in earnings it made.

Little Miss Sunshine – $8 Million Budget

Supersize Me – $65,000 Budget

Documentaries don’t generally need a very large budget, but they’re also not always known to gross that highly at the box office. Supersize Me was an instant hit among audiences because it documented the day-to-day life of someone eating nothing but McDonald’s for a month. Director Morgan Spurlock pointed out some disturbing facts about fast food culture, audiences were amazed by the results, and his small budget documentary wound up making over $29 million at the box office. This is still an amazing amount for a documentary!

Supersize Me – $65,000 Budget

The Purge – $3 Million Budget

On just a $3 million budget, The Purge features an original script and concept that managed to rake in the big bucks, grossing $89 million worldwide. It is also the lowest budget movie since 1988 to finish first in the box office. The movie takes place in the near future, in a dystopia where people are allowed to commit whatever crime they want during a 12-hour period, once a year, without having to suffer any legal repercussions. Starring Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke, the original was so successful it has spawned three sequels.

The Purge – $3 Million Budget

Buried – $2 Million Budget

Buried is one of Ryan Reynolds’ least known movies – but according to some, it’s also one of his best. The tense and compelling psychological drama takes place mainly in a coffin, where Reynolds’ character has been buried alive. The tension and sense of claustrophobia created during the film will have you on the edge of your seat the whole time! Reynolds delivers an amazing performance in this film that’s not to be missed. The film went on to earn over $21 million at the box office.

Buried – $2 Million Budget

Saw – $1.2 million Budget

Who ever thought that a movie about a torture game would become so popular? James Wan is renowned for working with low budgets and creating awesome, profitable franchises. His very first one was Saw, which ended up spawning a number of financially successful sequels. After only spending $1.2 million and 18 days on the movie, Wan had created a horror masterpiece that not only displayed a lot of gratuitous violence, but the movie also had a well-worked story at its core.

Saw – $1.2 million Budget

Open Water – $500,000 Budget

This is not a film for those afraid of the open water. Open Water is yet another low-budget film because let’s face it, the producers did not need to spend much on the set. Following two scuba divers who become stranded in water with terrifying shark lurking around them, the film only required a $500,000 budget. Producers used handheld cameras creating a real-life feel. Open Water grossed a whopping $52 million upon its 2003 release, one of the most impressive profits for such a low-budget film.

Open Water – $500,000 Budget

Halloween – $300,000 Budget

Halloween has become a hallmark of the slasher genre and led to John Carpenter’s success as a director. Today he is widely considered one of the most prominent horror directors of all time – and Halloween had a lot to do with that. The film starred Jamie Lee Curtis as a young babysitter who was being stalked by a psychotic madman. The killer, Mike Myers, has gone on to become a cult-classic icon and the movie went on to make $70 million at the worldwide box office.

Halloween – $300,000 Budget

Get Out – $4.5 Million Budget

One of the biggest hits of 2017 was the low budget horror film, Get Out. It was the comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, but based on the amount of revenue it earned at the box office, it’s clear that he made his mark. It was a hit with both audiences and critics, who showered the film with praise. The small film managed to earn $255 million worldwide.

Get Out – $4.5 Million Budget