Bigger is better doesn't apply when it comes to filmmaking. In fact, some of the greatest cinematic masterpieces were made on a virtual shoestring budget. Fortunately digital cameras, computer software, and crowdfunding websites make it easier than ever to produce a feature-length film cheaply. Of course not all of them are Oscar-worthy, but then a multi-millon dollar budget doesn't mean unbridled success either. Great storytelling is great storytelling at $1000 or $100,000 or $100,000,000 - all you need is some serious imagination. Take a look at our 14 favourite low budget film that took on Hollywood and won.


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  • Mad Max

    <strong>When:</strong> 1979 <strong>Budget:</strong> $200,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $99,750,000 This Australian film featured Mel Gibson back when he was relatively unknown and unscathed by scandal. The action-packed result quickly became a template for post-apocalyptic movies.

  • Napoleon Dynamite

    <strong>When:</strong> 2004 <strong>Budget:</strong> $400,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $46,000,000 The ultimate in noughties cult comedy. Filmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess edited the whole film on a MacBook in their apartment and completed production in just 22 days. A bidding war broke out after the film's premiere at Sundance, Fox won the rights, and the rest is Napoleonic history...

  • Halloween

    <strong>When:</strong> 1978 <strong>Budget:</strong> $325,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $70,000,000 John Carpenter's slasher classic turned Jamie Lee Curtis into a cult star - even though he could only pay her $8,000 for the role. At the time of the film's release, <em>Halloween</em> was the highest-grossing indie movie ever made.

  • Paranormal Activity

    <strong>When:</strong> 2009 <strong>Budget:</strong> $15,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $193,000,000 The low budget 'found footage' horror film is a relatively new genre thanks to advances in accessible technology. The makers of this film nailed the DIY aesthetic, and the jittery film achieved profits beyond a film exec's wildest dreams.

  • Eraserhead

    <strong>When:</strong> 1977 <strong>Budget:</strong> $20,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $7,000,000 The surreal parade of nightmarish sequences by up-and-coming director David Lynch initially opened to small audiences, but the film steadily gained momentum over several long runs as a midnight movie, bringing in a total of $7 million and putting Lynch on the map.

  • Night Of The Living Dead

    <strong>When:</strong> 1968 <strong>Budget:</strong> $114,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $30,000,000 George Romero's classic tapped into audience's insatiable appetite for the living dead. From <em>Resident Evil</em> to <em>Shaun Of The Dead</em>, Romero’s vision of zombie apocalypse is the film that started it all.

  • American Graffiti

    <strong>When:</strong> 1973 <strong>Budget:</strong> $777,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $140,000,000 Before George Lucas was CGI-ing all over the shop, he made <em>American Graffiti</em>: a low budget coming of age film that referenced his own smalltown teen years.

  • Rocky

    <strong>When:</strong> 1976 <strong>Budget:</strong> $1,000,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $225,000,000 The film that launched the career of Sly Stallone's abs might not have been made for peanuts, but the reported $224,000,000 profit it made is an undeniably impressive return. Inspired by Chuck Wepner’s fight agianst Ali and made for a very modest amount, Rocky won Best Picture, gave audiences a memorable character and, of course, spawned five sequels. Read more at http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2009/06/15/15-great-low-budget-movies-that-made-a-relative-killing/#W087IH1asCcQvau2.99 Perhaps this exchange epitomizes the reason for the classic boxing movie’s success and overwhelming cult status. It provided a cinematic classic for a largely male audience who needed a hero; one that wasn’t heroic because of his moon walk or falsetto, but for his fighting spirit. With a budget of $1 million, Rockynotched up an impressive worldwide gross of $225 million, giving a percentage return of over 11,000%. Knockout. http://www.businesspundit.com/10-most-profitable-low-budget-movies-of-all-time/

  • Clerks

    <strong>When:</strong> 1994 <strong>Budget:</strong> $27,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $3,900,000 The indie comedy recounts a day in the life of a 'slacker' 22-year-old grocery store attendant and his friend. It quickly achieved cult status with its disenfranchised Gen X audiences.

  • Super Size Me

    <strong>When:</strong> 2004 <strong>Budget:</strong> $65,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $29,500,000 A documentary about the American fast food industry might not scream runaway success, but Morgan Spurlock's experiment to eat nothing but three McDonalds meals a day every day for 30 consecutive days turned out to be utterly compelling - if nauseating - viewing.

  • Enter The Dragon

    <strong>When:</strong> 1973 <strong>Budget:</strong> $850,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $90,000,000 The martial arts masterpiece saw Bruce Lee kung fu-ing his way to the big time, despite a very tight budget.

  • Friday The 13th

    <strong>When:</strong> 1980 <strong>Budget:</strong> $500,000 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $59,000,000 The horror film franchise now has 12 slashers under its belt, with the most recent, the <em>Friday The 13th</em> remake, released in 2009. But it all started more than three decades ago on a modest budget of $500,000. The film didn't fair too well with the critics, but blood-thirsty audiences couldn't get enough of it.

  • Blair Witch Project

    <strong>When:</strong> 1999 <strong>Budget:</strong> $22,500 <strong>Estimated gross:</strong> $248,300,000 First-time filmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez did excellent - and at the time innovative - groundwork for their found footage classic with a creepy viral marketing campaign that included online reports and interviews. Combined with the improvised performances and shaky camera work, it left audiences unsure whether the film really was a genuine video diary created by missing teenagers.