Some of Hollywood’s greatest productions have come at a surprisingly low development cost, sporting budgets that – in some cases – barely even touch six digits. Proving that great movies aren’t defined by the money used to produce them, enumerated below is our comprehensive list of the top modern low budget movies that created history at the box office.
1. Paranormal Activity ($15,000)
The poltergeist phenomenon that had everyone awake at night, Paranormal Activity became one of the most profitable films ever made, bringing in $193 million at the box office (you do the math).
While the film didn’t redefine the horror genre or stray too far away from the ghost-haunting formula, it deserves credit for doing it well without the bells and whistles so many of today’s low budget movies depend upon, and therefore deserves the top spot in our list of the best low budget movies that rocked the box office.
2. Open Water ($500,000)
Continuing the trend of low-budget horror, Open Water was made for less than a million dollars, but you might never notice just by watching the movie. That might be because the film opted to use actual sharks instead of computer-generated ones, not only adding more of a fright-factor to the film, but saving millions of dollars in the process and adding loads of film-cred at the same time.
After all, swimming with CGI sharks? Not so scary. Swimming with living, breathing creatures of terror? Horrifying.
3. Supersize Me ($65,000)
While those Big Macs and Happy Meals undoubtedly cost a pretty penny over the course of a year-long McDonald’s diet, it isn’t terribly expensive when put into the perspective of filmmaking.
The experiment was a low-cost venture with a high impact, resulting in changed meal options from McDonald’s and a mainstream awareness created with little expense from the film’s creators and the dietary guinea pig himself.
4. The Blair Witch Project ($60,000)
Perhaps one of the greatest improvisational low budget film ever made, The Blair Witch Project was filmed in a short eight days and devised with a pseudo sense of reality, with the directors hiring young actors and then deceiving them by playing a bone-chilling prank on them through hidden notes, leaving them alone in the woods with damaged psyches.
Beyond being a great low budget film, the film started a new trend in low budget movies, popularizing the “found-footage genre.”
5. Juno ($7,000,000)
A true modern classic and resounding box office success, Juno saved cash by hiring young actors who – until this low budget movie exploded – were relatively unknown.
Bringing to life a heartwarming and endearingly cynical coming-of-age story, Director Jason Reitman did a top-notch job of perfecting the film with simple environments and a “substance over flash” mindset.