Top 5 Low Budget Movies That Exploded At The Box Office

POSTED BY Nadeem Khan, UPDATED ON February 20th, 2024
Low Budget Movies That Exploded at the Box Office

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 5 low budget movies that exploded at the box office:


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.


4. The Blair Witch Project ($60,000)

Perhaps one of the greatest improvisational low-budget films 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 by 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.”


3. Supersize Me ($65,000)

While those Big Macs and Happy Meals undoubtedly cost a pretty penny throughout a year-long McDonald’s diet, it isn’t 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.


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.


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.

Did we miss any title that should have been featured on our list of the top low-budget movies that exploded at the box office? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Title Image Courtesy: Flickr/Sean Hagen


  1. Defectiv3_Detectiv3 says:

    It’s too bad film budgets are so bloated nowadays. It seems like 250 million is the magic number. A film like ‘The Lone Ranger’ is getting a 250 mil budget? Say what you want about the Spiderman reboot, but at least they kept it down to 80 million.

  2. asphodelb says:

    Why no Hancock mention?

    Budget $150 million

    Box office $624,386,746

  3. locusrags says:

    Sorry, but this is kind of a bad list. I can at least agree with Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch. Despite the fact that Blair Witch I never found to be that good, and it only skated by on a brilliant marketing campaign.

    As for the other three? Not even worthy of a list like this really considering all the other options:

    Super Size Me: Sure, the movie only cost 65,000 to make. However, tack on the extra million + that they dumped into advertising for that movie and the profit margin drops considerably. Making a mere 27x its budget. There are better movies that did FAR better than that.

    Open Water? Not even. Though, this is probably the more worthy of the 3 to be on the list. Yes it was very low budget. While not horrible, it wasn’t that great though. Pretty mediocre (while showing plenty of unfulfilled promise). And it only cost about half a million to make, while making about 55 million worldwide. That’s a pretty good margin, making about 110x its budget.

    Finally the most laughable one: Juno. Sorry, but there’s no way you can call a $7 million movie a low budget one. Even if you ignore that fact, the movie still only had a 3,300% return. That doesn’t even begin to compare to many other movies. Especially to some of the real low budget movies that were criminally left off this list.

    So, leave Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch Project on there, but the other three really should be replaced with other movies which not only did better, but were far better in quality as well. Possible replacements:

    Kevin Smith made this one for only $27,000. It then went on to make almost $4 million in theaters. That’s a 14,400% return.

    As huge as this franchise became, many people don’t realize how small it was when it started. Carpenter made the first one for only $320,000. It then went on to make like $70 million. That’s almost 220 times what it cost to make.

    Not sure people realize how much of a success Rocky was. Like the Halloween franchise, it went on to be a huge franchise, but started very small. With a budget of $1 million, it went on to make about $225 million worldwide. I think you can do the math on that one.

    Night of the Living Dead:
    How about the one that started it all. “All” being the zombie craze we know today, that is. The legend Romero made this one for just $114,000. Considering it made about $30 million, that gives it a 26,300% return.

    Mad Max:
    The one that brought that crazy bastard Mel Gibson into our lives. Cost to make? $200,000. Box office? almost $100 million. That means it made almost 500 times what it cost to make it.

    As for Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, Blair made about a 41,000% return on it’s investment, making it definitely worthy of the list even if it was a crappy movie.

    Paranormal Activity shits all over every other movie on this list, though, in comparison. With a budget of $15,000, it made almost $200million worldwide. That’s like a 1,314,000% return!! That’s a larger margin that the previous six movies combined….ten times over!!!

  4. igs_Esquire says:

    Paranormal series rocks

  5. Ibk_ezane says:

    Um… El Mariachi. 7,000 bucks out of the Directors own Pocket

  6. ComixFan says:

    This reads like it was never edited. Yikes.

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