Low-Budget Hollywood Movies That Excelled in Theatres

By Priyanshi Mehra | 1.4k |

Every year there are numerous movies that are produced, directed and released. Some have enormous budget, going as high as $400 million as in the case of Avengers: Infinity War. On the other hand, there are movies whose budget doesn't even reach a million. Here's a list of such movies that despite having low-budget turned out to be blockbusters:


Budget: $1.1M
Box office: $225M
Directed by: John G. Avildsen
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Rocky Balboa is a kind hearted, struggling club fighter from Philadelphia. Apollo Creed, current World Heavyweight Champion, decides to give an unknown fighter the chance to win the World Heavyweight Title in a battle with him. Rocky sees it as an opportunity to make something out of his fighting career finally and starts his journey, practicing day and night, to win the championship.
The writer of the movie, Sylvester Stallone, while showing the script to the producers had one condition that he would do the lead role of Rocky. After quite a few debates, it was decided that he'll be starring in the movie. With just $1.1M as the budget, the movie managed to cross over $225M and soon became the highest grossing movie of 1976.

2.Open Water

Budget: $500K
Box office: $54M
Directed and written by: Chris Kentis
A couple, Daniel and Susan, decide to go on a scuba diving trip as a part of their vacation. Due to miscount, they are left behind by their dive group, as the boat leaves without them. They are now stuck in the open water that has sharks in it. They struggle to survive in the water, while the hotel realize that they were left behind and starts a rescue operation to find them.
With only $500K as a budget, the movie did fairly well in making $54M in box office. It was also considered as 'Intensively frightening' by New York Daily News. It won the Best Thriller Award in Golden Trailer Awards 2005.

3.Paranormal Activity

Budget: $15K
Box office: $193M
Directed and written by: Oren Peli
When Katie and Micah, a young couple, move into a new house, something unexpected starts happening to them. They are constantly disturbed by some entity specially during the night. With Katie certain that it is a ghost from her childhood, Micah decides to set a camera to film the overnight activity in their room. What they see is something they wouldn't have imagined in their wildest dreams.
With just $15K as the budget, the movie did amazing in the box office. It also managed to become one of the best low budget movies and won the Teen Choice Award in Horror/Thriller.


Budget: $325K
Box office: $47M
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter and Debra Hill
In 1963, on Halloween night, Judith Myers was murdered by his 6 year old brother, Michael. On the day before Halloween, 15 years later, he manages to escape and heads to his hometown to kill again. Will he be stopped before any other murder takes place?
Despite being a low budget movie, it attracted a huge audience and went up to making $47 million in box office. It even won the Critics Award in Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival in 1979.

5.The Blair Witch Project

Budget: $ 60K
Box office: $249M
Directed and written by: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez
Three student filmmakers set on a journey to the Black Hill Forest to make a documentary on a local legend, the Blair Witch. However, they never manage to make it out of the forest. An year later, their tapes and cameras are found, which contain the truth behind what happened to three of them in the forest.
It is considered one of the most successful low budget movie. With just $60K as budget, it managed to gross around $249 Million Worldwide. There were even books written and videos games made based on the movie. It won quite a few awards including the Best Foreign Film in the Cannes Film Festival 1999.

6.Napoleon Dynamite

Budget: $400K
Box office: $46M
Directed by: Jared Hess
Written by: Jared and Jerusha Hess
Napoleon Dynamite is a movie based on a high school kid, who is trying to find his place in school. When his friend, Pedro decides to run for class president, Napoleon decides to help him to win the elections, while simultaneously dealing with his own strange family, as an attempt to finally fit in.
This comedy movie was definitely crowd pleaser as it managed to gross $46 million worldwide. It managed to win many awards including the Best Movie Award in MTV Movie+TV Awards(2005) as well as Best Movie in Comedy in Teens Choice Awards (2005).


Budget: $475K
Box office: $ 4M
Directed and written by: Rian Johnson
Set in high school, it talks of the journey of Brendan Frye to find the killer of his ex girlfriend and plot his revenge. When Brendan hears the news that Emily's body was found, he recalls her last call to him two days ago telling him about some trouble she was stuck in. He then decides to find the truth behind her death which leads to him entering the underworld of high school.
It's considered a big hit and has won plenty of awards including the Best First Film Award in Austin Film Critics Association (2007) and even managed to gross $4 million in box office.


Budget: $27K
Box office: $3.8 M
Directed and written by: Kevin Smith
Dante works as a clerk in a small convenience store. On his day off, he gets called to work. On the same day, he finds out through newspaper that his ex-girlfriend is getting married. Even his present girlfriend reveals some unexpected secrets about her past. It's also the last day to attend the wake of his friend and has to be there at the hockey game by noon. To add to it all, his friend, Randal keeps on embarrassing him in front of the customers. As chaotic as this day sounds, it much worse for Dante.
A comedy low budget movie, with just $27K as budget, it definitely keeps you entertained. It won many awards, including Award of the Youth for Foreign Film in Cannes Film Festival (1994).

9.Night of the Living Dead

Budget: $114K
Box office: $30M
Directed by: George A. Romero
Written by: George A. Romero and John A. Russo
A panic situation arises when the dead comes to life and start walking. Their hunger for human flesh results in few people uniting and hiding inside a rural house to survive the night. Will they survive the night without the zombies eating them?
A low budget, black and white, zombie movie that keeps you hooked through it's course. The movie did amazing despite it having only $114K as budget. It also won Horror Host Hall of Fame Plaque under Horror Host Hall of Fame (2011) and National Film Registry under National Film Preservation Board,USA(1999).

10.Living in Oblivion

Budget: $500K
Box office: $1.1M
Directed and written by: Tom DiCillo
This movie is based on a director, Nick, filming a low budget movie. It showcases the various struggles that go behind making a low budget movie. From having catering crew refusing to replace spoiled milk, to having faulty equipment, and with tensions between the lead actors rising, the movie showcases everything that can go wrong in a low budget movie. It's divided into three acts that represent the three different scenes that are to be shot. The movie is somewhat a satire for the way the low budget films are made. It is a good, light hearted movie that you can watch. Tom DiCillo won the Best New Director Award in Valladolid International Film Festival (1995) for this movie.

11.Another Earth

Budget: $100K
Box office: $1.8M
Directed by: Mike Cahill
Written by: Mike Cahill, Brit Marling
17 year old, Rodha Williams receives an acceptance letter from MIT. On the same night, a planet similar to Earth - Earth 2 - gets discovered. While driving the same night, she meets with an accident with John Burroughs, killing his wife and child. As a result she is sent to jail, which crashes her dream to go into MIT. After coming out of the jail, she writes an essay for a contest whose winning prize is a ticket to travel to Earth 2. She also decides to head to John's house and apologize to him. However, they both start to fall in love and she decides to keep the secret that she was the one who met with an accident with him years back. Soon she gets the news that her essay has been selected. Now she is torn between whether to travel to Earth 2 or stay here and be with John.
A sci-fi film that managed to gross $1.8 million wordwide with only $100K budget, the movie is definitely something. It won seven awards including the Top Ten Independent Films Award under National Board of Review, USA (2011).

12.Friday the 13th

Budget: $550K
Box office: $59.8M
Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
Written by: Victor Miller
In 1957 at the Camp Crystal Lake, a boy named Jason Voorhees died by drowning in the pool and the camp counselors weren't around to stop this mishap from happening. In 1958, two camp counselors were murdered. The camp then gets closed due to these unexpected happenings. In 1979, it gets reopened and once again the murders start to happen. Is it the ghost of Jason seeking his revenge?
The movie was made with a budget of only $550K and managed to gross about $59.4M, thus making it's way into the list of low budget movies that became blockbusters.

13.The Evil Dead

Budget: $350-400K
Box office: $24.9M
Directed and written by: Sam Raimi
Five college students decide to spend their vacation in a remote cabin for a fun getaway. As they were curious, they start exploring the cabin and thus come across a book and tape recorder. When they played the tape, something that they never thought of happens, an evil force gets unleashed. This evil force is now set to destroy them all.
The movie won the Best Low Budget Film in Saturn Awards under Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA(1983) and managed to gross $24.9 million worldwide.


Budget: $1.5M
Box office: $65M
Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Written by: Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney
Moonlight shows the three time periods - Childhood, adolescence and adulthood-of a young African-American gay man. The story line is situated in the rough neighborhoods of Miami. It showcases Chiron's struggles with bullies in his childhood to his journey of self-discovery in his adulthood.
The movie did so well that it managed to win three Oscars, including the Best Motion Picture of the year in 2017. With just $1.5 million as the budget, it is the lowest budget film to win an Oscar for Best Picture.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the website. 
Priyanshi is currently pursuing Bachelor of Arts in Economic Honours from Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University. Lazy days with a perfect movie/series is her idea of paradise.