Low Budget Movies That Made Millions

Sep 07, 2021James Montalvo

How much do you think it takes to make a blockbuster movie? An easy bet would be putting up at least tens of millions of dollars, right? Well, most of the time you'd be right. However, there are a few gems out there that made a whopping amount of money with a minimal budget. We're pretty sure you've seen some of these films, but did you know they were made for cheap and made tons? Find out which one makes our list!

Image Source: Unsplash/Donald Edgar/For Illustrative Purpose


Let's kick things off with a film that perfectly encapsulates the brilliance of Christian Bale. Yes, these days the British actor has risen to the mythos of Hollywood as one of the greatest character actors thanks to career-defining roles like Batman in the Dark Knight Trilogy, and The Fighter. However, it was American Psycho that really put Bale on everyone's radar.

Image Source: Getty Images/Sygma via Getty Images/Sygma/Eric Robert


The now-cult classic about a white-collar Wall Street megalomaniac descent into madness hit theaters in 2000 and had a budget of roughly $7 million. It made double it's budget in the US alone, ended up with a cumulative gross of $34 million worldwide. It turned Bale into a bonafide leading man and gave the internet an ax-wielding meme for the ages.

Image Source: YouTube/Movieclips - Columbia Pictures/American Psycho


When it comes to controversial filmmakers, no one takes the cake of being the most polarizing than Michael Moore. Renown throughout the entertainment industry for his blunt and invasive documentaries that cover some of the current eras' most pressing social issues. Who says controversy doesn't attract money? Not Moore. His 2002 documentary, Bowling for Columbine earned tens of millions, plus an Oscar.

Image Source: Getty Images/Rich Fury


Moore's daring documentary was an introspective masterpiece on America's predilection for violence. It talked very political topics such as control and misuse. Suffice to say, people ate the content up. The documentary cost Moore $4 million to make and took about a year to film. It was well worth it in the end, the documentary ended up grossing $58 million globally. 

Image Source: YouTube/Movieclips Classic Trailers - MGM Distribution Co./Bowling for Columbine


In today's world full of social media, fake news on the internet, and millions of social profiles popping up every day, how sure are you that the person you're talking to online is real?  There's this new age term called 'catfishing', which is basically finding out that the person your talking to online isn't who they are. Catfish, the 2010 documentary, explored one such story like this and it made millions. 

Image Source: YouTube/Universal Pictures - Universal Pictures/Catfish


The film basically follows Nev Schulman, as he is filmed by his friends having a relationship with someone he met online and has never met in person. A very relevant occurrence in our world today. They spent about $30,000 while filming the documentary and ended up making $3 million, making their budget back many times over. But it doesn't stop there, the team and the idea were even picked up by MTV and turned it into a reality tv series which is still running since 2012.

Image Source: YouTube/Universal Pictures - Universal Pictures/Catfish


You'd have to be mad not to enjoy the comedic brilliance of the Trio of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Edgar Wright. The three brits have collaborated many times over, but the film that really took them to a whole new level was "Shaun of the Dead." The campy zombie apocalypse romantic comedy turned then-tv stars Pegg and Frost to film stars, and Wright a highly sought after director.

Image Source: YouTube/SceneScreen - Universal Pictures/Shaun of the Dead


Shaun of the Dead was made for only $6.1 million. Considering that this was already the mid-2000s, the film had a relatively low budget especially since they were a practical effects-heavy zombie film. They were able to make it work though, as the film ended up raking in $30 million at the box office. Their success eventually led to the now famed "Three Flavors Corneto Trilogy" that includes further collaborations among Pegg, Frost, and Wright, namely 2007's "Hot Fuzz" and 2013's "The World's End."

Image Source: Getty Images/Kevin Winter


Remember Zach Braff? He played the dorky lead in Scrubs. In 2004, he made his directorial debut with Garden State, a film which he also wrote and starred in. The heartwarming film about a man coming back to his hometown to find himself after a great tragedy was a surprise hit of that year. It also had a noteworthy cast with Natalie Portman and Peter Skarsgaard joining Braff.

Image Source: YouTube/Movieclips Classic Trailers - Fox Searchlight/Garden State


Braff's debut as a director was met with high critical and commercial success. The film was only made for $2.5 million. With its great reviews in tow, the film ended up attracting a lot of audiences. It's currently got an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the best part about the film's success is that it took home $35.8 million at the box office, and even won a Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album.

Image Source: YouTube/Movieclips Classic Trailers - Fox Searchlight/Garden State


If you're a fan of British teen comedies then you're probably already familiar with 'The Inbetweeners'. First introduced in the television series of the same name, the four unlikely friends topped off their three seasons of tv success with a movie. A well-received one to be exact. It was so successful that it even sparked a sequel. 

Image Source: YouTube/MOVIECLIPS TRAILERS - Entertainment Film Distributors/The Inbetweeners Movie


The film showcased the four young men that tv audiences had grown to love and laugh at treating themselves with a trip around to the beautiful sites of Greece. As is expected with any teen comedy, the film had a lot of hilarious gags which ended up contributing to the film's $65 million hauls at the box office against its $5.3 million budget. Not too shabby lads.

Image Source: Getty Images/Brendon Thorne


With the name 'Coppola' tied to the film could anyone really expect it to fail? I guess not. 2003's Lost in Translation is a dark comedy that stars the great Bill Murray as a well-known actor that's seen the height of his career gone past him already. He sparks up an unlikely friendship with a student in Tokyo, played by the then-teenaged Scarlett Johansson. 

Image Source: YouTube/Movieclips - Focus Features/Lost in Translation


Looking at it on paper today, you'd probably think 'obviously this made a lot of money', but remember, Scar-Jo was still a young talent then and Murray was experiencing some ups and downs. Nay-sayers were proven wrong though as the film made an astounding $120 million at the box office, and took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. 

Image Source: YouTube/Movieclips - Focus Features/Lost in Translation


Loosely based on the experiences of a couple of scuba divers who were left in open see by accident in 1998, the early 2000s survival-themed thriller gave anyone with fears of stepping in the ocean nightmares. The film showed audiences the horrors of being left in the middle of nowhere, in shark-infested waters with a lot of realism. It paid off, big time.

Image Source: YouTube/JoBlo Movie Clips- Lions Gate Films/Open Water


The people who made the film, husband and wife duo of Chris Kentis and Lara Lau, spent $120,000 of their own money to film it. After an impressive showing at the Sundance film festival, Lions Gate bought the film for $2.5 million. Already a huge profit, but it gets better. When the film hit mainstream theaters in 2003, it eventually took home $55.5 million in the global box office

Image Source: YouTube/Grunge - Lions Gate Films/Open Water


Ah, yes, the film that re-ignited the 'found-film horror' genre like a wildfire in a dried-out forest. This 2007 supernatural horror film gave filmgoers a terrifyingly unique and interesting experience as it used a style of filmmaking that made for a more personal haunting that other successful horror films during its time didn't employ. Safe to say, it gave the world nightmares and made a whole lot of money at the same time too. 

Image Source: YouTube/watchCulturetainment - Paramount Pictures/Paranormal Activity


The film used simple and practical effects to amazingly horrific results. It was shot in one location and didn't need so much high-tech equipment. It only cost $15,000 to film, and post-production ended up bringing the cost of the film to about $230,000. It ended up earning $193 million in the worldwide box office and sparking a saga of sequels altogether. 

Image Source: YouTube/watchCulturetainment - Paramount Pictures/Paranormal Activity


It seems pretty apparent that anything Quentin Tarantino makes turns into box office gold. If you want proof, look no further than 1994's Pulp Fiction. The star-studded Tarantino flick was one of the biggest films of the year, it was nominated for 7 Academy Awards and took one home for Best Original Screenplay. Moreover, the film has remained one of the greatest all-time. In terms of financials, well, it only gets better.

Image Source: YouTube/Wisecrack - Miramax/Pulp Fiction


Tarantino's off-beat brilliance is only one of the defining factors of the film's success. The star-studded cast definitely helped filled theater seats. Surprisingly, the film was only made for $8 million. Apart from it being a critic's darling, the film also raked in a ton of money, $212 million to be exact. It's aged so well too, which means those residuals must be coming in smoothly.

Image Source: YouTube/Wisecrack - Mirmax/Pulp Fiction

Of the films on this list, how many have you already seen? Did you think that they had this low budget when you were watching it? Tell us which one is your favorite in the comment section and make sure to check out Amomedia for more great content like this. Got a friend who's a film nut? Share this article with 'em too!

You May Also Like