You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a lot of money, at least when it comes to movies. While it may seem like millions of dollars is a lot of money, when you think about how many people it takes to make a movie, it’s really not a ton in the grand scheme of things.
All of the movies on this list managed to turn a pretty big profit even though they didn’t have a very big budget. Keep reading to find out which films made serious bank.
Get Out Ended Up Winning An Oscar
Before 2017, we knew Jordan Peele as one half of the comedy duo “Key and Peele.” Somehow, this MadTV alum managed to become a serious director right under our noses.
He made his horror film Get Out for only $4.5 million. This movie ended up making $255 million and winning an Oscar for best screenplay. Daniel Kaluuya is stunning in this film, and we can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele does next.
The Blair Witch Project Became A Cult Classic
The Blair Witch Project is a low budget film that looks like a low budget film. Unsurprisingly, this movie didn’t cost very much to make, but did you know that it only cost $60,000?
The film became something of a cult classic and a moment in pop culture. It ended up grossing $248 million worldwide. Because of the unique way in which this movie was filmed, people weren’t sure if it was a documentary or not.
The Full Monty Was Nominated For Best Picture
The Full Monty is a British comedy about a group of men who attempt to make some extra cash by starring in their own exotic dancing show. Somehow, this wacky concept for a movie actually turned out to be pretty heartwaring. It also made a lot of money.
The movie was made for only $3.5 million but it made $258 million worldwide. It was also nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Juno Kept Costs Low Because Jennifer Garner Took A Pay Cut
Juno was a massive hit in 2008, and it was actually director Diablo Cody’s first feature film. She made the movie for just $7.5 million, and Jennifer Garner even took a pay cut so the movie could get made.
This film about a pregnant teenager ended up making $231 million at the box office and receiving several Oscar nominations. This movie put Ellen Page on the map, and we’re so glad that it did.
Little Miss Sunshine Received Two Oscar Nominations
Little Miss Sunshine is an indie comedy with a totally unique plotline. Audiences fell in love with Abigail Breslin as Olive and her whole quirky family. This movie was made for just $8 million in 2006, and it ended up earning $100.5 million worldwide.
This movie got two Oscar nominations and even managed to take home one of those golden statues. This movie made us all appreciate our own crazy families a little bit more.
Paranormal Activity Was Made By A Director With No Experience
There are a lot of low budget horror films that end up making a lot of money. Apparently, scaring people is pretty cheap. Paranormal Activity was made for just $15,000 by Israeli director Oren Peli. He had no previous directorial experience in 2007 when he made this movie.
Paranormal Activity made $193.4 million worldwide, which is a ginormous profit. That’s why the studio decided to make a sequel. And then another sequel.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding Was In Theatres For A Year
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a romantic comedy that hit theatres in 2002. It had a budget of just $5 million. This movie quickly became a crowd favorite. Somehow, everybody could relate to this quirky Greek family.
The movie spent a year in theatres and made a whopping $368.7 million. It took a while, but in 2016, we finally got My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Was it worth the wait? I’ll let you decide.
Anabelle Was A Spinoff From The Conjuring
Anabelle is a spinoff of the very successful horror movie The Conjuring which was released in 2013. A year later, Anabelle hit theatres. This movie was made for $20 million, which is nowhere near the smallest budget on this list. It made an impressive $318 million which is a huge profit by any standard.
This movie spawned many sequels and spinoffs of its own, but none of them did quite as well as Anabelle.
Rocky Starred An Unknown Sylvester Stalone
We now know that Rocky is a fixture in American cinema, but back in 1976, nobody knew this movie was going to be as big as it became. Sylvester Stalone was an unknown actor at the time. The first Rocky movie was made for just $1 million.
It went on to make $117.2 million worldwide. The film won three Academy Awards including Best Picture. Most importantly, people still love this movie today.
Saw Only Took 18 Days To Make
In 2004, director James Wan gave us Saw, a horror movie for the ages. The film was shot in only 18 days and it cost just $1.2 million to make.
We know now that this movie was a huge success. It made $103.9 million worldwide and spawned a whole bunch of low-budget sequels. This was Wan’s first movie, and he later went on to direct The Conjuring and Insidious. Without Saw, we wouldn’t have either of those movies.
Moonlight Will Always Be Remembered At The Oscars
Whether or not you saw Moonlight, you probably remember that moment at the 2017 Oscars when Warren Beatty accidentally called the wrong name for the winner of Best Picture, the final award of the night.
I’m very happy that Moonlight ended up winning Best Picture after all. This film was made for just $4 million, and it managed to gross $65.3 million. While this movie wasn’t as commercially successful as some of the others on this list, it definitely made a cultural impact.
My Left Foot Catapulted Daniel Day-Lewis Into The Limelight
Who would have thought that a movie about a boy with cerebral palsy would be so successful? For many viewers, this was the moment they realized that Daniel Day-Lewis was an acting legend. This film was made in 1989 for $600,000. It ended up earning $14.7 million at the box office.
Daniel Day-Lewis is amazing as Christy Brown, and if you haven’t seen this movie yet, you definitely need to.
The Purge’s Success Led To Three More Sequels
The Purge enthralled audiences with its original concept. This movie takes place in the future when ordinary people are allowed to do anything at all (including murder) for 12 hours every year.
I bet you didn’t remember that Queen Cersei herself, Lena Heady, is in this movie. The Purge was made for $3 million, but it grossed $89 million at the box office. After the success of this film, Universal Pictures made 3 more Purge movies.
Mad Max Held The Guinness World Record For Profitability
Mad Max: Fury Road, the latest installment of the Mad Max series, had a budget of $150 million, but the original Mad Max wasn’t so fortunate. That movie was made for just $300,000.
Mad Max grossed $100 million, which is astounding for 1979. For a while, it actually held a Guinness World Record for being the most profitable film ever made. There’s a reason why there are so many Mad Max movies, and that reason is money.
American Graffiti Was One Of George Lucas’ First Films
American Graffiti was actually turned down by several movie studios before Universal Pictures funded it for $750,000. This was one of George Lucas’ first films, but Universal was definitely right to take a gamble on him. Lucas would go on to create one of the most successful film franchises in history.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… American Graffiti ended up making $115 million overall and it was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.
Split Had A Big-Name Director And A Modest Budget
M. Night Shyamalan is known for making movies with surprising twists. He was already a big director before 2017 when Split came out, and yet he only made the movie for $9 million.
In Split, James McAvoy plays a criminal with multiple personalities. The character kidnaps young girls, which is absolutely terrifying. Split earned $278.5 million worldwide and McAvoy impressed audiences everywhere with his performance. He basically played multiple characters in one movie, and it was masterful.
Lost In Translation Had A Star-Studded Cast
Lost in Translation became a huge hit and it’s still considered to be one of Scarlett Johansson’s best movies (and she’s been in a lot of excellent movies). Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this movie and managed to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay.
The whole movie cost $4 million to make and ended up earning $119.7 million worldwide. Sofia, Scarlett, and Bill all came together to make a movie for the ages.
Star Wars Was The Highest Grossing Film Ever At One Point
Star Wars came out in 1977 and was immediately a major hit at the box office. With a whopping $775.4 million in ticket sales, it became the highest grossing film of all time— before E.T. came out at least.
The movie gave rise to a whole bunch of sequels and prequels and every kind of “quel” you can imagine. It turned George Lucas’s production company into an empire. I guess that makes Lucas an emperor.
Open Water Used Handheld Cameras To Add To The Drama
I bet it took you a long while to go back into the ocean after watching Open Water. This low budget horror movie was made for just $500,000. It’s about two scuba divers who become stranded and have to evade a hungry shark.
Handheld cameras added a real-life feel to this production. The film made $52 million at the box office which is pretty impressive given how much was spent making the movie.
Halloween Saved A Ton Of Money On Wardrobe
Halloween is one of the highest earning independent films ever made. It was made for $300,000 in 1978. Jamie Lee Curtis starred in the film and her wardrobe only cost $100. The movie went on to make $70 million worldwide.
It became such a huge hit that it became a franchise in its own right with 10 Halloween sequels. I guess people really like to watch babysitters get slashed. Who knew?
Pulp Fiction Had A Relatively Low Budget Considering Its Cast
Pulp Fiction is one of the most iconic movies of the ’90s. I mean, it’s one of the most iconic movies of all time, really. This film put Quentin Tarantino on the map. It stars the best and brightest of Hollywood, including John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis.
In 1994 the film was made for a relatively low budget of $8.5 million. It ended up earning $213.9 million at the box office.
Buried Made 10 Times Its Budget
Buried is a psychological thriller about a soldier who is buried alive with nothing but a lighter, flask, flashlight, knife, glowsticks, pen, pencil, and a mobile phone. The film stars Ryan Reynolds and it came out in 2010. It was made for just $2 million.
The movie ended up making $21.3 million which is more than 10 times its original budget. Most of that was due to Reynold’s star power.
Friday The 13th Was So Popular It Now Has Its Own Video Game
Friday the 13th is yet another horror film that was able to earn way more money than it was made for. This film had a budget of $700,000 and managed to earn $59.8 million at the box office.
Creator Victor Miller and director Sean S. Cunningham managed to make a film so popular that people stuck with the concept for 11 more movies. Now there’s even a Friday the 13th video game.
The Evil Dead Was Made For Less Than 500K
The Evil Dead was written and directed by Sam Raimi, who also happens to be the mastermind behind other horror flicks like The Grudge and Boogeyman.
The film tells the story of friends who spend the night in a cabin only to unleash the power of the evil dead by messing with an ancient text. The film made $29.4 million even though it was only made for $400,000. Horror movies are very profitable if you hadn’t noticed that already.
Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels Introduced Us To Jason Statham
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is the film that introduced us to action star Jason Statham. Before this film, Statham was just your average competitive diver…
This movie was directed by Guy Ritchie and it had a super talented ensemble cast. It’s about a group of friends who are down on their luck, so they decide to plot a robbery to pay off some of their debt. The movie cost $1.3 million to make and ended up earning $28.1 million worldwide.
Napoleon Dynamite Made 100 Times Its Budget
Napoleon Dynamite is one of the most iconic comedies ever made. It’s about an awkward teenager who helps his friend Pedro run for class president. It stars Jon Heder, who actually didn’t end up doing much after this film became a cult classic.
Napoleon Dynamite was made for $400,00 and ended up grossing $46.1 million worldwide. One hundred times its budget isn’t bad for a little comedy. I’d call that a success.
A Nightmare On Elm Street Gave Us One Of The Most Terrifying Villians
If you were a kid in the ’80s (or even an adult), Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street probably gave you nightmares for weeks. This movie turned out to be one of the most horrifying slasher movies ever made.
Freddy Krueger is still one of the most terrifying movie monsters to ever grace the big screen. This movie was made for $1.8 million, and it ended up making $25.5 million at the box office.
Swingers Helped Launch Jon Favreau’s Career
Swingers came out in 1996, and it’s still considered to be one of the best and funniest movies of all time. It was written by Jon Favreau who starred in the movie alongside Vince Vaughn.
It had a tiny budget of just $200,000 and it managed to make $4.6 million at the box office. That might not seem like much compared to some of the other movies on this list, but I’ll let Swingers‘ lasting influence speak for itself.
Once Received A Grammy Award For Its Music
Once is a beautiful little musical film set in Dublin, Ireland. People are still in love with the songs from the film to this day, even though the movie was released in 2007.
Once received a Grammy Award nomination for the music in the film which was actually composed by the film’s stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The movie had a budget of only $160,000, yet it still managed to earn $20.7 million at the box office.
Night Of The Living Dead Is The Cornerstone Of The Zombie Movie Genre
George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968. It was about a group of people trapped in a farmhouse trying to escape a horde of undead monsters.
This movie was made for just $114,000, yet it grossed $30 million worldwide, which is over 250 times its original budget. It spawned five sequels and it’s still regarded as the cornerstone of the zombie movie genre. Creators of The Walking Dead cite Romero as a huge influence.
Super Size Me Made Big Money For A Documentary
Super Size Me is one of the few documentary films ever made that managed to turn a huge profit. It was created in 2004 by Morgan Spurlock, who spent 30 days eating only food from McDonald’s.
The experiment had a huge impact on Spurlock’s health, which is shown throughout the film. This movie was made for $65,000 and it managed to make $29.5 million worldwide. I wonder how much of that money went to buying McDonald’s food?
28 Days Later Seems To Be An Inspiration To Many Zombie Shows
28 Days Later is a post-apocalyptic British horror film about a man who wakes up from a coma at a hospital only to realize that the world has been taken over by zombies. That should sound familiar to any fans of The Walking Dead.
I’m convinced that the similarities between these two stories must be because The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman is paying homage to 28 Days Later, although Kirkman says that it’s purely a coincidence. 28 Days Later went on to earn $85 million even though it only had a $6.6 million budget.
Blue Valentine Only Cost $1 Million To Make
In 2010, director Derek Cianfrance gave us Blue Valentine, a romantic tragedy starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. If this movie didn’t give you all the feels, you need to get your feels checked out.
The movie follows a couple from the beginning of their relationship to their eventual separation years later. It was made with only a $1 million budget, yet ended up grossing a surprising $16.6 million at the box office.
The Hills Have Eyes Was Another One Of Wes Craven’s Hits
We’re back with another Wes Craven hit that made a ton of money at the box office. The Hills Have Eyes came out in 1977 and it quickly made $25 million. This movie was made for only $230,000, so that’s a pretty hefty profit.
This film tells the story of a family stranded in the middle of the desert. They’re attacked by savages, and chaos and horror ensue. There were several sequels of The Hills Have Eyes made after the success of the first film.
Clerks Was Silent Bob’s Coming Out Party
Clerks was Kevin Smith’s first feature film that he created basically all on his own. He had help, of course, but he wrote, directed, and acted in this movie.
This black-and-white comedy was made on a budget of only $27,575, but it somehow made $3.1 million at the box office. Audiences seemed to love Smith’s originality, and Silent Bob was also a huge hit. He went on to make other movies featuring these characters.
El Mariachi Was Shot Without Sound
Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez actually had to check himself into a medication trial to raise the funds to make El Mariachi. Now that’s some serious dedication. He shot the whole movie without sound and had to add the sound in later.
This movie was so well received that it warranted two action-packed sequels. I think this film had the smallest budget on our list. It was made for just $7,000. It went on to make $2 million worldwide.
Nightcrawler Showed Jake Gyllenhaal At His Best
Jake Gyllenhaal had to lose weight for his role in Nightcrawler, a film about the state of modern journalism and our insatiable desire for a hot scoop.
Jake plays a photographer who goes just a little bit too far. This movie also features Riz Ahmed who went on to become a big television star in his own right. Nightcrawler was made for just $8.5 million, but it managed to make $50.3 million at the box office.
Don’t Breathe Made The Most Of Its Budget
Don’t Breathe is a horror film starring Jane Levy, Daniel Zovatto, Dylan Minnette, and Stephen Lang that came out in 2016.
The movie follows three people who try to rob a blind man’s house, only to realize that they’ve messed with the wrong blind man. The film’s budget was fairly modest at $9.9 million, yet it managed to make an impressive $157.1 million at the box office. Not too shabby.
Snatch Was Another Guy Ritchie Hit
Snatch is the second Guy Ritchie film to make this list. It’s a British-American crime comedy starring Benicio del Toro, Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, and Lennie James.
This film was made on a budget of $10 million, and in the end, the movie made $83.6 million in profits. It also gained a cult following and worldwide acclaim. There’s no question that Guy Ritchie has cemented a reputation as a world-class director.
Goldfinger Made A Ton In The 60s
James Bond has been played by several different actors over the years. In 1964, he was played by Sean Connery in Goldfinger.
This movie was made on a $3 million budget, but as you can probably guess by now, it managed to make a lot more than that at the box office. Goldfinger turned a profit of $125 million, which was a huge amount for the mid-’60s. No wonder there are so many James Bond movies…