No money, no problem: 6 of the biggest earning low-budget films in history

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The Blair Witch Project is still considered one of the scariest movies of all time - even though it cost next to nothing to make. Here are a few more films that started out small but made it big.  

Almost 20 years after the disappearance of three film students in the woods of Burkittsville comes Blair Witch, the successor to the low-budget hit from 1999. The original is a prime example of what a good film crew can do with the simplest means. With less than a million dollars in production costs, the innovative shocker brought an impressive $248.6 million return. 

Here are six other budget box-office hits that should not be missed:


Input: $1 million
Output: $225 million

Rocky? Sure, everyone knows the heavyweight movie franchise but perhaps they are unaware that the original script was written by Sylvester Stallone himself and the film hit cinemas screens in 1976 having been produced with a small budget of around a million dollars. At $225 million profit it turned out to be a financial heavy hitter just like The Blair Witch Project. Although initially Rocky received a mixed response from critics, it went on to win three Academy Awards including Best Picture, inspired a string of sequels, and is considered by many to be the best sports movie of all time.

© Youtube // JohnVexer


Input: $1.2 million
Output: $103 million

Saw is a now a  cult classic. The 2004 independent horror earned over $100 million with only $1.2 million production costs, and at the time was the most profitable film in the genre since 1996’s Scream. It was followed by six more installments of the psychological nerve-jangler, but they fell short of the high expectations set by the original.

Open Water

Input: $130,000
Output: $54 million

Open Water is based on a true story, that of the couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan who were left behind in the ocean during a diving trip. The film thrives on the same type of minimalist action of a psychological horror - this time with the uncertainty and fear of the open sea. The margin between the budget and the revenue it pulled in was as large as the appetite of the sharks circling the Lonergans.

© Youtube // Movieclips Trailer Vault

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Paranormal Activity

Input: $15,000
Output: $193 million

Proving that horror is a profitable genre for filmmakers, the cult movie Paranormal Activity has been scaring fans since 2007 earning nearly $200 million from a tiny budget of just $15,000.

The story is simple: a couple, Katie and Micah are haunted in their house by a supernatural being. The special feature is the dense atmosphere and how the film plays with the expectations and fears of the audience. Nightmares guaranteed.

© Youtube // ENTRTNMNT

El Mariachi

Input: $7,000 
Output: $2,000,000

The numbers might be not be as big as some of the other films in this selection but are nevertheless disproportionate in the most positive sense for the makers of El Mariachi. It is the first part in the Mexican Trilogy of cult director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and despite being made on a shoestring went on to garner international acclaim.

© Youtube // WorleyClarence

Super Size Me

Input: $65,000
Output: $29.5 million 

In 2004 Super Size Me was on everyone’s lips. The documentary by Morgan Spurlock, who also plays the main role, was extremely successful starting with a low budget of only $65,000 and pulling in $29.5 million. The film follows Spurlock over the course of 30 days in which he can only eat food from McDonalds - and documents not only his worsening physical state but also mental transformation. Still, with those profits, he could buy a lot of cheeseburgers. 

© Youtube // Cinedigm

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09 2016 The Red Bulletin

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