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In the film industry, the success of a motion picture often lies within the amount of money a production company is willing to dish out. As mentioned in a previous blog, some of the most expensive films ever made ended up also being the most profitable. But what happens when an independent or low-budget film suddenly sky rockets to the top of the box office? Some of the films that have made a lasting impact on audiences cost next to nothing when it comes to film production. Here is a look at some of the most successful films that were created with a small budget.


Friday the 13th

In the days before $400 million budgets were the norm, moviegoers were in awe with a simple story that seldom saw extensive special effects. The 1980s film, Friday the 13th, has gone down in history as a classic American horror film. All that the production team needed was an old campground, clothing, and actors. With a small production budget of $500,000, the horror film ended up bringing in $59 million at the box office. The film is still a crowd favorite around Halloween and continues to make profits almost 40 years later.


Napoleon Dynamite

The pop culture phenomenon was expected to be just another awkward indie film with small pockets of fans around the world. The 2004 film was made on a small $400,000 budget produced by independent companies along with MTV Films. Star of the movie, Jon Heder earned a measly $1,000 for his time on set. Little did the production team know that this would be Heder’s big break. The quirky plot line created many lines that people all around the world continue to quote. The movie ended up raking in $46 million at the box office and continues to make profits off of the infamous “Vote for Pedro” shirts.


Paranormal Activity

As you can see, it doesn’t take much for a scary movie to become a huge blockbuster hit. This unique take on film production is what helped it reach such great achievements. Shot using a handheld camera, in only seven days, director, Oren Peli used his own home to create one of the 2000’s most popular horror films. Using only $15,000 on production, Peli and his team gained their success mostly due to word of mouth. Inevitably, the film made $193 million at the box office, earning it the highest profit return on any film. The Paranormal Activity franchise, consisting of six films, has earned close to $900 million since 2007. The team only used $28 million in production all six of the movies.