Top 8 Low-Budget Movies That Made Millions
Thu, April 22, 2021

Top 8 Low-Budget Movies That Made Millions

Some of the highest-grossing movies of all time such as "Paranormal Activity," "Mad Max," "Super Size Me" among others was produced with the least production budget / Photo credits by Fernando Gregory Milan via 123rf



Major blockbusters and cult movies don’t usually start off this way. There’s a certain rhyme and reason why certain movies get more recognition than others, and that usually has little to do with how much money has been thrown to producing the movie. The movies below will shock you with how big the return profit was in comparison to its meager production budget. 

"Paranormal Activity," Made on $15,000, Earned $193,355,800

“Paranormal Activity” gets the top spot for Digital Spy’s list, with its impressive 1,289,000 percent return to a very small budget. Stylistically, “Paranormal Activity” takes its cue from “The Blair Witch Project,” which featured a breakthrough horror narrative via a found footage. 

“Paranormal Activity” was a little bit like that. According to Editor Choice, a place to read news on entertainment, fashion, tech, movies, TV, lifestyle, and many other relevant topics, “Paranormal Activity” also launched director Oren Peli’s career into the mainstream, what with this incredibly effective first movie he shot with a handheld camera in the span of seven days. 



"The Blair Witch Project," Made on $60,000, Earned $248,639,099

With a profit return of 414,300 percent, “The Blair Witch Project” was the movie that raised the bar for horror movies in Hollywood. Initially, it’s intended purpose was to be a ‘mockumentary,’ but after it was shown in cinemas, it became clear that its effectivity at horror would come to be remembered to this day. 

The story goes that the marketing was so effective that “audiences believed in the marketing campaign and weren’t sure if what they were watching was real or not.” 

"Mad Max," Made on $200,000, Earned $99,750,000

Editor Choice writes, “The original film with Mel Gibson was made for only $300,000. In 1979, it made $1 million which at the time was an enormous sum.” Additionally, the success of the movie was even such that it managed to snag the Guinness World Record for the best profit-to-cost film.

From this first film, the popularity of Mad Max would continue into the 21st century where Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy would be the new faces of the franchise.

"Super Size Me," Made on $65,000, Earned $20,641,054


"Super Size Me" (2004) surpassed its expectations as the movie made a 31,700% return profit. / Photo credits by olgachov via 123rf

Fast food is disgusting. 

This is the main theme of 2004’s breakout blockbuster documentary “Super Size Me” which, even on a $65,000 budget, managed to surpass expectations in such an unprecedented manner. According to TV Over Mind, a resource for TV news, TV spoilers, TV recaps, TV reviews, and other exclusive news, the documentary was simple and stuck to its message. Apparently, that was enough, because they made a return profit of 31,700 percent. 

"El Mariachi," Made on $7,000, Earned $2,041,928

Do not be fooled by that small budget; “El Mariachi” is actually a pretty entertaining movie. With a return profit of 29,100 percent, “El Mariachi” also struck a chord with many critics--and it’s the good kind. Looking at the movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes, the 93 percent can be a little surreal. 

According to the critic Brian Johnson of Maclean’s Magazine, the movie was stellar for its “kinetic camera work and dynamic editing,” in addition to the way director Robert Rodriguez’s actions scenes “leave a lot of big-budget movies in the dust.”

"Night of the Living Dead," Made on $114,000, Earned $30,000,000

“The Walking Dead,” “Left 4 Dead,” “Dead Rising,” and many other undead movies would never have existed or become palatable if not for director George Romero’s independent horror film that started it all. According to Editor Choice, it’s the simplicity of the movie that truly appealed to audiences when it first came out in 1968. 

The story, which was about “a group of people hiding from monsters in a farmhouse,” made so much money that the $114,000 movie grossed 26,200 percent above their original budget. 

"Rocky," Made on $1.1 million, Earned $225,000,000

Though the budget for “Rocky” may be in the millionth denomination, its success raked in much more than that. Editor Choice stated that this pop-culture classic was actually written by Sylvester Stallone himself “over a weekend,” and it was what firmly cemented his career in show business. 

The movie later won three Oscars and is such a fan favorite that it was followed by three sequels after that. Its timeless quality is also the reason why it continues to attract a cult following to this day. 



"American Graffiti," Made on $777,000, Earned $140,000,000

Those who didn't follow George Lucas’ career before “Star Wars” may want to check out his 1973 coming-of-age film, which made quite the splash in the box office. Even though it was made on a budget of $777,000, it got a return profit of 17,600 percent and was loved far and wide by many critics. 

If you found Lucas’ Star Wars movies tacky and wonder if this one is probably just as bad, you can take it up with the movie’s 96 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.