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Just because a movie doesn’t cost a lot of money, that doesn’t mean it won’t make a lot of money. Here are 11 low-budget movies that became surprise box office hits.
1. Once. The small romantic indie musical Once cost only $150,000 in 2006. It spawned a success box office taking in $20.7 million, as it also spawned a successful Broadway musical.
2. American Graffiti. George Lucas’ sophomore effort cost only $777,000 in 1973. It grossed $140 million at the worldwide box office and help gain George Lucas popularity in Hollywood.
3. Paranormal Activity. Armed with only $15,000, director Oren Peli made Paranormal Activity with no script, non-actors, video camera, and a house. It grossed $197 million worldwide, as it also spawned four sequels and a spin-off, all of which were also low budget and highly successful.
4. Eraserhead. David Lynch’s directorial debut is a surreal masterpiece that took 7 years to make. It was a very low budget film that was financed as a scholarship from American Film Institute. Eraserhead earned $7 million from the scholarship.
5. Slacker. Richard Linklater’s directorial debut cost on $23,000, but earned $1.2 million. Slacker has become one of the most influential movies of the American Indie Film Movement of the early 90s.
6. Halloween. John Carpenter’s low budget horror movie cost only $325,000 in 1978. The budget went to buying film camera, while Jamie Lee Curtis was paid $8,000 to star. Halloween turned around to make $70 million and is one of the most recognizable franchises in horror.
7. Night of the Living Dead. George Romeo’s directorial debut launched the modern-day zombie in American pop culture. The black-and-white film only cost $114,000, while it grossed $42 million worldwide. It also spawned five sequels and an entirely new horror sub-genre.
8. Mad Max. George Miller’s directorial debut cost only $350,000 in 1979, as it launched his career and a young Mel Gibson. It earned more than $100 million worldwide, as it spawned a highly profitable action film franchise that is still going today with Mad Max: Fury Road.
9. Napoleon Dynamite. In 2004, Jared and Jerusha Hess made a short film called Peluca and then made a feature film based on it called Napoleon Dynamite. It cost only $400,000, but made $46 million worldwide and is not a cult classic.
10. The Blair Witch Project. The horror movie popularized the found-footage sub-genre while it only cost $600,000 to make. With an aggressive marketing campaign and high critical marks, The Blair Witch Project grossed $248.6 million worldwide.