The Most Profitable Low-Budget Movies of All Time

Making a movie comes with a hefty price tag. It requires a whole team of professionals who are paid for the hours they spend working on the production, and on top of that, filmmaking equipment typically costs around thousands of dollars. So it is understandable to see why studios continue to invest in blockbusters, they aim to create the next big franchise. But amid all that, low-budget movies cannot be simply overlooked especially with the success of recent films like Don’t Breathe and Paranormal Activity.

Low-budget movies continue to strive in the movie industry as they give studios a lot of potential to gain profit. But of course, the challenge here now lies with the filmmaker. It is incredibly difficult to create low-budget movies that really makes an impact, and filmmakers never really know if it would click with audiences or not.

ExploreTalent has put together a list of the best low-budget movies released so far. These films have managed to become big hits despite staying under Hollywood’s blockbuster standards.

Read about them below (in no particular order).

List of Low-Budget Movies:

1. The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981)

Budget: $350,000–400,000

low-budget movies

When directors Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert thought of the idea of making a horror movie, they had no Hollywood connections or even a budget for that matter. So they tapped their childhood friend Bruce Campbell to play the lead in a short film titled Within the Woods. They later showed this low-budget movie to investors, and this helped them acquire money to create a full feature film. Evil Dead became a cult favorite, even earning praises from the King of Horror Stephen King. 

The low-budget movie is undeniably packed with cheesy visual effects, but it is one of the many things that make it worth watching. Campbell is also excellent in his role as Ash, the clumsy lead who needs to gather his wits to fight against an army of evil. Evil Dead was followed by two other films, a 2013 remake and a series, with Campbell taking on the iconic role once again. Raimi and Tappert also went on to become successful filmmakers. Raimi directed the first of the Spider-Man trilogywhile Tapert is the founder of Ghost House Pictures.

2. Rocky (John G. Avildsen, 1976)

Budget: $995,000


Sylvester Stallone was a struggling actor when he wrote the script for the low-budget movie Rocky. He was inspired to write the story of Rocky Balboa after watching a fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner. Stallone was so determined to finish the script that he wrote it in just three-and-a-half days. He then sold it to United Artists and pleaded to have him star so he could save his career. All Stallone and director John G. Avildsen‘s hard work eventually paid off as Rocky was recognized by several award-giving bodies including the Academy, even spanning a number of equally successful sequels.

3. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)

budget: $114,000


Night of the Living Dead revolutionized the zombie horror genre. Prior to the release of this movie, the idea of the living dead was nothing but a folklore. Leave it to the creativity of director George A. Romero to recreate the concept of reanimated bodies and use them as monsters hungry for human flesh for his first feature film. Romero set the record straight and said that he thought of the cannibalistic creatures in the movie to be more like ghouls not zombies.

But no matter how they are perceived, there’s no denying that Romero’s creation is absolutely terrifying even when fashioned against a full black-and-white picture. Also part of the success of this movie was the racial subtext. It was not Romero’s intention to create such an impact on the civil rights movement of the ’60s, but when he cast black actor Duncan Jones for the main role, the movie paved the way for more racial diversity in the film industry.  

4. Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)

Budget: $350,000


The first film in the Mad Max series is undeniably the most successful one. Director George Miller was working as an emergency room doctor when he developed the concept for Mad Max. He observed how seriously damaged the patients were after car accidents. This concept together with the the global oil crisis back in 1973 inspired the whole story line of Mad Max.

The story centers around the title character Max played by Mel Gibson, who by then was still a lesser-known actor with only a few movies under his belt when he made the movie. Mad Max became such a big hit when it hit cinemas that the movie held the title as the most profitable film for 20 years until the tag was snatched Blair Witch Project.

5. Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, 1999)

Budget: $22,500


Movies usually take around months to shoot, but The Blair Witch Project took a mere eight days to complete. The actors were not given a script and were asked to improvise as they set out in a forest. They eventually came up with 19 hours of “found footage” but the video was drastically shortened to only 90 minutes. Blair Witch went on to become a massive success, with critics praising the film’s fresh take on the horror movie genre.