13 Movies That Did a Lot with a Little
Article By: Tyler Doupe
As most of us already know, bigger isn’t always better. A hefty budget is not necessarily the sign of a great film. Of course, that’s not to say that every low budget effort is destined to be a masterpiece. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that some of the best films from years past were made for south of a million. With a talented cast and crew, a brilliant film can evolve from the most humble of beginnings. Hell, some of the top grossing features of all time were made for little more than the change you’d find between your couch cushions. With that in mind, this edition of The Friday 13 is looking back on 13 feature films that did a lot with a little. Be sure to let us know your thoughts on our Facebook Page. (All estimated budgets taken from The Internet Movie Database)
1. Halloween ($300,000 estimated)
John Carpenter’s magnum opus is one of the best horror films of all time. It inspired legions of imitators and after nearly 40-years, it is still gaining new fans. But what makes that even more impressive is that is was made for less than half a million dollars in a time where everything was shot on film. Celluloid was expensive and using it really required that a director knew what he or she was doing. And even though it was one of his first feature films, Carpenter proved that he knew exactly what he was doing.
2. The Evil Dead ($350,000 estimated)
Sam Raimi was a kid with a dream when he made Evil Dead. And did that dream ever pay off. Raimi is now a well-known director accustomed to working on a much larger budget than that which he made The Evil Dead. By way of raw talent, determination, and tenacity, Raimi and company managed to make one of the most memorable horror films of all time for a paltry $350,000.
3. Phantasm ($300,000 estimated)
Don Coscarelli had a couple of moderately successful low-budget features under his belt when he tackled Phantasm but he had certainly never made a movie that relied so heavily on special effects. Yet, somehow Coscarelli pulled together one of the most celebrated horror films of all time. And he did it for just over a quarter of a million dollars. What followed was one of the greatest horror franchises the world has ever seen.
4. Blair Witch Project ($60,000 estimated)
The Blair Witch Project scared the living hell out of audiences in the late ‘90s and it did so for a budget that most directors would have scoffed at prior to actually seeing it done. This is a quintessential example of thinking outside the box. And it proves that anyone with enough talent and determination can persevere and realize their dreams in spite of something as trivial as limited monetary funds.
5. Chopping Mall ($800,000 estimated)
Every time I watch Chopping Mall, I am amazed at how Jim Wynorski was able to pull off everything he managed to pull off for less than a million. I can only imagine that the creation of the Kill Bots must have cost a pretty penny, not to mention the masterfully crafted effects. Inferior films have been made for much more and accomplished much less.
6. Alice, Sweet Alice ($340,000 estimated)
Although he has since left feature filmmaking for production design, Alfred Sole certainly made his mark on the horror genre with the giallo-esque Alice, Sweet Alice. And he did it for well under half a million by casting friends and family members and cutting corners where he could. But he only did so when he was able to do so without compromising the integrity of his film.
7. Dead Hooker in a Trunk ($2,500)
Dead Hooker in a Trunk introduced us to the creative force known as The Twisted Twins. Although they went on to helm other projects with (at least slightly) larger budgets, they truly showed what one could do with raw talent and the relentless pursuit of a dream. Hooker is a little rough around the edges. But what it lacks in finesse, it makes up for in enthusiasm.
8. The Pact ($400,000 estimated)
I am a huge fan of Nicholas McCarthy’s The Pact. It is particularly impressive when stopping to consider that it was the director’s first feature film project. Not to mention, he pulled it together for less than half a million. It’s not easy to make an excellent film on a meager budget but McCarthy certainly managed to do so.
9. Night of the Living Dead ($114,000 estimated)
George A. Romero singlehandedly breathed new life into the zombie subgenre with his feature film debut. Night of the Living Dead was made as cheaply as possible but the impact it had on the horror genre is absolutely immeasurable. It is one of the most significant horror pictures of the past fifty-years. And it continues to be discovered by new fans all the time.
10. Paranormal Activity ($15,000 estimated)
Oren Peli deserves much of the praise (and or blame) for the ‘found footage’ boom. The Blair Witch Project was the first film of its kind to gain a great deal of mainstream exposure but Paranormal Activity is what really sparked an interest in the ‘found footage’ storytelling method. It proved that anyone with talent, a few thousand dollars, and a camera could make a film. And it is now commonly recognized as the most profitable film of all time (based on return on investment).
11. Open Water ($120,000 estimated)
Open Water is a major success story for Chris Kentis. The director was able to make the film on a budget of just $120,000 but it killed at the box office. It’s a suspenseful and gut-wrenching feature that stayed with me for some time after I watched it. It’s also noteworthy for discouraging an entire generation from ever contemplating scuba diving.
12. Friday the 13th ($550,000 estimated)
Next to Halloween, Friday the 13th just might be the most well known slasher film of all time. And like Halloween, it was made for under a million. Sean S. Cunningham took elements of the Italian giallo and successfully applied them to a story about a bunch of fornicating teenagers. And somehow, it worked brilliantly.
13. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ($300,000 estimated)
Before Halloween, Before Friday the 13th, Tobe Hooper cobbled together $300,000 to make a movie that works on the surface as a terrifying horror picture and subtextually made a statement about the meat industry. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the most terrifying films of all time and stands as another shining example of how to do a lot with a little