BySam Plank, writer at
"You have to be what you are. Whatever you are, you gotta be it." -Johnny Cash. Tweet a tweeter at my twitty twitter, @tw1tterintw1t
Sam Plank

We've recently talked about some of the lowest-grossing movies to ever flash across the silver screen. Now, let's mix things up a bit.

How about all those movies that cost so little but made so much?

The first movie that probably comes to mind for anyone who knows their movies is first on this list, and it is —

I'll give you a hint:


Blair Witch Project

It was freaky, entertaining, cheap to make, and started the once loved, now kind of hated “found footage” concept. Back then it was awesome! Unless of course, you easily got motion sickness, then your time in the theater was short-lived.

On a budget of only $25,000, this soon-to-be classic raked in almost $250 million! Even after some tweaks, new sounds, alternate endings, etc., the budget went up to between $500,000 and $750,000. Even so — damn!

Here are some more movies that earned more than their fair share:

Paranormal Activity

A home video camera and $15,000 turned into a worldwide phenomenon and pulled in $190 million. Not bad! The sequels however, yeah — a couple of those were pretty bad.

Deep Throat

Hey, I never said porn wasn't allowed on the list. I don't hear any complaints — so I'll continue. This timeless masterpiece cost only $20,000 to make, but has pulled out — IN! I mean IN, pulled in a LOT of dough. The actual numbers aren't certain, but it ranges anywhere from $100 to $600 million.

I better go on to the next entry before I make another whore-ible joke.


Kevin Smith shelled out a measly $27,000 on his little independent comedy, and it went on to make almost $4 million worldwide. Not Avatar-level profits, but percentage-wise? Not bad at all.


I'm trying to keep the budget part of this list to under $100,000, but this one has to be talked about. The budget on John Carpenter's flick was just $325,000 — not a bad number considering he created a monster of a name in slasher films. The first Halloween made $70 million, so it's not surprising numerous sequels and remakes have been made.

Oh, and Jamie Lee Curtis made a whopping $8,000 for her part in it!

Night of the Living Dead

This one was close enough to the $100,000 mark at $114,000. Considering it ultimately helped inspire the BEST SHOW about zombies EVER, a worldwide gross of $30 million was just the beginning of greatness.

Super Size Me

This gross documentary grossed almost $23 million on a $65,000 budget.
That's a lot of fries!


On a budget of $7,000, something most of us could probably scrounge up if we absolutely had to, this film made $565,000 worldwide. Not a breathtaking number, but imagine starting with seven grand and ending up with that — I'd take it!

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

This surprise entry only somewhere between $93,000 and $300,000 to make, but made almost $31 million, and is still spawning remakes, sequels, and prequels. It doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon, either.


David Lynch let this one loose in 1977. A black and white film, it took some time to get backing, but he was able to finally get it made. And it made — a $7 million return on a $20,000 budget is pretty damn good.

The Last House on the Left

The original 1972 Wes Craven piece of awesomeness operated on a budget of $87,000, and pulled in $3.1 million. It spawned a remake that, IMHO, was freaking AWESOME as well.


This 1998 surrealist psychological thriller worked with a budget $3.14, and pulled in $3.14 million!

I lie. It actually used up $68,000, and made $3.22 million. Not bad for a movie with a nerdy subject and a number-based plot that's reminiscent of Hurley's winning lottery numbers in Lost.

El Mariachi

You would think turning $7,000 into $2 million would require a magician, but in Robert Rodriguez's case, not only did he do just that without any tricks, he also turned it into a hugely successful trilogy. The last two movies even had Antonio Banderas take over the role of El Mariachi. Co-producer Carlos Gallardo played El Mariachi in the first film.

Pink Flamingos

With an estimated budget of $10,000 and a worldwide gross of $7 million, other than those fantastic numbers, I really only wanted to include this one just so I could share that mesmerizing picture up there. Woo!

What was your favorite box office surprise?


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