IMDb Polls

Poll: Low Budget Movies That Paid Off Big

Low budgets films allow investors to reap potentially huge returns on their investment. While budget caps vary throughout the world and time, one authoritative definition sets the top end of the limit for movies with a current budget under $2,500,000. On both sides of the camera, many of today's biggest stars first honed their skills on low budget films. These films launched or served as a breakthrough for many in many of their careers.

Which one of these wildly successful low budget ($250,000 < $1,500,000) movies* is your favorite? * Movies with a minimum 6.0 IMDb user rating, excludes micro-budget (<$250,000) films and uses just one type of movie income stream (box office) for comparison.

Vote in the companion poll: Micro Budget Movies That Paid Off Big

Discuss the topic here.

Make Your Choice

  1. Vote!
     

    Mad Max (1979)

    Director: George Miller

    Budget: $300,000

    Box Office: $99,750,000

    Profit %: 33,150%

    * launched George Miller and Mel Gibson careers and Mad Max franchise

  2. Vote!
     

    Rocky (1976)

    Screenwriter: Sylvester Stallone

    Budget: $995,000

    Box Office: $225,000,000

    Profit %: 22,513%

    * launched Sylvester Stallone career and Rocky franchise

  3. Vote!
     

    The Breakfast Club (1985)

    Director: John Hughes

    Budget: $1,000,000

    Bx Office: $51,525,171

    Profit %: 5,023%

    * career elevating role for Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson

  4. Vote!
     

    Easy Rider (1969)

    Director/Co-Writers: Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda

    Budget: $360,000

    Box Office: $60,000,000

    Profit %: 16,567%

    * breakthrough role for Jack Nicholson

  5. Vote!
     

    American Graffiti (1973)

    Director: George Lucas

    Budget: $777,000

    Box Office: $115,000,000

    Profit %: 14,701%

    * career elevating role for Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Suzanne Somers, Charles Martin Smith and Cindy Williams

  6. Vote!
     

    Sholay (1975)

    Director: Ramesh Sippy

    Budget: $400,000

    Box Office: $67,000,000

    Profit %: 16,650%

  7. Vote!
     

    Halloween (1978)

    Director: John Carpenter

    Budget: $325,000

    Box Office: $47,000,000+

    Profit %: 14,362%

    * breakthrough role for Jamie Lee Curtis and launched Halloween franchise

  8. Vote!
     

    Friday the 13th (1980)

    Director: Sean S. Cunningham

    Budget: $500,000

    Box Office: $59,000,000

    Profit %: 11,700%

    * launched Friday 13th movie franchise

  9. Vote!
     

    Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

    Director: Jared Hess

    Budget: $400,000

    Box Office: $46,118,097

    Profit %: 11,430%

    * launched Jared Hess and Jon Heder careers

  10. Vote!
     

    Enter the Dragon (1973)

    Screenwriter: Bruce Lee

    Budget: $850,000

    Box Office: $90,000,000

    Profit %: 10,488%

    * breakthrough role for Bruce Lee

  11. Vote!
     

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Budget: $300,000

    Box Office: $30,859,000

    Profit %: 10,186%

    * launched Tobe Hooper career and TCSM franchise

  12. Vote!
     

    Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

    Writer-Director: Guy Ritchie

    Budget: $1,350,000

    Box Office: $28,172,868

    Profit %: 1,987%

    * launched Guy Ritchie career

  13. Vote!
     

    Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)

    Writer-Director: Steven Soderbergh

    Budget: $1,200,000

    Box Office: $24,741,667* US Box Office only

    Profit %: 1,962

    * Steven Soderbergh directorial debut, US career box office $1.0b

  14. Vote!
     

    Fruitvale Station (2013)

    Writer-Director: Ryan Coogler

    Budget: $900,000

    Box Office: $17,385,830

    Profit %: 1,832%

    * breakthrough for Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan careers

  15. Vote!
     

    Saw (2004)

    Writer-Director: James Wan and Leigh Whannell

    Budget: $1,200,000

    Box Office: $103,911,669

    Profit %: 8,559%

    * launched James Wan career and Saw film franchise

  16. Vote!
     

    Hoop Dreams (1994)

    Writer-Director: Steve James and Frederick Marx

    Budget: $700,000

    Box Office: $11,830,611

    Profit %: 1,590%

  17. Vote!
     

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

    Directors: Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

    Budget: $400,000

    Box Office: $5,028,948

    Profit %: 1157%

    * launched multiple film careers: John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman and Monty Python film franchise

  18. Vote!
     

    Monsters (2010)

    Writer-Director: Gareth Edwards

    Budget: $500,000

    Box Office: $4,242,978

    Profit %: 749%

    * launched Gareth Edwards career (ie. Rogue One (2016))

  19. Vote!
     

    Brick (2005)

    Writer-Director: Rian Johnson

    Budget: $475,000

    Box Office: $3,919,254

    Profit %: 725%

    * launched Rian Johnson career (ie. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017))

  20. Vote!
     

    The Evil Dead (1981)

    Director: Sam Raimi

    Budget: $350,000

    Box Office: $2,400,000 * US Box Office only

    Profit %: 586%

    * launched Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell careers and Evil Dead franchise

  21. Vote!
     

    Reservoir Dogs (1992)

    Writer-Director: Quentin Tarantino

    Budget: $1,2000,000

    Box Office: $2,832,029* US box office only

    Profit %: 136%

    * Quentin Tarantino directorial debut, career US box office $0.65b

  22. Vote!
     

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

    Writer-Director: Jim Sharman and Richard O'Brien

    Budget: $1,400,000

    Box Office: $140,252,463+ (showing ever weekend @ midnight)

    Profit %: 9732%

  23. Vote!
     

    Ringu (1998)

    Director: Hideo Nakata

    Budget: $1,200,000 (¥121,737,258)

    Box Office: 10,000,000+ (¥1 billion+) Japan box office

    Profit %: 733%

    * launched Ring film franchise

  24. Vote!
     

    Billy Jack (1971)

    Writer-Director-Producer: Tom Laughlin

    Budget: $800,000

    Box Office: $32,500,000

    Profit %: 3963%

    * part a series wildly successful low budget Billy Jack films

  25. Vote!
     

    Fireproof (2008)

    Writer-Director: Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick

    Budget: $500,000

    Box Office: $33,473,297

    Profit %: 6595%

  26. Vote!
     

    Walking Tall (1973)

    Director: Phil Karlson

    Budget: $500,000

    Box Office: $23,000,000

    Profit %: 4500%

    * launched Walking Tall film franchise