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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A low-budget film is a motion picture shot on limited budget. Young or unknown directors often make low-budget films due to a lack of funding from studios, who are not willing to invest in a film which appears unlikely to become successful.

It is not determined what qualifies a film as a low budget production. The term "low budget" is relative to a certain country and varies upon genre. For example, a comedy film made for $20 million would be considered a modest budget, whereas an action film made for the same amount of money would be considered low budget.


Notable low budget films

The most successful low-budget film was 1999's The Blair Witch Project. It had a budget of $22,000 but grossed over $248 million worldwide. It had the highest ratio of box office sales to production cost in American film making history. It spawned books, a trilogy of video games, and a less-popular sequel. Possibly an even more successful low-budget film was the 1972 film Deep Throat which cost only $22,500 to produce, yet was rumored to have grossed over $600 million, though this figure is often disputed as unrealistic.

Another early example of a very successful low-budget film was the 1975 Bollywood "Curry Western" film Sholay, which cost Rs. 2 crore ($400,000) to produce and grossed Rs. 30 crore ($6 million) making it the highest-grossing film of all time in Indian cinema.[1] Other examples of successful low-budget Asian films include the Chinese films Enter the Dragon (1973) starring Bruce Lee, which had a budget of $850,000 and grossed $90 million worldwide,[2] and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), which had a budget of $15 million and grossed $214 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time.

Napoleon Dynamite cost less than $400,000 to make but its gross revenue was almost $50 million. Films such as Juno, with a budget of $6.5 million and grossing $230 million worldwide, and Slumdog Millionaire, with a budget of $15 million and grossing over $360 million worldwide, have become very successful films. Napoleon Dynamite, Juno, and Slumdog Millionaire were supported by Fox Searchlight Pictures, a company that distributes many low budget films, which then perform very well at the worldwide box office.

Another successful low-budget film is Clerks by director Kevin Smith. Clerks was made on less than $27,000, but its success helped launch Smith's career.

Fireproof, a Christian film by Sherwood Pictures, was made for $500,000, but opened in 4th place its opening weekend and went on to gross $33,456,317 at the box office.

Micro budget

A micro budget film is that which is made on an extremely low budget, sometimes as little as a few thousand dollars. An example of such would be the popular 1992 El Mariachi, in which the director Robert Rodriguez was unable to afford second takes due to the $7000 budget. Despite this, it was a success both critically and commercially, and started the young director's career.

Some of the most critically-acclaimed micro-budget films were by the Bengali film director Satyajit Ray, his most famous being The Apu Trilogy (1955-1959). The first film in the trilogy, Pather Panchali (1955), was produced on a shoestring budget [3] of Rs. 1.5 lakh ($3000)[4] using an amateur cast and crew.[5] The three films are now frequently listed among the greatest films of all time.[6][7][8][9] All his other films that followed also had micro-budgets or low-budgets, with his most expensive films being The Adventures Of Goopy And Bagha (1968) at Rs. 6 lakh ($12,000)[10] and The Chess Players (1977) at Rs. 20 lakh ($40,000).[11]

Another example would be the 1977 cult film Eraserhead, which cost only $10,000 to produce (though this is in 1977 dollars). Director David Lynch had so much trouble securing funds that the film had to be made over a six year period, whenever Lynch could afford to shoot scenes.

Primer (2004) is an American science fiction film about the accidental invention of time travel. The film was written, directed and produced by Shane Carruth, a former mathematician and engineer, and was completed on a budget of only $7,000.

In the UK, the 2006 film The Zombie Diaries was written, produced and directed by filmmakers Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett. The film cost £8,100 to be made, and has to date grossed over one million dollars worldwide.

Breathing Room was made for less than $20,000 by filmmakers Gabriel Cowan and John Suits, and has grossed over $1,000,000 world wide.

In Russia , the 1997 crime film Brother , was made on around $10,000, but is considered by many one of Russia's best movies of all time , and was extremely successful when it was first released.

Paranormal Activity is a 2007 fictional, horror film written and directed by Oren Peli, was made for $15,000. Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman gave Paranormal Activity an A- rating (A being the highest mark) and called it "frightening...freaky and terrifying" and noted that "Paranormal Activity scrapes away 30 years of encrusted nightmare clichés." [12]


  1. ^ "Sholay". International Business Overview Standard. Retrieved 2007-12-06.  
  2. ^ "IMDB: Box office business". Retrieved 2007-08-26.  
  3. ^ Robinson, A (2003), Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker, I. B. Tauris, 77, ISBN 1860649653
  4. ^ Pradip Biswas (September 16, 2005). "50 years of Pather Panchali". Screen Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-23.  
  5. ^ Robinson, A (2003), Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye: The Biography of a Master Film-Maker, I. B. Tauris, 78-9, ISBN 1860649653
  6. ^ "The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1992". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 2008-05-20.  
  7. ^ "Take One: The First Annual Village Voice Film Critics' Poll". The Village Voice. 1999. Archived from the original on 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2006-07-27.  
  8. ^ The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made By THE FILM CRITICS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York Times,2002.
  9. ^ "All-time 100 Movies". Time. Time Inc. 2005. Retrieved 2008-05-19.  
  10. ^ Mohammed Wajihuddin (September 7, 2004). "THE UNIVERSITY CALLED SATYAJIT RAY". Express India. Retrieved 2009-05-01.  
  11. ^ "Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players)". Satyajit Ray official site. Retrieved 2009-04-24.  
  12. ^,,20309083,00.html

In the UK, the 2009 fantasy film The Hunt For Gollum; a 40 minute independent film inspired by The Lord of the Rings with the budget only £3000

See also



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