A mammoth budget does not necessarily guarantee box office domination nor does it mean it will earn critical acclaim. Filming limitations can lead to ingenuity, creative freedom and, more often than not, it becomes a labour of love rather than a business endeavour.
Have a look below for our pick of the best low-budget movies of the last few decades.
Dr No (1962)
Estimates for the budget of the upcoming James Bond movie (the 24th in the franchise) vary between $100 million and $200 million, but it’s worth remembering that the first in the series, Dr No (1962) was produced for just $1 million. Given the glamorous locations, that was quite a feat. Critics veered between condemnation (mostly of the sex and violence) and praise (of the wit and action), but as the years have passed many people now rate it as one of the best.
Plenty was added that was not in Ian Fleming’s book, including Bond’s first foray into a casino. His fight with a huge squid was – incomprehensibly – left out. The scene where we first-meet Bond in the casino is now an iconic one, and his gambling remains as a signifier of glamour, much to the delight of modern online casinos like River Belle – though the cigarette is, of course, long gone.
Pather Panchali (1955)
Seven years earlier, Satyajit Ray created what is now widely acknowledged as a classic film, on a budget of $2,500. Pather Panchali was the first in a trilogy concentrating on village life in West Bengal, and despite a thrown-together crew and the use of amateur actors, it’s won a long list of awards since its 1955 release. Sight & Sound magazine regularly includes it in its list of the greatest movies ever made. Ray had a storyboard for the film – but no script!
Withnail & 1 (1987)
That’s not to suggest that the lack of a script is necessarily an advantage. Sometimes a script is so perfectly polished that a movie can get away without having much of a plot. Withnail & I is recognised as one of the finest British comedy films ever, and it’s largely down to spot-on casting and a perfect script. The budget, however, was just £1.1 million. Writer/director Bruce Robinson decided to spend a good chunk of his pay on shooting some extra scenes he felt were necessary: what a fine display of devotion!
Paranormal Activity (2007)
In terms of genre, horror is probably the ideal bride for marriage with a restricted budget.
Produced for just $15,000, Paranormal Activity took nearly $195 million at the box office. A clever marketing strategy that included a trailer featuring screaming audiences seemed to be key to its success. There have been four sequels so far, with a fifth on the way. Evidently, horror pays.
(Images courtesy of chud.com, theoneliner.com)