When we talk about making films, we often think about the time, effort, and money it takes to put one together. But a film’s success isn’t necessarily tied to the amount of money spent on it. Remember how awful Waterworld was? I’m sure Kevin Costner would like us all to forget. Some of the greatest films of all time were made on relatively low budgets. Here’s a list of some favorites:
1. Reservoir Dogs (1992) Budget $1.2 – 3 million
Quentin Tarantino’s feature film debut about a heist gone awry is one of his most highly regarded movies. Boasting an all-star cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen, as well as many of Tarantino’s hallmark motifs such as violence, pop culture references, profanity, and non-linear storytelling. Reservoir Dogs is widely considered one of the greatest independent films of all time. Though the film enjoyed modest success upon its initial release, it grew in popularity following Tarantino’s sophomore film Pulp Fiction. With its witty dialogue and that one brutal scene with the ear, Reservoir Dogs still stands as one of the greatest debuts of all time.
2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) Budget: $400,000
By the time Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released in 1975, the Monty Python Comedy troupe had already exploded into a cultural phenomenon. Directed by members Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam in what was their directorial debut, the film satirizes the Arthurian Legend. Though reviews for the film were mixed upon its initial release, it proved to be a hit among audiences who found it hilarious and it is now considered one of the greatest comedy films of all time.
3. Eraserhead (1977)- Budget $10,000
The Lady in the Radiator, a deformed goat-baby-thing, the incessant droning of maddening industrial sounds––what is this film all about? I’m not entirely sure. David Lynch’s directorial debut is every bit as weird as you would except from a filmmaker whose entire repertoire feels like a brilliantly conceived fever dream. Though the surrealist film received mixed reviews upon its release, it has only grown in popularity over the years and is now widely considered to be one of Lynch’s finest works to date.
4. City of God (2002)- Budget $3.3 million
Based loosely on true events from the novel of the same name by Paulo Lins, City of God tells the story of an aspiring photographer growing up in the violent Cidade De Zeus neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Featuring stunning cinematography and outstanding performances, City of God depicts organized crime and the casual brutality of life in the favelas in a way that remains as shocking and thrilling for audiences as it was upon its initial release.
5. Moonlight (2016) – Budget $4 million
Following an 8-year hiatus from filmmaking, Barry Jenkins’ second feature-length film was met with critical acclaim and garnered numerous accolades including the 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture. Featuring an entirely Black cast, Moonlight is a coming-of-age LGBTQ drama that follows the life of its main character as he struggles to deal with issues of toxic masculinity while also coming to terms with his sexuality. Widely considered one of the greatest films of the 21st century, Jenkin’s masterpiece is the second-lowest-grossing film domestically to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s also pretty cool that it was directed here in Miami.
Austin Torres is a graduate student at FIU currently studying English Literature. His hobbies include swimming, painting, writing, and long walks on the beach.