Big budget movies? Pfft. Save your money Hollywood

Big budgets, big yawns. Here are the most profitable movies with tiny budgets. Some may surprise.

It’s been said that when it comes to a good movie, you just can’t beat a smart script and great acting. No need for CGI insect robots destroying helicopters with 10,000 extras dressed as aliens. Unnecessary, not interesting and it’s just silly.

Sure, sometimes movies with huge budgets make it worthwhile and earn massive profits. Marvel movies come to mind, as does Lord of the Rings. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Far more interesting are the movies made on ridiculously small budgets that went on to earn serious dollars. Enough for the director’s grandkids’ grandkids to never have to work again.

Why? Mainly due to original stories that hooked movie-goers. Word of mouth sent people flocking to the cinemas, in the day when people flocked to the cinemas.

These are inspiring examples of self belief, vision and creativity resulting in much-deserved success.

And then we have what can only be described as cinematic turds. The movies that spent disgusting amounts of money to produce unwatchable swill. Movies that lost disgusting amounts of money for any number of reasons.

Inflated egos behind and in front of the camera, poorly-conceived scripts and storylines, shooting in Monte Carlo when it could’ve been done in Alabama…the list goes on.

We’re looking at you, Monster Trucks, King Arthur and The Lone Ranger.

The Lone Ranger – yes, the one with Johnny Depp as Tonto with a dead crow on his head. Cost $250 million to make and lost $160 million. “Tonto”, which means “idiot” in Spanish. Enough said.

Never mind, here are some of the small budget wonders.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Budget: $4.4 million Box Office: $163 million

While this is one of Jack’s most memorable roles (yet not Danny De Vito’s), we tend to think of it as simply a well-made drama helped by Nicholson being Nicholson. Which explains it, really.

In the 70s people were happy to fork out for money for strong acting and compelling storylines. Fighting robots? Please.

Star Wars

Budget: $11 million. Pathetic.     Box Office: $775 million. I take it back.

People shake their heads in disbelief at the budget -$11million for Star Wars!?

Director George Lucas used new camera technology and innovative filming styles to give the movie a completely original look.

The visual effects in Star Wars were groundbreaking and blew audiences away. Spacecrafts landing on planets, inter-galactic battles, none of it had been seen before.

And a heavy – breathing loony called Darth Vader didn’t hurt either.

Blair Witch Project

Budget: $300,000     Box Office: $248 million

The producers of Blair Witch cashed in on a novelty idea which certainly piqued fan interest, admittedly to mixed reviews.

The idea was simple: present the movie as if it were recovered footage by people who had gone missing in a spooky forest. Genius! No expensive cinematography required.

It was filmed with shaky camera work and improvised acting to create a “natural” feel. The producers cast three student filmmakers and the job was done.

Almost nothing was spent on filming, the cast were most likely paid in beer and the main costs were in post-production and promotion. A particularly savvy bit of PR included none of the cast turning up for the film’s Sundance premiere. This was because they had “gone missing”. Oooo.

Cheap thrills, sure. Big bucks, yes.

E.T.

Budget: $ 10.5 million     Box Office: $792 million

Ah, the power of a creepy-looking alien touching fingers with a kid. That and some guy called Speilberg, who knows a thing or two about telling a yarn.

That E.T. was a massive hit is no secret however the modest budget might surprise some. Not surprisingly most of it went on creating the puppet and mechanics for the word-shy alien.

Fun fact: E.T. was voiced by a chain-smoking 60 year old woman. No, seriously. Pat Welsh went into the studio for 9 hours, nailed the voice and was then paid $380 for her efforts. In 1982 that was a very decent day’s pay so we can only assume she left the studio chuckling “suckers”.

Get Out

Budget: $4.5 million     Box Office: $255 million

The 2017 darkly comic horror gem deservedly cleaned up at the box office. Writer/Director Jordan Peele delivered a razor-sharp script to go with his unique take on horror villains – white middle class liberals.

Get Out was made on a paltry budget as it was largely filmed on a large estate in Alabama and required almost no special effects. Critics gushed over its release which sent people scurrying to see it and then hollering “Holy shit!” upon seeing it.

Great story, great acting, great scares. Just great.

The Full Monty

Budget: $3.5 million     Box Office: $250 million

What sane person wouldn’t pay to watch middle-aged paunchy men strip off to the tunes of Donna Summer?

The Full Monty was another example of a simple idea that paid big dividends. Working class guys down on their luck and turning to stripping as the last roll of the dice. In front of drunken, screaming women.

Movie fans around the world thought, “Yes, that sounds good” and forked out for their tickets.

Production costs were low – no Hawaii or even London locations. Good old industrial Sheffield. The rest was just witty banter thrown in with excellent performances.

Slumdog Millionaire

Budget: $15 million    Box Office: $378 million

Filmed in India by British director Danny Boyle, Slumdog was a classic “sleeper” hit. Based on the good old rags to riches storyline with a kid from the slums ending up on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Slumdog also exposed audiences to the spirit of Bollywood.

Boyle wanted as much authenticity as possible and local actors were hired with a third of the script being translated to Hindi. He also threw in a classic Bollywood dance number over the closing credits. Entertaining? Oh yes.

Warner Bros wasn’t optimistic about its chances in America and kept it to limited screenings. Not enough CGI aliens fighting with tanks for the pea-brained studio executives.

Thankfully some people with half a brain and an eye for quality were fortunate enough to watch Slumdog and urged their pals to do the same.

It gained momentum and critics hailed it. The big moment for Slumdog when it cleaned up at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

For those unable to think for themselves this was validation that it was a movie they should see and see it they did. In their millions.

If you must spend $100 million to make a movie then good luck to you. Just hope you get your money back.

And if you think that’s absurd, never fear. A catchy storyline with people who can act will win every time. Exploding robots are so 2018.

3 Comments

  1. Great blog. Nice touch of your wit, mixed with a few damning phrases (“cinematic turds”) & succinct summaries of some gooduns. Haven’t ever seen “Get Out”, a good one to seek out maybe.

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