15 Low-Budget Yet Brilliant Movies That Became Box Office Hits

In this age of green screens and 3D, we've grown used to cinematic splendor: incredible sets, famous actors in leading roles, and groundbreaking special effects. But, every now and then, a movie comes out that manages to impress film critics and win the hearts of millions of moviegoers without relying on opulent production values.

Today Bright Side presents to you some outstanding examples of low-budget films that belong to different genres from melodramas to science fiction. We invite you to immerse yourself in their unique atmospheres!

The Breakfast Club, 1985

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy

Five high school students get locked up in the school building as punishment for misconduct. They are completely unlike each other, but each of them is a vibrant individual with a personality that hides many quirks and secrets. One of the most influential adolescence-themed movies of our time, The Breakfast Club was filmed on a shoestring budget. This, however, did not prevent it from acquiring cult status.

  • IMDb rating - 7.9

Fruitvale Station, 2013

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer

This is the story of an ordinary man who decides to start his life with a clean slate. And, for a while, he succeeds...until his criminal past starts to tread on his heels. The film portrays real life without embellishment or excess sappiness. In this story, the main characters are prisoners of their fate, while the viewers play witness to the inevitable.

  • IMDb rating - 7.5

Welcome to the Dollhouse, 1995

Starring: Heather Matarazzo, Christina Brucato

As Dawn Wiener is preparing to leave school, she finds that she can barely tolerate those around her. This includes her classmates who make fun of her, her teachers who keep pressuring her, and even her family who don't understand her. But, one day, the vicious circle of Dawn's life gets broken by the appearance of an unexpected new friend. A favorite of many a film festival, Welcome to the Dollhouse tells about entering adulthood and what a difficult process this can be.

  • IMDb rating - 7.5

My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown, 1989

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan

An Oscar-winning movie about a determined man who doesn't let cerebral palsy ruin his life. With the aid of his left foot, which is untouched by the illness, he draws paintings and writes a book, displaying incredible courage and perseverance in overcoming life's numerous difficulties.

  • IMDb rating - 7.9

Half Nelson, 2006

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie

Dan is young, talented, and charismatic. In short, he has all the qualities that are certain to ensure his success as a school teacher. But there's another side to the coin: Dan's secret addiction to drugs, which one of his female pupils accidentally discovers. A friendship formed on the basis of a shared secret can lead anywhere... The movie was made at a minimal financial and time expense (the filming took just 23 days), but it doesn't look any worse for it.

  • IMDb rating - 7.2

Mid-August Lunch

(Pranzo di ferragosto, 2008)

Starring: Valeria De Franciscis, Marina Cacciotti

A middle-aged Italian man is drowning in debt but manages to stay cheerful and optimistic. Living with him is his elderly mother who needs his care and attention. There are also other people he needs to look after. Mid-August Lunch is a comedy steeped in the atmosphere of real-life Rome, and it doesn't need a big budget to win the love of moviegoers.

  • IMDb rating - 7.0

A Separation

(Jodaeiye Nader az Simin, 2011)

Starring: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami

Divorce is never easy, but for Nader and Simin, an Iranian couple, it becomes something that really changes their lives. Filled to the brim with powerful emotions, this drama amassed a whole bunch of cinematic awards, including an Oscar and a Golden Globe, which is almost unheard of for a movie with such a modest budget.

  • IMDb rating - 8.4

Brick, 2005

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Emilie de Ravin

Brendan Frye is a typical school outsider who learns about the disappearance of his former girlfriend and sets out to find her at any cost. Quite innocent at first, his investigation soon gathers dangerous momentum. A refreshingly original thriller that steers clear of clichés and platitudes.

  • IMDb rating - 7.4

Napoleon Dynamite, 2004

Starring: Jon Heder, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell

Quirky teenager Napoleon and his buddy Pedro get involved in school elections, trying to snatch victory from their famous and successful classmates. Bubbling with its own inimitable humor, this comedy became one of the most successful low-budget releases and brought its creators $44 million - a profit almost unheard of in this genre!

  • IMDb rating - 6.9

Bronson, 2008

Starring: Tom Hardy, Matt King, Amanda Burton

Meet Charles Bronson. He's one of the most dangerous criminals in England, a man who spent a total of almost 40 years in solitary confinement. With each passing minute, this gritty and astonishingly talented movie drags you deeper into Charles's world: a strange and dangerous reality.

  • IMDb rating - 7.1

Wendy and Lucy, 2008

Starring: Michelle Williams, Lucy

Eager to change her life, a young woman called Wendy sets out on a long journey with her dog, Lucy. Full of emotion and warmth, the movie tells a tale of loneliness, sacrifice, and genuine friendship.

  • IMDb rating - 7.1

Once, 2006

Starring: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova

This movie tells the story of a street musician and a young mother who accidentally run into each other on the streets of Dublin, only to realize that soul mates really do exist. This surprisingly musical and lyrical tale garnered popularity all around the world, despite the fact that the film was made on a virtually non-existent budget.

  • IMDb rating - 7.9

Another Earth, 2011

Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother

Scientists discover a planet that is the exact copy of our Earth. This world is populated by people who, like us, live their own lives and gaze into their own sky. For Rhoda, whose life has gone awry because of Earth-2, this parallel reality holds a stronger attraction than for anyone else. What if she manages to get there? What if she meets with herself?

  • IMDb rating - 7.0

In the Company of Men, 1997

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Stacy Edwards, Matt Malloy

Two male coworkers are sent on an out-of-town business assignment that promises to be excruciatingly boring. So they decide to add excitement by hitting on the local beauty. Little do they realize what this plan will lead to. Looking at this movie's tiny budget, you can't help but wonder how it got made at all. However, the filmmakers not only managed to rise to the task but also turned their creation into a box office success!

  • IMDb rating - 7.3

Following, 1998

Starring: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw

A chance meeting between a struggling writer and a criminal has long-reaching repercussions, and the two decide to carry out a series of robberies together. But one of them is just a pawn in another's elaborate game. The debut work of Christopher Nolan, this film predates Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar by about a decade. But Nolan's talent is already evident: it takes a great director to make a picture on one of the lowest budgets in movie history and achieve truly impressive results!

  • IMDb rating - 7.6

Preview photo credit A&M Films
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