Even the mention of Rian Johnson’s name can create an internet frenzy in a post-Last Jedi world. Regardless, it’s worth bringing up the fact that his spectacular first feature was made for less than $500,000 (his $317,000,000 budget for his Star Wars film represents a 63,300% increase in funds).
Anyone who belongs to a fandom knows who Kevin Smith is. He’s a prominent voice in comic book and film culture, thanks in part to his debut feature being a prime example of small-budget filmmaking: Smith shot the film for less than $28,000, scoring the money by selling his comic books, using insurance money after his car was lost in a flood, and maxing out plenty of credit cards.
David Lynch proved himself to be one of the most unique voices in filmmaking back with his very first film Eraserhead. From the one-of-a-kind sets to the inimitable practical effects, the film is truly stunning—for under $10,000, Lynch managed to craft a true moving work of art.
John Carpenter’s Halloween changed the slasher genre as we know it back in the late 70s. The tone and the lived-in feel of the film has never and will never be recreated, which is all the more impressive considering the film’s micro-budget of under $325,000.
George Miller’s Mad Max is an incredible example of a truly great dystopian action film. Working in an emergency room during the day, Miller managed to save $350,000 to make the movie all by himself.
George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead revolutionized the zombie genre back in the late 60s. It provided the framework for nearly every subsequent zombie film, and it did it for less than $115,000.
Shane Carruth wrote, directed, and starred in the mind-bending Primer back in 2004, managing to craft a truly cerebral thriller for just $7,000. (His other notable film, Upstream Color, managed to do the same for $50,000.)
Eighteen years before Halloween was revolutionizing the slasher genre, Alfred Hitchcock was basically creating it with Psycho. For just over $800,000, Hitchcock managed to craft a genre.
Sylvester Stallone is a household name now, but this wasn’t exactly the case back in the mid-70s. All it took was a million dollars and a knockout script for Rocky to make him a star.
Sticking primarily to the inside of a garage and a remote cabin in the woods, Sam Raimi created one of the most recognizable cult classics with just $350,000. Bruce Campbell has become a B-movie star because of the film, and Raimi continues to crank out incredibly impressive work into the 2010s.