Richard Linklater, the master of coming-of-age stories, out-did himself in the 1991 low-budget comedy-drama “Slacker.” The film, which only had a shoestring budget of $23,000, ended up grossing over $1.2 million in the U.S. Part of the budget came out Linklater’s own credit card.
The film even inspired the low-budget hit “Clerks.” Not only was this a box-office surprise, but the British film magazine “Empire” included it in its list of 50 greatest American independent films.
The low-budget classic by maverick filmmaker became the symbol of every teenage slacker during the 90s'. This simple black and white film portrayed the daily lives of store clerks Dante Hicks and Randal Graves. The initial budget was only $27,575 and only went up to a measly $31,665.
By the opening weekend, it had already made more than that. In the U.S. alone, it made a total of $3 million, a surprise fortune for an indie filmmaker and comic book nerd. From that moment on, Smith became more than just a hipster filmmaker. He's now a pretty successful director. A big leap from the convenience store clerk he once was.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Making a good horror film is like striking gold. These things can be piggy banks, running up millions at the box office. People do love their thrills. This was certainly the case for "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," as it brought in $30.9 million in the U.S. alone. The film became an instant classic and the template for the gory slasher film. The film also spawned a series of sequels, making it an obvious choice for horror nights around the world.
The film, according to Entertainment Weekly, has been listed as the second scariest film of all time, following "The Ex." Thanks, Leatherface. This character will forever be burned in our minds.
A film about a paranoid mathematician who has isolated himself from the world, "Pi" (not to be confused with the blockbuster hit, "The Life of Pi"), enchanted its viewers. This certainly was a big surprise, considering it cost the film a measly $60,000. The 1998 film that followed the mathematician's search for natural patterns in the universe bought in $3.2 million in the U.S. alone.
The film ended up winning a number of awards, including the Gotham Awards, the Open Palm Award, as well the Dramatic Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Made with the bare minimum and with a cast of five young actors, newbie director Shane Carruth practically made his film student's budget. In fact, in order to save money on the production, Carruth took on multiple roles and was the writer, director, producer, cinematographer, editor, and music composer. That's one talented guy. The actors were actually his friends and family, so he must have saved a fortune on the cast.
In the end, it really paid off, and the movie landed in a series of prestigious film festivals, most notably the Sundance Film Festival, for which it won the Grand Jury Prize in the year 2004. The film ultimately grossed $840,000 at the box office. Not too shabby.