It is not uncommon these days for the average movie in your local cinema to have a budget well into the hundreds of millions. These extravagantly produced tentpole movies have become the staple of our cinema going lives and have also become the cornerstone of the Hollywood business model.
Gone are the days of the mid-budget movie à la Die Hard (1988) or The Sixth Sense (1999), replaced by ultra expensive CGI-laden mega blockbusters. Such is the landscape of the modern film industry that Hollywood would rather make one $250,000,000 movie than five $50,000,000 movies, and financially they are right to do so. A movie like Avengers: Endgame (2019) might cost hundreds of millions but it makes billions back at the box office.
However a movie doesn’t have to cost hundreds or even tens of millions to be good. Sometimes a lack of budget breeds creativity. Since the 1990s, with the advent of digital media and affordable home video technology, there has been an explosion of micro-budget films, so called because they cost (in relative terms) practically nothing to make.
Some of the greatest directors of the modern age, such as Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky, began their careers in the micro-budget world, forging their skills in an environment of ingenuity which developed their distinct auteur styles. And here are the best...
10. Paranormal Activity (2007)
Famous for its remarkably low budget, Paranormal Activity became something of a cultural phenomenon on release. Despite costing less than your average family car, Paranormal Activity grossed hundreds of millions at the box office and has so far spawned five sequels, with a sixth reportedly in the works.
Standing on the shoulders of previous horror pioneer, ‘The Blair Witch Project’, director Oren Peli, a former software engineer, shot the film using simple home video cameras, posing them as security cameras to create a found footage aesthetic.
This low-budget but intimate way of shooting a film creates an illusion of reality, what is on screen looks like it’s actually happening, it’s not dressed up with expensive cinematography or production design. It doesn’t look like a film, it looks real, which makes it all the more horrifying. It could be argued that a film like Paranormal Activity just simply wouldn’t work if it wasn’t made as cheaply as possible.