Blockbuster Movies That Cost Next to Nothing to Make

From horror hits ('Saw', 'Halloween') to award season darlings ('Juno', 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'), these movies made a big impact on a small budget.

When you think of blockbuster movies, you think of huge budgets, astronomical paydays for its stars, and a mammoth press tour. But every once and awhile, a smaller movie proves that all wrong.

As we gear up for the spring and summer movie extravaganzas, we wanted to take a look back at the films that were made on a shoestring budget (at least by Hollywood standards) and wound up making some serious bank. You don't always need A-listers and commercial tie-ins for a movie to be a box office hit, and these 10 classics (which are listed in no particular order) prove just that.

Note: all box office estimates are courtesy of

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Estimated Budget: $15,000

Box Office Tally: $108 million

Thanks to strong word of mouth and a viral campaign, this spooky found footage horror flick (sound familiar?) about a couple being haunted by spirits in the wee hours of the morning went on to become one of the most profitable films of all-time. It has since spawned four sequels, which have collectively earned roughly $383 million domestically to date.

Halloween (1978)

Estimated Budget: $300,000

Box Office Tally: $47 million

John Carpenter's iconic slasher flick not only was a hit for the horror genre, but the indie film genre as well. This low-budget classic made for countless sequels and remakes, but nothing beats the original when it comes to being the best or the most profitable.

Napolen Dynamite (2004)

Estimated Budget: $400,000

Box Office Tally: $44.5 million

Gosh! This goofy indie comedy earned $46 million worldwide, and while they may not seem like a huge amount, it does when you look at its micro-budget (leading man Jon Heder was originally only paid $1,000 for his work). Those estimates don't include how much it raked in with its wildly popular merchandising ("Vote for Pedro" shirts, anyone?).

Mad Max (1979)

Estimated Budget: $400,000

Box Office Tally: $100 million

It's safe to say the budget on the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road was slightly more than the original dystopian action flick that started it all, but Mad Max is hard to top in terms of sheer profit. A massive hit in its native Australia, it would go on to earn $100 million worldwide.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Estimated Budget: $500,000-$750,000

Box Office Tally: $140 million

The movie that launched the found footage horror genre and a thousand imitators was also the little Sundance movie that could. Birthed by a clever marketing campaign which suggested the film was actual found footage of three missing campers, it was a minimal movie with a huge impact. While its follow-up film was a flop, the original Blair Witch Project was a pre-Internet phenomenon that hooked the masses and made nearly $250 million worldwide.

American Graffiti (1973)

Estimated Budget: Over $700,000

Box Office Tally: $115 million

This iconic coming-of-age dramedy proved that George Lucas could make any kind of blockbuster and spawned one of the all-time great soundtracks to boot. Between rentals and worldwide box office intake, American Graffiti would go on to earn well over $200 million, making one of the most successful hits in movie history.

Rocky (1976)

Estimated Budget: $1 million

Box Office Tally: $117 million

This classic sports drama was not only a critical hit (it would go on to win Best Picture and Best Director and turned Sylvester Stallone into a full-fledged star), but it was a box office knockout to boot. In fact, it was the highest-grossing film of 1976. While Rocky IV made slightly more in 1985 with $127.8 million at the U.S. box office, the original Rocky still ultimately turned a much bigger profit.

Saw (2004)

Estimated Budget: $1.2 million

Box Office Tally: $56 million

The indie horror flick was a hit on the film festival circuit and made a killing (sorry) at the box office when it was released to moviegoers. It went on to earn over $100 million worldwide and spawned six stomach-churning follow-ups, which pulled in roughly $415 million in the U.S. alone.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Estimated Budget: $5-6 million

Box Office Tally: $241 million

Opa! This feel-good rom-com not only became the highest-grossing film of all time in that genre (despite never reaching No. 1 at the box office), but earned star Nia Vardalos an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Never understand the power of John Corbett's luxurious early '00s hair, people.

Juno (2007)

Estimated Budget: $6.5-$7.5 million

Box Office Tally: $143.5 million

This quirky Oscar-winning teen pregnancy dramedy struck a nerve with critics and moviegoers alike, bringing in over $230 million worldwide and for better or worse, brought "home skillet" into our lexicon.