Often times movies don’t need to have a large multi-million dollar budget in order to be great – and often times those multi-million dollar movies aren’t even that good. Low budget movies, because of their tight budgets, have to focus more on the story rather than flashy effects or notable actors.
For the most part, low budget movies are a dime in a dozen in terms of how popular they are to make – whether it’s because these filmmakers are hoping to make the next Blair Witch Project or because they just prefer making smaller budgeted movies. Here are 15 great low budget movies made in the past 15 years – and by low budget I mean movies that have a budget of about 2 million dollars or less.
1. Kill List (2011)
Plot: Kill List follows two hit-men who take on a relatively simple assignment to kill three people. While at first this might seem like a fairly straightforward job, the deeper these two men go, the darker and more terrifying things get.
Budget: £500,000- or about $800,000.
Does It Show: Not at all. The small budget actually makes Kill List feel disturbingly real – and it is probably why this movie works so well.
Final Result: Kill List is a fantastic thriller that is incredibly tense and dark. The underline tension that makes up the second half builds and builds until it boils over in the finale, and makes for an incredible climax. Actors Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley are both fantastic – especially Michael Smiley, who has starred in other Ben Wheatley films.
Overall, Kill List is a must watch low budget movie that has firmly established Ben Wheatley as one of the best British horror directors. However, keep in mind that this is a slow burn and might turn people off due to the overall slow pacing, but just stay with it and it’ll make for a tremendous surprise by the end.
2. Escape From Tomorrow (2013)
Plot: A married father of two, Jim is vacationing with his family at Disney Land. While sightseeing at the park, Jim becomes obsessed with two teenage girls, and begins to slowly lose his mind.
Does It Show: A bit, there are some pretty bad green screens effects – which are ok, but whenever this movie uses these green screens, they end up looking pretty obvious.
Final Result: A weirdly surreal experience. The idea of using guerrilla filmmaking to make a film inside the Disney park makes for a great premise, and almost makes watching this movie worthwhile based on the premise alone; however this film doesn’t entirely live up to its potential. A lot of parts are really good because of the surreal elements, but towards the end it does go off the rails a bit. That doesn’t necessarily means that Escape from Tomorrow is bad, it’s just a bit clunky as a whole.
The premise alone is worth checking this movie out – especially all of the legal matters regarding this film – but just know that it’s a low budget indie film, so there are more than likely some problems with it.
3. Another Earth (2011)
Plot: Rhoda is a woman plagued with guilt after being involved in a hit and run accident. After being released from prison, Rhoda has a chance to live again, as she has the opportunity to go to an exact copy of the earth, called Earth 2. However, one night Rhoda decides to go and visit the only living survivor of the hit and run accident and hopes to have him forgive her.
Does it Show: No. Another Earth is a very simplistic and rather quiet science fiction film, and the low budget only adds to the simplicity.
Final Result: This movie is beautiful. The quiet parts are the strongest aspects about this film. Another Earth stars Brit Marling – who also wrote this film with the director Mike Cahill – as Rhoda, and she is a fantastic because how she is plagued with guilt for what she has done; and you can tell that by her performance. Another Earth is a deeply touching film that is totally recommended for fans of smart adult science fiction.
4. Dakota Skye (2008)
Plot: Teenage girl Dakota Skye might appear to be a normal high school girl, but there’s something very different about her; which is that Dakota has the ability to tell when people are lying to her. Dakota feels that the world is full of liars – especially her boyfriend – that is until she meets Jonah – a boy who seems to offer Dakota some form of truth.
Does It Show: Yes, the acting is pretty amateurish and not the best, although often times these actors are actively trying, which is commendable.
Final Result: The final result is a good movie that is unfortunately pulled down by bad acting. Dakota Skye has a good script by Chad Shonk, as the character of Dakota is a well developed character, because of her cynical attitude; as a result of her abilities to read lies. But the amateurish acting really takes you out of the experience, and while it might not be terrible, it’s noticeably not that good. If you can get past the acting, then this movie will make for a unique coming of age film.
5. Rubber (2010)
Plot: A killer tire with psychic abilities named Robert rolls around the dessert and falls in love with a woman he meets at a motel. Meanwhile, there are spectators watching Robert; as well as watching the film progress.
Does it Show: Yes and no. The acting is bad, and the script is all over the place, but those are more than likely intentional; which wouldn’t be that bad if you’ve ever seen this movie.
Final Result: An insanely meta-experience! Rubber is less of a movie and more of a hilarious experience; especially when watching with a group of friends. The script by Quentin Dupieux makes this movie feels like an homage to the trashy B-movies of the 1970s and 1980s rather than an intentional B-movie; or as this move refers it as, an homage to “no reason.” Rubber is one of the strangest movies to come out of the 2010’s, and is one of those movies you need to see in order to believe how bizarre it is.
6. Upstream Color (2013)
Plot: A man and woman meet and form a bond because of how their lives are full of anguish and pain.
Does it Show: No, this is a much bigger budget when compared to Shane Carruth’s previous film Primer.
Final Result: A simple, but incredibly mesmerizing and beautiful film. There is something about Shane Carruth’s attention to detail that just makes this movie so good.
Unlike Carruth’s previous film Primer, which honestly felt like it was way to overcomplicated to be anything but a headache, Upstream Color manages to be a lot more straightforward with its story; even though there are a couple of non secular parts to it. Shane Carruth is a fantastic writer/director and this film is testament to his abilities as a filmmaker.
7. Compliance (2012)
Plot: A fast food manager one day gets a phone call from a police officer who accuses a fast food worker of stealing money. The cop then forces, Becky, the accused woman, through a series of humiliating, and disturbingly sexual orders. As the day goes on the worse things get for Becky and everyone around her.
Does It Show: Only a bit. Some of the supporting cast members are pretty awkward, but the main cast does a great job, especially Ann Dowd who plays the regional manager, and Dreama Walker, who plays Becky.
Final Result: A very tense and hard to watch film. One of the things that makes this movie work so well is its one location setting, and how this one location acts almost as a torture chamber for this young woman. However, the sheer depravity and the fact that these people are at the mercy of this supposed cop is the best part about this movie, because honestly who would say no to a cop?
Throughout the entire movie the audience just feels so much empathy for Becky as she is put thorough so much humiliation, and Dreama Walker is a brave actress for taking a role like this. Compliance is a fantastically tense thriller that certainly rises above its small budget.