Great Movie Scenes You Didn’t Realize Were Only Made For Budget Reasons

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Vote up the scenes that turned a tight budget into classic cinema.

Look, it's not like every film in Hollywood has the benefit of getting Avengers: Endgame or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides production money. While movies on that scale still have to be meticulously planned out, they obviously have more wiggle-room than the kinds of flicks that get picked up at Sundance every year. That doesn't mean filmmaking decisions made for budgetary reasons can't turn out for the best, though. After all, some mega-budget films end up being absolute messes while more moderately budgeted movies end up running all the way to the bank.

Classics from the '80s like Back to the Future and Ghostbusters fell victim to budget concerns in pre-production and look how they turned out. Micro-budget staples like Swingers and Once had to make do with what they had. And have you even seen the opening scene of Halloween? The proof is in the pudding - sometimes a minuscule budget can lead to dynamite cinema.


  • Over the decades, the Rocky series has grown into a multimedia juggernaut that simply cannot be contained. With nine official films, numerous video game adaptations, and even a dang musical all falling under the franchise banner, it's clear that the rags-to-riches story of a down-on-his-luck boxer ended up being a lot more resonant than anyone working on it thought imaginable. Have all the films been great? Well, no. But the seemingly never-ending tale of Rocky Balboa keeps racking in the cash, so it doesn't much matter. But let's get back to one of the more poignant moments of the 1976 original.

    The memorable scene where Rocky and Adrian share a night together in an empty skating rink wasn't originally supposed to be so intimate. In Stallone's script for the film, there were supposed to be hundreds of extras, and Rocky was even supposed to get in a spat with another skater. Thankfully, the production team couldn't afford the extras, and everything had to be scrapped at the last minute... so an actual character moment for the titular boxer was written instead, and the film was all the better for it.

    27 votes

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  • Part of what makes Steven Spielberg's seminal blockbuster Jaws so effective and memorable is the general lack of screentime for the titular, iconic shark. It's a classic horror flick trope. You don't need to show the audience the big bad. Let them stew in their theater seats and freak out about what they can't see. The waiting makes everything worse. Of course, Jaws wasn't always supposed to be so shark-scarce. It is wild to wonder what the final film would've ended up looking like if they'd been able to get the malfunctioning mechanical sharks to work in the water. You know, like they were supposed to.

    All three of the beautifully crafted creations completely crapped the bed when put into their non-natural natural habitat. This caused the entire production to adapt around the inability to use them as intended, and a classic was born. According to Spielberg himself, "Had the shark been working, perhaps the film would have made half the money and been half as scary." What would American filmmaking look like without the progenitor of the modern blockbuster?

    24 votes

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  • When was the last time you sat down and watched the original Halloween? It is an undeniable masterpiece of horror that (along with the less-successful-yet-still-incredibly-influential Texas Chainsaw Massacre) basically kickstarted the slasher genre altogether. But do you remember how it all starts? It is an ingenious and unsettling Steadicam shot that follows an unknown person as they skulk throughout a house with a kitchen knife before stabbing a teenage girl to death in her room. It is revealed by the end of the scene that this mysterious, masked assailant is none other than a six-year-old boy named Michael. He had just stabbed his sister, Judith, to death, and a horror film icon was born.

    The whole reason director John Carpenter decided to go with the Steadicam tracking shot throughout the house with no cuts was because the small production only had one night to film the entire scene and it was the only way they'd be able to get it all done. Now, you can definitely tell the person operating the Steadicam was an adult man as the young Michael certainly wasn't around six feet tall, but that little quibble doesn't take away from the impact of the scene whatsoever.

    14 votes

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  • The Characters In ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ Using Coconuts As Horses
    Photo: EMI Films

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail has been shared by generation after generation as one of the gold standards of comedic entertainment for over four decades now. It serves as the perfect introduction to the comedy troupe as Holy Grail is not as unwieldy as Flying Circus, is much more family-friendly than Life of Brian and Meaning of Life, and is generally seen as a nearly flawless showcase of Monty Python's surrealist humor almost a half-a-century after its release. That's not to say production on the film was easy, mind you.

    You try filming a medieval farce in the Scottish countryside of the 1970s on a budget of around $400,000 and see how you like it. The production team was so strapped for cash, in fact, they couldn't afford the horses they needed to ride around on. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table would surely have horses, yes? With the team at a loss about what to do, Michael Palin came up with the idea to use coconuts instead, and British icons immediately struck comedy gold.

    26 votes

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  • How can you possibly film a high-octane, futuristic action-thriller on a minuscule budget? By making said future a dystopian one and shooting the project around the deserted outskirts of Melbourne, Australia, of course. Unlike its contemporaries (such as Logan's Run, Escape from New York, and Blade Runner), 1979's Mad Max isn't set in a city of the future but on the deserted highways that are just outside one.

    But why? Why does everything look so empty and rundown? Well, it's much, much cheaper to shoot a film that way. You don't have to pay any extras if there is no one around. You don't have to worry about finding nice shooting locations if everything has gone to pot. The only reason Mad Max ended up being a sci-fi dystopian flick that spawned an eclectic franchise was because of budgetary reasons. Isn't life full of wonderful, little surprises? 

    9 votes

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  • Everyone has to get their start somewhere. Before Rian Johnson was directing multiple Breaking Bad episodes, making Star Wars fanboys wig out, and launching his own successful whodunit film series in Knives Out, he was just a young, independent filmmaker. The film he started his career with was the neo-noir high school drama Brick. The 2005 mystery proved to be a dynamic opening statement from the budding writer/director as it had all kinds of style to boot. One particularly memorable moment occurs when Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Brendan falls asleep while ruminating on his recently deceased ex-girlfriend, Emily.

    What appears to be a bodybag slowly creeps out of the tunnel where Brendan found her body and covers the camera, jolting the high schooler awake. Johnson, knowing they had no money to work with in post-production, figured out how to do the effect in-camera to save money. They just put a trash bag over the camera, pulled it off into the tunnel, and played it back in reverse for the final cut. Pretty nifty, eh?

    8 votes

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