Some big blockbuster franchises feel like they've been around for eons, manufactured and perfected for the big screen. While that's true with some franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars, others were a product of very lucky low-budget blockbusters that managed to not only make a ton of money but also earn a massive fanbase. Sure, this may lead to some unquestionably bad studio-sanctioned sequels, but these films were produced on such a low budget, they were lucky to even make it to cinemas.
Here are huge blockbuster franchises that were started by low-budget underdog films.
- 1Photo: New Line Cinema
Aside from introducing both Freddy Krueger and Johnny Depp to audiences around the world, Wes Craven's low-budget A Nightmare on Elm Street is credited with saving an entire film studio from going bankrupt. New Line Cinema (which was originally created to distribute art house films to universities) was going through a financial crisis when it decided to pick up Wes Craven's script, which had been passed over by every other studio due to his previous film, The Last House on the Left, which was highly controversial.
Nonetheless, New Line took a chance on Craven's script, knowing it would completely bankrupt the studio if it failed. The bleeding studio dished out almost $2 million for the film, which caused it to almost shut down mid-filming, but thankfully, the film was completed and released theatrically, where it became a huge hit and successfully revived New Line Cinema. The studio would later go on to make the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Thanks, Craven!Success story?
Halloween is the ultimate horror film. Deranged serial killer in a mask? Check. Takes place on Halloween? Check. Low-budget aesthetic? Check! When John Carpenter was approached to make a horror film about a psychotic slayer that stalked babysitters, he had already made two mildly successful films, yet he was only paid $10,000 (plus percentages) for directing, writing, and scoring the entire film. Ironically, Carpenter rushed to make the score in just three days, unknowingly creating the most recognizable horror theme of all time.
Not only was the film a massive success in its own right - it made $70 million on a $300k budget and spawned 10 sequels and two remakes - but it also kicked off the trend of low-budget independent slasher films on the big screen (like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street) and became the blueprint for the slasher tropes we still see in horror to this day. Michael Myers is now one of the most notorious and recognizable horror villains of all time.Success story?
- 3Photo: United Artists
As popular as Rambo has become, Sylvester Stallone will always be known for playing Rocky Balboa in the wildly successful Rocky franchise. With six films in the original series and three spin-off films focusing on the son of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, Rocky has become a household name, to say the least. However, the Rocky films almost never happened, as Stallone struggled to get the script off the ground with United Artists giving him a production budget of only $1 million.
Initially, nobody would look at Stallone's script, as the ultimatum was that he would star as the titular Rocky. At the time, Stallone had not broken through in Hollywood, struggling to get roles and even resorting to appearing in softcore adult films and sleeping at bus terminals. United Artists tried to pay off Stallone for the script and cast someone like James Caan in the role, but Stallone's producers lowered the budget to $1 million from their original $2 million asking price, due to a clause in their contract that would keep United Artists from vetoing Stallone as the star. The film went on to win three Oscars, make a ton of money, and stop Stallone from being a starving adult entertainment actor.Success story?
- 4Photo: Orion Pictures
When you hear someone mention The Terminator, you instinctively picture a high-budget blockbuster thriller with infinite car chases and explosions, but the original film was made on a budget of only $6 million. While that sounds like a sufficient amount of money, it's really not a lot for a film that is heavily reliant on futuristic technology, big action sequences, and special effects. Regardless, first-time director James Cameron managed to pull it all off with epic results. However, due to the gritty style of Cameron's filmmaking, Orion Pictures didn't want to release the film, fearing it would be panned.
A lot of the film was achieved through "guerilla-style" filmmaking, something they teach you in film school not to do. However, because of the film's small budget, Cameron opted to film most scenes at night when the filming permits were cheaper, or he would avoid getting one altogether and finish the scene quickly before police showed up. They were stopped by police while filming their final scene, but producer Gale Anne Hurd managed to convince them they were UCLA students. The film did extremely well at the box office, and the sequel, T2: Judgment Day, was the most expensive film ever made at the time at $100 million, which was a big jump from their original budget.Success story?