Often, independent films are automatically at a disadvantage; without the support of big-name studios, their limited budget for production and marketing can make it hard for a film to succeed. But some indie films overcome this barrier, making it big despite their restrictions. Below, in no particular order, are six independent films that went on to great commercial and critical success.
1. Napoleon Dynamite (2004): The off-the-wall comedy that brought us the story of Napoleon, Uncle Rico, Kip, Pedro and even Tina the llama – as well as endless retellings of jokes about Chapstick and mothers attending institutes of higher education – was produced on a budget of just $400,000. Fox Searchlight Pictures and Paramount pictures purchased the film after a strong showing at the Sundance Film Festival, and the movie went on to gross nearly $45 million during the first year of release.
2. Clerks (1994): The cult classic slacker comedy Clerks was not only the first glimpse of the characters Jay and Silent Bob, it was also our introduction to director Kevin Smith. Smith created the film with an initial budget of only $27,575, keeping costs down by using friends and family members as actors and filming in the convenience store where Smith worked during the day. Produced by Smith’s own View Askew Productions, the film was acquired by Miramax Films and grossed over $3 million in box office revenue.
3. The Blair Witch Project (1999): Marketed as a true story (later revealed to be a hoax), this indie horror film – and study in marketing ingenuity – is one of the most successful independent films of all time. The film was shot by amateur camera operators, produced by independent studio Haxan Films, and reportedly cost just $22,000 to make, eventually bringing in over $248 million at the box office.
4. Reservoir Dogs (1992): Writer/Director Quinten Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs this cult favorite crime movie was originally slated to film with a $30,000 budget, but when Harvey Keitel was brought on as an actor and co-producer, they were able to raise enough money to produce the movie on a budget of $1.2 million with LIVE Entertainment Studios. Though the film only grossed $2.8 million at the box office, it went on to become a cult classic, and launched the now-illustrious career of Tarantino.
5. The Terminator (1984): In 1984, a science fiction film that was written and directed by a struggling and unknown director, starring a budding young actor with only one major role under his belt, and produced by independent studios with a $6.5 million budget was released. The writer/director was James Cameron, the young actor was Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the film was The Terminator, which went on to wild box office success and brought in over $78 million dollars.
6. Little Miss Sunshine (2006): Like Napoleon Dynamite two years earlier, Little Miss Sunshine was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures after premiering at Sundance Film Festival for $10.5 million. Starring then-unknown Steve Carell and Abigail Breslin, the movie was produced on a budget of $8 million, and went on to win four Academy Awards and earn worldwide box office revenues of over $100 million.
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This is only a tiny sample of great independent films – which ones would you add to the list? Tell us in the comments!