The cheapest and most successful movies of all time

Lately we checked out the and their grossing. Movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Tangled” or “Spider Man 3”, which consumed between 250 and 300 million USD of production costs, are top of the list. But how does it look at the bottom of that list, the low budget boys and girls? Does low budget mean bad movie = bad return? Or are there any cheap productions which load up the theatres and gained the x-fold of their production costs? Left out the so called B-movies, which generally distinguished not only by low budget, low artistic standards, intellectual depth and preferably bustle in the genres of horror, science fiction and action. So that often cheap is really developing into bad. Doesn’t have to be, proven by the following examples, but it’s quite often the rule.

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This spontaneously reminds me of “The Live of the Others” from 2007. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (what a name!) did not only gross about the 40-fold of the budget of just 1.8 million €, on top of that he was the 3rd German (1980, Volker Schlöndorff with „The Tin Drum“, 2003, Caroline Link with „Nowhere in Africa“) winning an Oscar in the category “Best foreign movie”. This didn’t only strengthen the reputation of the German movie industry, also Mr. von Donnersmarck suddenly became a “public person” and was present everywhere (almost ad nauseam) But where is he now? Did someone see him recently? Last thing I noticed was that even his 2nd blockbuster in 2010, the Thriller “The Tourist” became a box-office smash with a grossing of 278 million USD despite mixed reviews; this might have also been influenced by “The Life of the Others”. You wanna see what comes next! Now he is travelling around Germany a bit but his usual spot at talkshows is gone. He holds readings and works in Hollywood. To what? Of course it’s a secret movie project. Let’s wait and see.

Somehow all this reminds of the so-called “One-Hit-Wonder” of the music business. There, a song is played on all radio stations over months until you get “ear cancer”. And then you don’t hear or see the interpret or the band ever again.

In relation of production costs to grossings we have to state “Blair Witch Project”. In 1998 two American movie students produced the horrror movie for just 60.000 USD (other sources report that the total costs raised up to 500.000 USD). In any case it filled the coffers by 250 million USD and could also gain numerous awards. What makes this film special? The curiosity, which was stirred up by the clever marketing - especially on the Internet - of the producers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, attracted visitors to the cinema. To keep it short: 3 amateur actors, released into the wild with cellphone cams, receiving instructions about the next filming spot and the rough scene by the director via mobile radio. The horror movie as semi-documentary work merged the boundaries between fiction and reality. For my part, although I normally don’t voluntarily do horror movies, watched it twice already and would watch it again any time. By the way, Blair Witch Project kicked Mad Max from 1980 off the throne of the cheapest and most successful movie of all time. Oh yes, Myrick and Sanchez? Does anyone still know them? Were they seen again? Probably also busy with a secret project!

Both movies were only trumped by the porn film “Deep Throat” from 1972, which gained a grossing of estimated 600 million USD by having a budget of only 25.000 USD.  Without going into details about the plot, there are those who claim that the movie only served the New York Mafia to launder money. This thought isn’t far-fetched as at that thime the majority of the porn cinemas were in the Mafias’ hands and on top of that the Cosa Nostra financed the movie. So at least it’s rumored!

Further movies, that should not be missed out on in this connection, are flickers like “Garden State” (2003), “Saw” (2004), “Rocky” (1976) or also “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975). Even if the budget of all movies was at 1 million USD or higher, those movies smashed in concerning their revenue and made a few people really rich, at least in the short term.

But my favourites are especially those movies, which consumed vast sums of money and which are simply godawful. I really admire the dauntlessness of the producers and directors, who manage to gain money for their concoction. Everyone of us trying to get a loan knows what a hard slog that is until you finally get the money. But those species get millions to serve the manhood with their bad taste in form of a movie.

Two names, that you don’t get away with in this context, is on one hand the Legendary Ed Wood (1924-1978), who became really famous by the same-titled Oscar-winning movie with Johnny Depp from 1994, as well as our enfant terrible Uwe Boll. As different as they are, Ed Wood, who more fits in the trash-movie category (on one hand because of lack of financing as well as talent, on the other hand because this guy was simply totally nuts) and Uwe Boll, who can live quite well on his films - mainly movies about video games like Speed, Far Cry or In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. The common denominator is the unbroken believe in themselves and their own - from their point of view - outstanding talent. An online-petition of 2008 that requested Bolll to stop making movies in the future, cuts no ice with him. There were 130.000 signatures at the end… and Boll shoots and shoots and shoots. Well, what else should he do!

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