5 Small-Budget Movies That Put Huge Blockbusters To Shame

5 Small-Budget Movies That Put Huge Blockbusters To Shame
Image credit: Universal Pictures International, 20th Century Studios, Toho, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing

These five prove that with enough dedication, you don't need huge sums of money to make the movie look absolutely breathtaking.

When you go to see a big-budget blockbuster, it is reasonable to expect a gorgeous visual spectacle that looks especially fantastic on the big screen.

Unfortunately, this has become a bit of a gamble these days, as some movies, such as Avatar: The Way of Water, with a budget of $350-460 million, live up to expectations, while others, such as The Flash, which cost $200-220 million, look like utter garbage.

But some movies prove that it doesn't take a huge budget to deliver truly outstanding visuals, so let's take a look at five films made on a shoestring that put many big blockbusters to shame.

Ex Machina (2014)

5 Small-Budget Movies That Put Huge Blockbusters To Shame - image 1

Alex Garland immediately established himself as a very talented filmmaker with his sci-fi directorial debut.

The intense story of an AI that may have become more human than machine was brilliant, and the entire cast did an amazing job.

What's more, to everyone's surprise, the film had some truly stunning and realistic special effects on a budget of only $15 million, which led to the movie winning the Best Visual Effects category at the 88th Academy Awards.

The Creator (2023)

Gareth Edwards' latest sci-fi action movie about the long conflict between humans and AI can be rightly criticized for many things, mostly for its rather bland and predictable plot, but the visuals are definitely not one of them.

With a fairly moderate budget of $80 million, which is nothing compared to most other blockbusters, the film is full of absolutely beautiful scenes and was eventually nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 96th Academy Awards.

Godzilla Minus One (2023)

Another recent release that managed to surprise everyone with its outstanding visuals and was nominated for them at the 96th Academy Awards along with the previous entry on our list.

Despite having a budget of only $10-15 million, the creators of the film used it to the absolute maximum, delivering a movie that gives the Western films about the iconic kaiju a run for their money, not only in the field of visual effects.

The Shape of Water (2017)

Guillermo del Toro 's 2017 romantic fantasy film was highly praised by both critics and audiences, earning an astounding 13 nominations at the 90th Academy Awards and winning four of them, though visual effects wasn't on the list.

However, the aquatic creature at the center of the story, brilliantly portrayed by Doug Jones, looked absolutely spectacular, making it hard to believe that the film was made on a budget of only about $20 million.

District 9 (2009)

Neill Blomkamp definitely knows how to achieve great visuals with limited financial resources, as most of his works don't really have huge budgets, but still manage to look pretty good.

However, his full-length directorial debut about alien refugees stuck in a special district of Johannesburg is perhaps the best example of this.

By cleverly utilizing the found-footage style, the filmmaker made the $30 million film look absolutely stunning, leading to it being nominated in the Best Visual Effects category at the 82nd Academy Awards.