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10 Oscar Winning Movies Made On The Cheap

FUN FACTS July 14, 2017 By Vincent

For the most part, Oscar-winning movies tend to be pretty good, at least in one aspect for which they won the Oscar. Admittedly, this isn't always the case but it tends to be the benchmark for what is exceptional in filmmaking and what is not.

General wisdom also tends to suggest that a shed load of cash has to be forked out to make an Oscar winner. For anything to gain attention in Hollywood these days, it has to have the best actors, the best effects and the best...well, everything. As such, these tend to garner premium prices. However, there are some Oscar winners that bucked that trend and were made for a little bit less. Here we take a look at a few.

1. Moonlight

The eventual winner of the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture (after it mistakenly being awarded to  La La Land) Moonlight is a stunning piece of work that won Mahershali Ali the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, as well as the screenplay winning the Best Adapted Screenplay award.

Image: Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com

But in an era of mega-budgets, its use of relatively unknown actors, carefully considered production and pared down effects due to its origins as a stage play meant it came in at around $1.5m. Even adjusted for inflation, that makes it the lowest-cost winner of Best Picture ever!

2. Rocky

Now one of the biggest movie franchises around that has stupid money thrown at it considering most of the action takes place in boxing rings, Rocky started out as Sylvester Stallone's idea to launch him to the big time!

Image: Kelleher Photography/Shutterstock.com

The 1976 smash hit cost just $1.1m (Approx $4.6m today) and was shot in just 28 days and now there's 6 sequels and a spin-off series to its name.

3. Crash

Crash upset the odds when it beat Brokeback Mountain for the Best Picture Oscar and it had a lot of big name stars to help it land the win but it managed to keep costs low by filming on location in Los Angeles.

It also helped that writer/director Paul Haggis used his own car and house for filming.

4. The French Connection

  The 1971 thriller beat the musical production of Fiddler On The Roof for Best Picture and did so with a budget of $1.8m (approx $10.8m today) as it went without potential star Steve McQueen due to costs and cast relative unknown Gene Hackman instead thus launching him to superstardom.

Image: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock.com

Using guerilla filming tactics and shooting in the streets of New York to minimize costs also helped with budget constraints and the Academy loved the chaotic, hectic imagery it produced.

5. Platoon

Platoon took a rather dim view of the Vietnam war and produced something more gritty and from a personal view of soldiers fighting it rather than the bombastic, explosion filled epics that had come before it.

Image: Denis Makarenko/Shutterstock.com

Filmed predominantly on location and using fresh-faced actors over big stars, it helped Charlie Sheen and Willem Dafoe become the names they are today. It was made on a modest $6 million budget ($13.3 million today) and distributed through a smaller company than most Hollywood hits.

6. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

With a Czech director working on only his second English-language film, a cast of unknowns like Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd (whatever happened to them?) beside the one recognized star of Jack Nicholson, and predominantly shot on location over three months at an actual Oregon mental institution this Oscar mega-hit was made fairly economically.

Image: Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com

Only the second film ever to win all “Big Five” awards of, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay (either Best Adapted Screenplay or Best Original Screenplay).

7. Driving Miss Daisy

Adapted from an off-Broadway stage play, most of the action is a series of conversations in an automobile and, as such, location budgets were kept pretty low as were cast budgets since you only needed a few characters.

It cost $7.5 million to make in 1989, or about $15 million in modern money but drew a massive return on that and a few Oscars as well.

8. Chariots of Fire

The historical drama about a couple of British Olympians competing in Paris for different personal reasons were made on the cheap by filming around England (which is cheaper to film in than Stateside in many cases) and by casting unknowns for the two leads.

Image: neftali/Shutterstock.com

A fair amount of the $5.5 million budget ($15 million today) went towards the location-shooting at Paris Olympics sites whilst the rest was doled out frugally.

9. The Hurt Locker

Before it won its Best Picture Oscar, The Hurt Locker had only made $12.7m of its $15m budget back but the win came since months after its release and instantly boosted interest in it as people then went out of their way to find a copy or stream it.

Image: Tinseltown/Shutterstock.com

Made with unknowns Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Chris Pratt before they became Marvel superheroes known the world over, it also cast Iraqi refugees who were living in Jordan where filming was taking place thus cutting major costs on casting.

10. It Happened One Night

The first film to win all of the 'Big Five' awards, it was made for only $325,000 ($5.9 million today) over a month of filming in the studio and around Los Angeles. It starred a Clark Cable who was not wanted for the role and Claudette Colbert who was also not the first choice.

Image: Sergey Goryachev/Shutterstock.com

Directed by reliable but hardly noteworthy Frank Capra, no one thought it would win anything against the lavishly made Cleopatra but it stormed the awards and took $2.5 million, or $45 million today, at the box office.


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