10 Best Low-Budget Movies of 2021, Ranked

With Spider-Man: No Way Home storming into cinemas like a steam train and breaking countless box-office milestones, it’s easy to get swept up in spider fever and forget the many excellent smaller films that came before. While modern blockbusters now cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce, many filmmakers and studios operate with much tighter purse strings.

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That’s not to say that low-budget movies can’t be fresh, entertaining, and visually brilliant, though, so make sure to swing by your local independent cinema whenever you get the chance. You definitely won’t regret it.

10) ‘Old’ — M. Night Shyamalan — $18 Million

Image via Universal Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan has been enjoying something of a resurgence in recent years, thanks to smaller-scale horror hits such as The Visit, Split, and Glass. Old, his most recent film, revolved around a series of holidaymakers who find themselves trapped on a beach that ages them up at a terrifying pace.

Shyamalan coaxes excellent performances out of the film’s stellar cast, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Alex Wolff, and Thomasin McKenzie, to name just a few, but the film does lose momentum towards the end. All things considered, though, Old is an exceptionally entertaining popcorn flick considering it was made for less than twenty million dollars.


9) ‘The French Dispatch’ — Wes Anderson — $25 Million


Though a twenty-five million dollar budget is exactly considered low, it’s amazingly cheap when you think about the number of ridiculously talented actors Wes Anderson recruited for the ensemble. The French Dispatch boasts the best cast of the year between Timothee Chalamet, star of Academy-Award-nominated Dune, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, and Lea Seydoux.

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Attracting talent like that to a low-budget film speaks to the strength of the script and the faith each actor had in Wes Anderson, who has spent his entire career crafting charming, hilarious, and heartfelt low-budget films.

8) ‘Red Rocket’ — Sean Baker — $1 Million

Simon Rex - Red Rocket interview social

Costing just $1 million to produce, Red Rocket has the lowest budget on the list but looking at the film; you would never guess it. Much like director Sean Baker’s earlier projects, Tangerine and The Florida Project boasts a gorgeous color palette and an incredible performance from its star, Simon Rex.

Red Rocket follows Mikey, a washed-up porn star who returns to his home in Texas to find that nobody wants him back. The film’s beautiful, moving plot shows that originality doesn’t cost a thing, and any amount of money is enough to make a touching film if the right people are involved.

7) ‘Malcolm & Marie’ — Sam Levinson — $2.5 Million


Sam Levinson and Zendaya are becoming one of Hollywood’s most exciting actor/director teams. After first combining their talents on Euphoria, which was recently renewed for a third season, the pair reunited for the intimate, profoundly moving.

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The film follows the titular couple as they return home from the premiere of Malcolm’s (John David Washington) film, only to engage in one of the most captivating arguments ever put to film. Zendaya and Washington give their all to the characters and the film, set entirely in one location, keeps audiences hooked throughout. Here’s to many more Levinson/Zendaya team-ups in the future.

6) ‘Palmer’ — Fisher Stevens — $6.7 Million

Justin Timberlake and Ryder Allen in Palmer
Image via Apple TV+

Is there anything Justin Timberlake can’t do? He can dance. He can sing. He can charm the socks off every talk show host. But most importantly, he can deliver a touching performance in a heart-warming film with very important themes. Costing just shy of seven million dollars, Palmer debuted on Apple TV to warm reviews from audiences.

Timberlake plays Palmer, an ex-convict who raises a gender non-conforming child. The script, written by Cheryl Guerriero, is constantly emotional and director Fisher Stevens gets the best out of the entire cast, which features Juno Temple in a supporting role.

5) ‘Zola’ — Janicza Bravo — $5 Million


A24 is easily the most exciting and edgiest production company in the world at the minute. They constantly push their boundaries, releasing films across all genres and never shying away from films with difficult subject matter. The studio was recently nominated for an impressive thirteen Independent Spirit Awards, with Zola landing six of those.

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The film is, surprisingly, based on a Twitter thread written by a waitress in Detroit who, after striking up a friendship with a new customer, agrees to a weekend spent partying in Florida. What ensues, however, is not a party at all. It’s far from it.

4) ‘The Father’ — Florian Zeller — $6 Million

Florian Zeller is one of the most exciting playwrights of his generation. The Father is his most renowned play, winning awards across the globe before Zeller decided to bring the story to the big screen. To ensure the power of the script wasn’t lost in average performances, Zeller recruited Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, who excel in their roles as father and daughter, respectively.

The film was incredibly well-received, won two Oscars, and is considered the 113th best film of all time according to IMDb. Given the success of Zeller’s first adaptation, we can’t wait to see The Son when it hits theaters this year.

3) ‘Minari’ — Lee Isaac Chung — $2 Million


Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, Minari tells the story of a Korean family who start a farm in Arkansas in the 1980s. Steven Yeun delivers a career-best performance as the patriarch of the family who, given the fact that 30,000 Koreans arrive in America each year, wants to start his own business providing them with a taste of home.

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The movie is layered, moving, and a great example of how to bring realism to the big screen. Chung handles the entire film with extreme care, creating a largely charming tale of a family looking to lay down roots in a new city and a new culture. Minari is a must-watch, for sure.

2) ‘Nobody’ — Ilya Naishuller — $16 Million


Best known for his role as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and its spinoff show Better Caul Saul, fans were extremely intrigued when it was announced that Bod Odenkirk would be fronting the brutal action film Nobody. Produced on a budget of just $16 million, Nobody pulls no punches when it comes to fight choreography.

Odenkirk put the work in behind-the-scenes, and it shows as he produces one of the most compelling performances in an action film since Keanu Reeves in the John Wick franchise. The film was a huge hit at the box office, earning nearly $60 million at a time when cinemas around the world were closed because of the pandemic. Given people’s love for Odenkirk, hope for a sequel is still high, and Connie Nielsen, who acted opposite Odenkirk, teased another installment that could explore Hutch (Odenkirk) and Becca’s (Nielsen) mysterious past.

1) ‘The Green Knight’ — David Lowery — $15 Million


David Lowery has produced a very eclectic body of work, directing everything from the deep, thought-provoking A Ghost Story to the fun, fast-paced, family-friendly Pete’s Dragon. He also, rather unusually, edits the majority of his films, and The Green Knight was no exception. The film, which is a retelling of the Arthurian adventure of The Green Knight, stars Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, and Joel Edgerton.

Produced by indie powerhouse A24, The Green Knight was beloved by critics, boasting a score of 85 out of 100 on Metascore. Seeing how Lowery excelled when working within the realms of fantasy, fans are now very excited to see his upcoming Peter Pan adaptation set to star Jude Law and Alan Tudyk.

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