Movies where they should have spent more money

My favorite comedy movies are the ones where they spent less than $10 million to make. Animal House, Juno, Ghost World, Little Miss Sunshine, movies of that sort. In my most pompous moments I invoke the spirit of Dogma 95 and claim that no movie was ever improved by throwing tens of millions of extra dollars at it, citing stinkers like Ishtar, 1941, Howard the Duck and Evan Almighty (apparently the most expensive comedy ever made). I’ve even generalized along these lines about all movies, not just comedies.

But it’s not completely true. There are movies with good scripts and decent casts that flopped because the producers cheaped out at the last minute. The Shadow with Alec Baldwin could have been another Batman if they hadn’t cut so many corners; as it stands, people barely remember it. Altered States and Vibes (Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum) could have been as great as 2001 and Ghostbusters respectively if the SPFX had come from Industrial Lights and Magic instead of Spencer’s Gifts.

What are some other movies that otherwise had the trappings of a decent film, except the budgets were slashed at the last minute?

Idiocracy by Mike Judge. Easily one of the better films in recent memory, but it doesn’t look nearly as polished as it should. Plus, they could have sprung for a better lead actress, and more marketing.

Came here to say that.

If District 9 had had the same budget as J.J. Abams’ Star Trek, it might actually surpass the latter in quality. As it is, though, the former’s nearly as good as the latter.

I know these views aren’t popular, but I have never courted popularity.

What, precisely, was lacking in regard to the SFX of District 9? I thought it had every bit of the effects quality needed to tell the story, insofar as the effects never drew the viewer out of the story (which was manifestly more coherent than the Star Trek reboot).

The Shadow seemed to suffer not so much by the quality of its effects (which were subpar in some scenes) but by the intentional cheesiness of the dialogue and story; while intentional (replicating the radio and pulp novel series) it also came at the forefront of a more realistic take on superhero movies. (The same fate befell The Rocketeer, another retro-superhero film around the same time.) Personally, I thought it was a great movie for what it was, and that many of the classical non-CGI effects (in the waning days of the pre-CGI era) were generally well-done.

The o.p. seems to have a misapprehension of what von Trier’s Dogma 95 Movement was about. It wasn’t specifically focused on low budgets, but instead using handheld digital cinematography, “realistic” editing, and limited to no post-processing effects. From an entertainment standpoint, Dogma 95 was an utter failure. The true Dogma 95 films are frankly kind of painful to watch, though it did spur an effort back toward a cinéma vérité-like approach to some aspects of filmmaking that has since permeated mainstream film into the form of fake documentary footage and “shakicam” cinematography.

Plenty of films cost less than $10M to make. Some of them are either good. Very few of them have the publicity and marketing budget to reach a wider audience (which would require substantially more than $10M), and so they’re limited to “art house” cinema chains. The boutique studios that produce these films are being squeezed, both by the economy and the general lack of cinema-going versus DVD release, but there are plenty of movies that are made on what are now regarded as low budgets. Some could be improved by using better effects, but the story should be what is important. The effect is simply a means to enrich and draw the viewer into the story.


I think if the Syfy channel spent real money on experienced and talented creative people instead of getting low paid first-time amateurs to stumble around in the dark and try to make a feature film for $500,000, some of their concepts and attempts might actually be decent entertainment, instead of the embarrassments they end up as.

Manos: The Hands Of Fate actually had a really good story. It’d have been good if they’d redone about 100% of the movie.

My impression has always been that Dogma 95 was a reaction to overblown American blockbusters and their dumbing effect on the rest of the world’s cinema. Nothing you have said contradicts this interpretation, even how painful some of the specific elements of it can be to watch.

I liked the latter two. But in any case I don’t think any of them suffered because of their budget. Their effects were on par with other movies of their time.

I’m not sure it would have made the movie better, but Daredevil definitely should have worked on it’s CGI. The jumping/climbing DD was horribly fake. The sad thing about bad CGI is I don’t believe that money is an excuse anymore. I’ve seen TV shows such as Primeval that don’t have the budget of Jurassic Park turn out very impressive and realistically moving CGI lifeforms. Hell I’ve seen student things on youtube better than that. So it always pisses me off when I see I crapy CGI creature on Syfy or a ridiculous submarine on Lost because I know it’s technique and not budget that’s the problem.

The Star Wars prequel trilogy could have used more money - spent on a continuity expert, a different screenwriter, a different director… :wink:

My thoughts exactly. IIRC District 9 was born out of the ashes of an aborted Halo move - there was cash and talent around. My only problem with the film is that it dropped the documentary feel halfway through and became yet another dumb action flick, exactly the sort of movie the first half had stuck two fingers up to.