12 of the Best Low-Budget Horror Movies of All Time

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Horror films are built around challenging the limits of just about everything. They challenge our limits for scary noises in the dark, frightening creatures in the shadows, and disgusting blood and guts that spew out the screen. They’re also perhaps one of the smarter investments considering how cheap horror films can be and how often they make bank.

It’s not uncommon to see horror films with incredibly low budgets that become hits. Even if they don’t make a huge splash at the box office, they’re still cheap enough that studios can still take the chance on them again and again. To put it in perspective, the budget of Avengers: Endgame could pay for 1,600 Paranormal Activity movies.

But which ones are the best? While there’s no shortage of cheap horror films, sifting through them for the best movies can be a challenge. Here are the best picks for what low-budget horror has to offer.

If you are in rush here are the top 3 of the best movies that made it into my list.

Now, let’s get into the list of the best Low-budget Horror movies you have to watch.

1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is one of the most iconic examples of indie horror. Filmed with a budget of roughly $125,000, the film made great use of actors and special effects. The terror of a group of people trapped in a house during a zombie outbreak is still just as chilling as it was in 1968. It’s incredibly violent, high on tension, and packs one heck of thematic commentary on how society crumbles. It’s such a revered film it’s one of the few horror films to receive a Criterion Collection release, including a new 4K transfer. But if you don’t feel like shelling out for the 4K Bluray, the standard version is in the public domain, meaning you can watch it for free on a number of free streaming platforms.

Click here to buy Night of the living dead on Amazon.

2. One Cut of the Dead (2017)

As a more recent example of low-budget horror that dazzled audiences, Shin’ichirō Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead is a marvelously inventive zombie film. The meta-narrative focuses on a film crew trying to finish a low-budget zombie movie. They soon find themselves trapped in an actual zombie narrative when flesh-eating monsters start attacking. For the filmmakers of the zombie movie, this is seen as a golden opportunity to shoot a horror film with real zombies. The one-take movie only cost ¥3 million ($25,000) and starred unknown actors, but soon became a sleeper hit of horror that was a huge box office success considering how much it made versus how much it cost. The film has since won multiple awards and garnered international remakes.

Click here to stream One Cut of the Dead on Amazon.

3. Eraserhead (1977)

David Lynch’s early attempt to tap into greater existential terror was his unforgettable masterpiece Eraserhead. After testing the limits of mind with his many short films, Lynch’s feature debut was a stark black-and-white trip of one man coming to terms with a strange baby. The film was made with the aid of the American Film Institute during Lynch’s time studying there. The long production would pay off as the budgeted film from a young filmmaker soon became a midnight movie hit, garnering $7 million at the box office. It remains one of Lynch’s strangest films that dabbled the most in psychedelic horror before moving on to bigger projects like Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and Mulholland Drive.

Click here to stream Eraserhead on Amazon.

4. Bad Taste (1987)

Before director Peter Jackson would become revered for creating the theatrical trilogy for Lord of the Rings, he was experimenting with horror in New Zealand. Bad Taste was his first foray into the genre and he did so with a wildly twisted picture. The film centered around a small town that has been invaded by human-munching aliens with big heads and big butts. Jackson shot the action-packed and horror-oozing fun of this picture with his friends on a budget of $25,000. It’s worth watching just to see Jackson playing a nerdy alien hunter who tries to keep his brains inside his head with a belt.

Click here to stream Bad Taste on Amazon.

5. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

As one of the most notable horror films of the 1970s, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a masterpiece of inspired filmmakers making the most of an $80,000 budget. A group of teenagers finds themselves being hunted down in a small Texas town when cannibals target the youth for the flesh. The film’s dark nature introduced audiences for the first time to Leatherface, a towering giant with a face masked in flesh and a chainsaw built for tearing into bodies. The film became a hit and made $30.9 million at the box office, leading to the many sequels and spinoffs that followed.

Click here to stream The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on Amazon.

6. Monsters (2010)

Before Gareth Edwards directed movies for the franchises Godzilla and Star Wars, he wrote and directed this small yet inspiring horror film, Monsters. The film finds Mexico being quarantined as giant tentacled monsters from space terrorize the country. A US journalist and his daughter attempt to find a way back to their own country while fleeing from the horrors beyond the stars. The film’s budget was small at $500,000 and it would ultimately make $4.24 million at the box office. It was a surprisingly clever feature-film debut for Edwards whose very next project would be 2014’s Godzilla with a budget of $160 million.

Click here to stream Monsters on Amazon.

7. Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter may not have crafted the genesis of slasher films with Halloween, but he certainly helped make it all the more enticing for mainstream audiences. This low-budget indie slasher featured a suburb being terrorized by the mute and faceless Michael Meyers. Laurie Strode becomes the final girl who saves the day, but Michael would proceed onward for several sequels. Considering the film made roughly $70 million on a budget of $325,000, it’s no surprise that this saga continued onward and remains one of the quintessential slasher films in horror history.

Click here to stream Halloween on Amazon.

8. Black Christmas (1974)

If you want to credit someone closer to fine-tuning the slasher sub-genre prior to Halloween, it would certainly be Bob Clark’s horror holiday treat, Black Christmas. The film takes place at a sorority house around Christmas time when the sisters of the sorority receive strange calls. It isn’t long before their home becomes a terrifying place as a murderer is on the loose. Wonderfully shot and incredibly tense, Clark’s film made great use of its $620,000 budget and would end up making $4.1 million. While Black Christmas never received the luxury of sequels like Halloween, it has been recognized for its influence on the holiday-themed slasher style and has received multiple remakes.

Click here to stream Black Christmas on Amazon.

9. The Babadook (2014)

Director Jennifer Kent really made her mark on horror with her iconic 2014 sleeper hit The Babadook. The film finds a widowed mother struggling to raise her unstable son, but is finding single motherhood incredibly draining. Her sleepless nights and stressful life leads to her coming into contact with a paranormal monster known as the Babadook. Brimming to life from a mysterious kid’s book, the dark creature wearing a top hat quickly creeps into the life of the mother, turning her into the monster she fears. As a strong allegory for grief, Kent’s film was highly praised for what it accomplished on a budget of $2 million.

Click here to stream The Babadook on Amazon.

10. Murder Party (2022)

A man finds himself invited to a mysterious Halloween party. Intrigued, he ventures to the event to see if it’s any fun. What he doesn’t realize is that the party isn’t for Halloween but for murder. Specifically, they intend to murder their new guest, leading to bloody chaos in this violent showdown amid the Halloween season. Budgeted somewhere between $190,000-$230,000, this indie horror film won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival and has since become a cult classic for its iconic cardboard costume.

Click here to stream Murder Party on Amazon.

11. Rabid (1977)

David Cronenberg’s Rabid might sometimes be referred to as the armpit zombie movie. A woman experiences strange body horror when her armpit transforms into a sexual orifice that feeds on blood. Yet the film also had some greater societal and political commentary as the chaos unfolded. But, yes, it was also extremely gross and doesn’t disappoint as a Cronenberg movie. Shot for $530,000, the film would make roughly $1 million at the box office but has since gone on to become more of a cult hit among Cronenberg fans. So if you’ve already watched through Scanners, Videodrome, and The Brood, give this classic Cronenberg film a watch.

Click here to stream Rabid on Amazon.

12. Carnival of Souls (1962)

Prior to the groundbreaking Night of the Living Dead, Herk Harvey’s low-budget and independent Carnival of Souls made some waves in the early 1960s. The film centers around a woman moving to a new town and finding herself unable to connect with anybody. Drawn to an abandoned carnival, her life takes a dark turn as she is haunted by mysterious ghouls. The budget for the film was $33,000 and relied on Harvey resorting to guerrilla filmmaking techniques to finish the picture. While this was the only film Harvey ever made, it has had a lasting legacy of being a horror classic that is now in the public domain and a part of the Criterion Collection, much like Night of the Living Dead.

Click here to stream Carnival of Souls on Amazon.