Just because a movie is a small-budget indie or doesn't have the backing of a huge studio doesn't mean the quality of the film needs to suffer. These 13 campy low-budget films, despite their modest resources, were able to create uniquely charming, creative stories. From the hilarious antics of Big Trouble in Little China to the retro-futuristic adventure of Turbo Kid, these underappreciated cinematic treasures deserve more recognition for their campy, intriguing plots.
1. Big Trouble Little China (1986)
Follow the adventures of Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), a truck driver caught in a mystical battle in San Francisco's Chinatown. With martial arts, supernatural forces, and a healthy dose of comedy, this John Carpenter-directed film is a wild ride filled with memorable characters and outrageous situations.
2. Turbo Kid (2015)
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Turbo Kid follows a young scavenger (Munro Chambers) who becomes a superhero in a world of BMX bikes, comic books, and over-the-top violence. This nostalgic and quirky film pays homage to '80s pop culture while delivering a thrilling and endearing story.
3. Clerks (1994)
Kevin Smith's directorial debut takes us on a day in the life of Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), two slacker clerks working at a convenience store. Filled with witty dialogue, memorable characters, and a unique black-and-white aesthetic, Clerks captures the mundane yet hilarious experiences of working-class life.
While it does have a cult following and jumpstarted Kevin Smith's career, the movie deserves more recognition than it gets from mainstream audiences.
4. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
When a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel catches the attention of a magazine intern (Aubrey Plaza), she embarks on an investigation that leads her to an eccentric man (Mark Duplass) who may or may not possess the ability to travel through time. This indie sci-fi romantic comedy is filled with charm, quirkiness, and heartfelt moments.
5. Tremors (1990)
Welcome to the small town of Perfection, where giant underground creatures threaten the lives of its residents. With a mix of horror, humor, and thrilling action, Tremors follows a group of townspeople, including handymen Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), as they battle the monstrous creatures in an intense fight for survival.
6. Cube (1997)
A group of strangers wakes up inside a deadly maze of interconnected cubes and are forced to work together to navigate its traps and escape. This psychological thriller cleverly explores human nature, paranoia, and survival instincts while unraveling the mystery of their entrapment.
7. Attack the Block (2011)
Set in a South London housing estate, a gang of teenage hoodlums defend their neighborhood from an alien invasion. Attack the Block blends sci-fi, comedy, and social commentary, delivering a fresh and exciting take on the genre. With memorable characters and thrilling action, this film showcases the talent of a young John Boyega.
8. Primer (2004)
Shane Carruth's mind-bending sci-fi film follows a group of engineers who accidentally invent a time machine in their garage. As they become entangled in a complex web of time travel and paradoxes, Primer challenges its audience with its intricate and intellectual narrative, making it a cult classic among science fiction enthusiasts.
9. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
This horror-comedy delights in its absurd premise, over-the-top visuals, and dark humor, creating a unique and entertaining experience that has gained a dedicated cult following. When a group of extraterrestrial beings resembling sinister clowns lands on Earth, they wreak havoc on a small town.
10. Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)
This movie delivers non-stop gunfights, over-the-top stunts, and a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor, making it an exhilarating and unabashedly fun experience that embraces its campy nature. Prepare for relentless action as a mysterious loner (Clive Owen) protects a newborn baby from a group of deadly assassins.
11. Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
In this darkly comedic and unconventional love story, Zia (Patrick Fugit) finds himself in a strange afterlife reserved for suicides. When he learns that his ex-girlfriend has also taken her own life, he takes a road trip through this quirky underworld to find her.
12. Coherence (2013)
When a comet passes by Earth, a group of friends gathering for a dinner party experiences a series of strange occurrences that defy explanation. The lights go out, their phones don't work, and something strange goes on when they wander around the neighborhood.
I don't want to reveal too much about this one because the premise is best experienced without knowing anything beforehand, but it's a low-budget (and it shows) sci-fi mystery that explores some of the most puzzling philosophical and scientific mysteries about human existence and identity.
13. Resolution (2012)
When a man receives a disturbing video of his friend caught in the throes of addiction, he decides to intervene by visiting him in a remote cabin. However, as they confront their personal demons, inexplicable forces start to manipulate their reality.
Much like Coherence, it's a low-budget indie that is somewhat visually apparent but with a juicy, intriguing story that is best not to know about before watching.
Resolution combines elements of sci-fi, horror, and meta-commentary on filmmaking to produce a haunting cinematic universe with sequels like The Endless and Spring.
14. Dead Heat (2012)
In Dead Heat, an officer is killed while investigating a strange case where dead bodies are being resurrected. But when the cop himself is resurrected, they have a limited amount of time to solve the case before his body completely decomposes.
15. Deadly Friend (2012)
This movie isn't one of the best horror movies of all time, but for a low-budget film, it's great. The movie follows a teen girl who is killed by her abusive father, and in order to save her, one of her friends decides to put a robotic microchip in her brain, bringing her back. But will the girl next door come back as the person he remembers?
Jaimee Marshall is a culture writer, avid movie buff, and political junkie. She spends the bulk of her time watching and critiquing films, writing political op-eds, and dabbling in philosophy. She has a Communication Studies degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she flirted with several different majors before deciding to pursue writing. As a result, she has a diverse educational background, having studied economics, political science, psychology, business admin, rhetoric, and debate.
At Wealth of Geeks, Jaimee places an emphasis on film and television analysis, ranking the best [and worst] in media so you can find more diamonds in the rough and waste less time on box-office duds. You can find her articles on politics and culture in Evie Magazine, Katie Couric Media, Lotus Eaters, and Her Campus. You can also find her find her episode of Popcorned Planet, where she analyzes the Johnny Depp & Amber Heard trial. She has written extensively about due process, free speech, and pop culture.