The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Production budget: $30 million
Worldwide gross: $611.9 million
Mel Gibson's pet project targeted churchgoers and became the only indie in the 100 top-grossing U.S. films.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Production budget: $5 million
Worldwide gross: $368.7 million
Nia Vardalos's one-woman play wowed Rita Wilson, who wooed her husband, Tom Hanks, to turn it into a movie.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)Production budget: $60,000
Worldwide gross: $248.6 million
The shaky-cam horror flick pioneered Internet movie marketing with intriguing Web footage a year before release.
A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.