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12 Times Production Setbacks Made Movies Better

List Rules
Vote up the times when big problems actually made movies better in the long run.

Not every movie can have the unlimited financial resources of a James Bond sequel. But sometimes, budget problems improve movies and can actually have an inadvertently positive effect on the end product, forcing more creative problem-solving out of film crews that yield iconic silver screen moments. There's a reason necessity is the mother of invention.

Some of these lucky accidents in movies are listed below, and it's up to you to determine which movies were abetted most by their production setbacks!

  • In his first big-screen adventure, archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) at one point gets involved in an epic chase through the streets of Cairo. In the middle of this chase, he finds himself confronted by a hot-shot local swordsman, who grins expectantly and brandishes an impressive blade, hoping for a duel with the whip-wielding Indiana Jones. Jones is hardly in the mood for anything so gaudy, and instead just shoots him. The funniest non-fight in movie history came about when scheduling delays convinced director Steven Spielberg and producer Frank Marshall to scrap the elaborate fight they had storyboarded in favor of something brisker.

    "We were supposed to shoot this huge fight between the whip and the sword," Marshall told The Hollywood Reporter years later. "It took the whole morning to shoot just three storyboards." Meanwhile, Harrison Ford was dealing with some physical discomfort, which further necessitated a faster fight.

    "Somehow, somebody said, 'I've got this gun, why don't I just use it?'" Marshall said. "The key there is, when you're given that challenge, solving it gets you to a better place and gets you to a better idea."

  • In ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail,’ The Running Gag Of Using Coconuts Instead Of Horses Was A Money-Saving Ploy
    Photo: EMI Films

    For a movie largely funded by the British prog-rock stars of its era, Monty Python and the Holy Grail had more of a punk production ethos. A fairly low-budget, scrappy affair, it earned its flowers from audiences most when it leaned into this reality. This was never more evident than perhaps the signature recurrent visual gag of the film: the use of coconut shells being knocked together to conjure up the sound of horse hooves in lieu of having our heroic knights riding horses.

    "If we’d had the money, we would have had real horses," co-director (and coconut shell-knocker) Terry Gilliam commented years after filming. "[But] we had to get clever and thank God, because the coconuts saved our *ss. It’s one of those things that’s, in retrospect, brilliant.”

  • The memorable late-night ice-skating scene that cements the romance between loan collector/part-time boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and timid pet store cashier Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire) in Rocky (1976) derives a lot of its charm from a budgetary necessity. Heart-warmingly sweet in its intimacy, the couple's first date moment came about due to a variety of circumstances. Director John G. Avildsen resisted the original first date idea proposed in Stallone's screenplay, a diner get-together, as being too familiar. Instead, he pitched the ice-skating rink.

    The production team was trying to steer clear of the Philadelphia Teamsters' union, which was beyond its budget. The scene was set to be filmed while the rink was open and would use actual paying customers as extras, but the local union became aware of the plan. After the production relocated to LA, it still could not afford to pay extras to populate the rink. Though the original diner location was being pushed, Avildsen remained committed to the ice rink concept, and ultimately filmed it with just Shire and Stallone, making for the unforgettable moment we have today.

    “It’s so much sweeter and [more] unique that way,” Avildsen said in a 2017 documentary, John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs. “And we didn’t have to pay the extras!”

  • Though the fourth Mad Max franchise entry cost upwards of $150 million to produce (and that's not including a marketing budget that was probably at a similar level), the series had humble origins.

    Series director George Miller's original 1979 post-apocalyptic Australian actioner cost just $350,000 and had to pull favors as much as it could to build up its scale. Most of the film's background bikers were purportedly paid in beer. To populate most of the background bikes and bikers, Miller and his production team recruited the real thing locally (including a local motorcycle club, the Vigilantes), who supplied their own wheels for the movie's many stunts.