This entry isn’t the only time you’ll see James Cameron on this list, but he comes steaming in with this 1997 epic. Titanic is something hard to explain to people who weren’t around at the time. Why did this fictionalized movie about a real-life 1912 tragedy take off with audiences so much? The world may never know, but it doesn’t change the fact that this movie was the must-see holiday movie of 1997.
Many predicted this movie would tank at the box-office since it was such an expensive venture, the most expensive film at the time. How quickly the analysts were proved wrong as Titanic made $120 million in less than a month, still having sell-out showings weeks after the release. Many credited the love story as the reason why the film took off with viewers; that theory looks to be accurate as the February 14th, 1998 screening had the highest single-day gross of its original run.
6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
One of the most remarkable things about The Lords of the Rings franchise doing so well at the box-office is just how niche the source material feels. The fact that each film felt like a massive moment in popular culture is surprising, but none of the other films compare to the hype around The Return of the King. Even the New Zealand premiere felt big with a quarter of Wellington’s population lining the streets.
The box-office run of The Return of the King didn’t disappoint as it brought in mass amounts of money, even becoming the second film to earn over a billion dollars. Many also consider this not just a great event film, but one of the best films of all time. While that’s subjective to many, it’s hard to argue with such claims when the film is a winner of eleven Academy Awards. It’s also a winner of four Golden Globes, five BAFTAs, two Grammy Awards, and many other popular awards.
5. The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight is a compelling case for this list, as it became an event movie slowly over its run. Leading up to the film, many people didn’t know what to expect as it was following the over-looked Batman Begins and starring Heath Ledger as The Joker. Odd to think to now that people were hesitant about this film, but it wasn’t until months before the film’s release that things shifted in terms of the film’s hype.
With the passing of Heath Ledger and the marketing moving more towards showcasing his outstanding work, people began to get interested in the film more. The opening weekend came, and The Dark Knight was a massive hit with every IMAX theaters showing sold out for the first weekend. The film’s reception stayed positive critically and commercially, all the way up to the Academy Awards where Ledger took up a posthumous Supporting Actor award.
At the time of writing, no movie has come close to taking the throne of the highest-grossing film from Avatar. Much like the other James Cameron film on this list, it’s hard to pinpoint why exactly this film became such an event, but it’s still an event movie. This conversation around this movie was insane at the time, with everyone buzzing from the alien design to James Cameron bringing back the 3D gimmick.
It seems like no one wanted to miss out on this as Avatar was the first film to cross $2 billion at the box-office. That’s a feat that only four movies have ever done, and Avatar still sits high above the rest. The total number is impressive, but even the smaller records it broke were impressive. The film set an IMAX opening weekend record, with 178 theaters generating approximately $9.5 million. Also, it became the first film to gross over $700 million in the U.S. and Canada. Talk about a real Hollywood event!
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