It’s safe to say that “Avatar” — the years-in-the-making sci-fi opus from James Cameron — is the most hotly anticipated film of the decade. Here are some other features that the masses clamored to see — including another entry from Mr. Cameron.
1. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace — Star Wars fans clamored for this picture for years after “Return of the Jedi” left theaters, finally getting their wish in 1999. Fanboys were so excited that they streamed into the clunky Brad Pitt vehicle “Meet Joe Black” just to see a trailer for “The Phantom Menace,” leaving before Mr. Pitt’s film even began.
2. Titanic — Mr. Cameron’s last film wasn’t always destined to become the highest-grossing film of all time. Its bloated budget and runaway shooting schedule led trade papers and fans alike to think Mr. Cameron had lost his mind: Half of those looking forward to the film simply wanted to see him crash and burn.
3. Independence Day — It all started with a very simple image during a Super Bowl commercial: The White House consumed with fire during an alien attack. For the next four months, people couldn’t wait to get into the theater.
4. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring — Generations of fantasy lovers eagerly awaited (and sometimes dreaded) Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterwork. They were not disappointed by the first entry in the series.
5. The Godfather Part III — More than two decades after the epic second part of the “Godfather” series, Francis Ford Coppola delivered the third. Most wish he had stopped at two.