Pirates Of The Caribbean
The biggest mega-blockbuster of its opening summer, and one of the top 100 grossing movies of all time, this started out as an almost cancelled movie, and spared from mediocrity or cancellation a dozen times. Johhny Depp was a cult-film small-potatoes actor when selected for the role, and his take on a pirate who was more of a rock star (Keith Richards, in fact) so confused and dismayed Disney CEO Michael Eisner he said at one daily screening "You're ruining the film!". Depp stood his ground, and told Eisner to either trust him or fire him. Fortunately, Eisner chose wisely. Depp also gets the best character intro in POTC captured on film since John Wayne was seen swinging a Winchester in Stagecoach.
The movie took a straight shot at being a pirate movie, then was steered into being a ghost story by producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his writing team, and comedy fun by director Gore Verbinski. It was widely expected to be a huge-budget flop; instead, it took the summer by storm, and immediately became the number one picture, staying on top overseas for seven consecutive weeks, and earning back its entire $125M production budget in the first week alone. Between US, foreign, and DVD sales, it pulled in nearly $1B, spanning to date four sequels, with no end in sight, and made Johnny Depp, due entirely to his quirky and phenomenal performance, an international megastar. Proof yet again of William Goldman's adage about Hollywood: "Nobody in this town knows nothing."