He’s a rapper, a family man, a comedy mastermind, a magnificent actor—and today is his forty-seventh birthday. He’s a master of all the feels whether in comedy, romance or action, and he has created a dynasty in television and in the box office. Will Smith is a man of many talents and we can only hope that he continues to grace our screens as he gracefully ages into even more of a dapper older gentleman.
Below is a countdown of Will Smith’s best movie roles. This list was generated by considering Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings, YouTube movie countdowns, IMDb rankings, and various other sources. Did your favorites make the list?
Set in 2035, Smith plays a police detective with a perfectly rational fear of robots. We were always well aware of the fact that Big Willy could throw down some heat when caught in a human tussle, and here we were reassured that if we were ever taken over by automatons bent on dominating the human race, Will wouldn’t disappoint.
In this romantic comedy, where we all learned to only go 90% into a smooch lean (leaving many a kiss unfinished), Smith calls back to his smooth “Fresh Prince” roots and uses his mad swoon skills to help poor Albert (Kevin James) get the girl.
Bad Boys was Smith’s first real breakout into big budget Hollywood action movies, and he totally crushed it. As narcotics detectives, Smith and his co-star Martin Lawrence lit up the screen—both literally and figuratively. None of us couldn’t (and still can’t) get enough of Mike Lowrey, the man who solidified Smith’s reputation as a smooth-talking, irresistible action front man.
Yet another performance full of equal parts humor and action-fueled intensity—plus some truly excellent late 90’s menswear. Will dazzled us with his dapper depiction of a Washington D.C. lawyer unwittingly caught up in a dangerous murder plot, demonstrating his ability to walk—or at least drive—away from an explosion.
In the breakout film for Smith’s son Jaden, Will definitely brought out the emotional big guns, and the Smith-Smith duo was unbeatable. Will’s stirring portrayal of real life entrepreneur Chris Gardner showcased a wide acting range and won him a wealth of praise; people still can’t stop talking about it.
Will Smith went above and beyond as the well known boxer Muhammad Ali in this 2001 hit flick. Floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, Will earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and fought his way to the top of the box office charts with an intense, poignant performance .
After he ascended to legendary action-star status with Mike Lowrey in the “Bad Boys” movies, Smith’s role in Independence Day vanquished any doubt that may have lingered. Nearly ten years later, Independence Day is still regarded as one of Smith’s best—and the source of one of the most iconic one-liners in American film history.
In another work that was based on a true story, Smith plays Paul—inspired by con artist David Hampton—who convinces high-society families to take him in, claiming he is the son of actor Sidney Poitier. The film is funny and heartfelt in turns; if you haven’t seen or heard of it, you can watch it on Amazon.
Will Smith dominated our big screens around the same time we were stuffing our faces with holiday treats in 2007—with only his dog as a costar. Smith’s role as the last surviving man in a post-apocalyptic world crawling with vampires was both moving and heartbreaking, and left a lasting impression on millions.
In case you thought we had forgotten it—of course we didn’t. Those of us who hold Men in Black near and dear to our hearts have thoroughly worn out our DVD copies (because our tapes disintegrated a long time ago) of the trilogy’s classic first film. Watching the skeptical, hilariously wisecracking Agent J adjust to fighting alien crime never gets old and never will no matter how many times we watch it.