Ever since he landed on our screens as the cheeky Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith has taken us on a cinematic journey of highs and lows with a lot of laughs on the way.
But the Fresh Prince has come a long way from his rapping roots and his rise to fame has been meteoric catapulting Smith to win four Grammys and become one of the wealthiest actors in Hollywood.
We all love his infectious laugh and huge grin as Smith appears larger than life on screen. Who hasn’t danced along to the catchy "Men in Black" theme tune?! (Don’t pretend you don’t know all the moves!)
And as Smith has matured, his comedic roles have been broken up by some truly heartbreaking performances. But even when the mood takes a serious turn, he is able to add that humor and fun into any scene turning a heartrending moment into one that still manages to leave you with a smile.
We’ve also watched Smith raise a family of his own, always with his trademark wit. He also raises a smile in interviews, recently telling the story of how his son Jaden flew to London to celebrate his 18th birthday - just so he could order alcohol! It seems his son has inherited his dad’s cheekiness!
15 Men in Black
Will Smith brings cool to the secret alien-hunting organization in Men in Black. His role as J., a NYPD officer dragged into the crazy world of coffee-drinking aliens and killer bugs, is the perfect antidote to Tommy Lee Jones’ brooding and serious K.
He faces a race against time to save the world from an alien race determined to destroy it forever but even the constant threat of extinction doesn’t stop Smith from cracking a few jokes and keeping us laughing the whole 90 minutes.
As J. says himself when getting suited and booted for the film, “You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look GOOD.”
His ability to rap as well as act saw him star in the soundtrack for this blockbuster and saw cinema aisles everywhere filled with dancers copying Smith and his alien backup dancers.
14 Independence Day
What is it with Will Smith and aliens? The 90s saw him star in another alien-based disaster movie – Independence Day. When Captain James Hiller, played by Smith, finds a crash landed alien ship it catapults him into a fight against the race determined to take over the planet.
One of the first scenes of Smith dragging a dead alien across the desert after shooting down his vessel is a classic. He complains and moans at the alien’s lifeless body as if finding a brand new creature is an everyday thing! “Y'know, this was supposed to be my weekend off, but noooo. You got me out here draggin' your heavy ass through the burnin' desert with your dreadlocks stickin' out the back of my parachute.”
Of course Smith wins the day and saves the planet for the second time this decade, and the fight is won on Independence Day. A sequel, without Smith, was released earlier this year but wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm as the original which has become one of the most popular films of the 90s.
13 Bad Boys
Will Smith teams up with Martin Lawrence to play two cool detectives who are protecting a murder witness while tracing stolen heroin. Smith, as womanizing Mike Lowry, is the complete opposite of his Miami police partner Marcus Burnett who is a family man with kids and a nagging wife. This on-screen chemistry leads to a role swap where each pretends to be the other so they can encourage a murder witness to help in their case. In a 72 hour race to find the drugs, it is really the relationship between the two main men that keeps you entertained. Once again, Smith’s trademark cheeky grin keeps you hooked as the pair rush through stunning action sequences and gun fights.
Smith, as usual, is the antihero – fighting against the authority of his police captain to get the job done and the criminals caught his way.
12 Wild Wild West
This crazy, steampunk-inspired film sees Smith pick up his microphone again and rap the soundtrack to this riot of a movie.
Captain James “Jim” West is one of the best hired guns in the West and battles huge mechanical spiders and leaps along moving trains to save the President from the psychotic Arliss Loveless.
While it was slammed by critics and didn’t make big bucks at the box office, it has since become a guilty pleasure for many Smith fans and is the perfect film to watch if you want impossible stunts and don’t care too much about a story line.
Smith is what makes this film great with his well delivered one liners and disregard for the law.
As President Grant puts it, “And you, West, not every situation calls for your patented approach of ‘shoot first, shoot later, shoot some more and then when everybody's dead try to ask a question or two’.”
A cop with a hatred for robots ends up saving his mechanical companions in this 2004 film. Irony, huh? With action all the way through and a crazy, upside down car chase through a tunnel, Smith takes us on a wild ride through a technological future filled with robots with his perfect comedic timing.
When a robot becomes the prime suspect in a crime, it is up to Del Spooner (Smith) to find the truth.
Charming Smith jokes his way through this peril-filled epic and manages to overcome his hatred of technology and get the girl.
The relationship between Smith and Sonny, the robot with a heart, is an endearing one as Smith skilfully makes you feel for this collection of wires and metal while also cracking jokes and finding humor along the way.
The uptight leading lady, Susan Calvin, is the sounding board Smith can work with showing his relaxed and rebellious nature against a stickler for the rules.
Professional “date doctor” Hitch is used to women falling at his feet, but when he becomes smitten with gossip columnist Sara opposites attract and the complications continue when one of Sara’s scoops is Hitch’s client.
Cheesy one-liners that would usually make you heave are expertly delivered by Smith in the role of womanizer Hitch making you chuckle rather than reach for the bucket.
The honesty of Hitch when he bares his soul to the one woman that has stolen his heart makes you love Smith even more (if that was possible!).
While Hitch has the cheeky quotes and winning smile, Smith can also bring depth to the role and make you feel for this character by revealing the vulnerable person underneath the larger than life personality.
The 2005 film wasn’t one of Smith’s most popular films but it gave him a chance to show another side of his acting and step away from the goofy, clumsy joker he had played in previous romcoms.
This 2008 superhero-ish film sees Smith play John Hancock (imaginative name!) a drunken, loudmouth superhero whose bad behavior leaves a trail of destruction in his wake.
But after saving one PR master, they work with him to improve his public image and become more Superman than Deadpool.
The most hated man in Los Angeles, Hancock’s alcoholism costs the city dearly every time he tries to “rescue” someone in trouble.
In the early noughties, a run of big budget superhero movies hit the cinemas and left audiences a little tired of these whiter than white defenders of the people. This is why Hancock was made just at the right time. Smith brings the added clumsiness and just downright goofiness you need to make this character work and his screen partner Charlize Theron rolls her eyes at his antics just enough to keep you interested for the full 90 minutes.
8 Shark Tale
Just in case you missed it (how could you?!) Will Smith also lent his memorable voice to the children’s animated film Shark Tale.
Smith plays Oscar, a young fish who pretends to have killed the son of the shark mob boss. What could go wrong? Oscar hams up his role to increase his ego but soon realizes this was a terrible mistake when the sharky underworld come after him.
While it didn’t do brilliantly at the box office, Shark Tale manages to have been hilarious while also teaching children a valuable message – don’t pretend you’ve killed a mobster just to sound cool in front of your friends.
Seriously though, this is a film you can happily watch with your children without feeling like you’re IQ is dropping by the minute. The story line is gripping and we all know Dreamworks know their stuff when it comes to the animation.
7 I Am Legend
Far from a trip underwater, this post apocalyptic tale of a man and his dog fighting to survive in a zombie-ravaged New York is dark as well as crawl-behind-the-sofa frightening. But again Smith, playing Robert Neville, manages to inject the humanity needed and lightens the mood at just the right points so you’re not left feeling scared to leave the room.
Through it all, scientist Neville is hoping to produce a cure of the terrible virus he couldn’t stop from infecting the population. As the last human alive, he faces the horrific creations twisted by the disease that overtook one of the world’s most densely-populated cities.
What he does know is that he is immune. And it is through his own blood that Neville hopes to find the antidote. But trying to carry out delicate experiments with a horde of clumsy zombies wandering about means it was never going to go exactly to plan...
6 The Pursuit of Happyness
I’ll give you fair warning, if you’ve had a bad week this is not the film for you. This heartbreaking tale tells the story of a salesman who has taken custody of his son as he battles to get people to buy into the “bone density scanners” he’s trying to peddle.
Based on a true story, Christopher Gardner (played by Smith), faces losing his wife, his home, his bank account and all the comforts that come with a steady job.
Forced to live on the streets with his son, he tries to become a stockbroker but is told he needs to go through six months of training – before he is paid.
This heartbreaking story is told brilliantly and leaves you feeling like you can really relate with the real life struggles of this broken salesman.
Smith once again adds the human element perfectly and the relationship between him and his on screen son is truly magical.
“I am the greatest!” No, not me, but the title character in this biopic – Muhammad Ali.
Will Smith transforms into one of the best known and loved sportsmen of our times in this biographical tale which follows Cassius Clay from 1964 and 1974.
From shocking wins and controversial statements, the larger than life boxer really couldn’t have been portrayed by a better actor. Smith oozes the brashness and ego shown by the young and unbeatable Clay.
His friendship with Malcolm X and formidable boxing style makes Ali’s life story one of the most interesting biographies made in recent times.
Even if you’re no boxing fan, this film is a must watch and follows the young Muhammad Ali to Vietnam where he serves after rule changes mean he is eligible for the military.
This is surely one of Smith’s best performances and the critics agreed with Smith being nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
4 Enemy of the State
The accidental leading man, Smith plays harmless Robert Dean in this government thriller. When Dean accidentally receives key evidence to a political crime, the lawyer knows he is in deep trouble. Fighting off the NSA and corrupt politicians, Smith plays the man who loses everything in pursuit of truth and justice.
After the incriminating evidence is planted on Dean, he loses his wife and his job and is left wondering what has happened (I think alarm bells would be ringing!).
When he meets a mysterious man named “Brill” he discovers that he has unwittingly got what the government wants. It is then the pair get together and try to disrupt the authority and bring down the corrupt and shady characters at the very top of the country’s political system.
Smith’s snippy one-liners, often sandwiched between tense moments or big action sequences, give this film the balance of entertainment and thick plot that all good blockbusters need.
3 Seven Pounds
This thoughtful movie has been criticized for being a bit slow but if you have a bit of patience and a few snacks this is a good Sunday afternoon watch.
Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, a man haunted by a secret who is looking for redemption by transforming the lives of seven strangers.
But nothing is that simple in Hollywood or we’d all be watching 30 minute films. Smith ends up falling in love with one of his chosen strangers and this emotional roller coaster of a film is derailed.
Another film to watch if you’re in a good mood, Smith manages to take a difficult subject and make it accessible while also adding well timed humor to the mix to lighten this sometimes difficult and poignant film.
Who can resist a film with the quote: “In seven days, God created the world. And in seven seconds, I shattered mine.” You just have to know what happened, right?
2 The Legend of Bagger Vance
Will Smith plays the title role in this family movie about a caddy, Bagger Vance, who plays a round of golf with a jaded war veteran Captain Rannulph Junah. Vance teaches the vet the way to find something to live for.
You might think a two hour film about golf could be dull and to be honest, it isn’t rip roaring action and car chases every five minutes. But the story-line and message behind this tell a different story.
If you’re looking for a thoughtful film you can read into and escape for two hours by taking in the film’s deep message then fire up the DVD player and settle down.
However, if you’re used to watching Smith deliver witty one-liners while fighting off robots or flying through the sky then this isn’t the film for you.
1 Six Degrees of Separation
Before the Bad Boys hype and even before Will Smith donned his incredibly 90s sunglasses and black suit to become a Man in Black, there was Six Degrees of Separation.
Smith plays the main protagonist, Paul, who manages to upstage and control upper class art dealers by spinning them a yarn a mile long.
Based on a true story, the Manhattan elite are shown at their worst in this witty movie.
Smith, as Paul, stumbles into this family’s life suffering a stab wound and after whipping up a meal he convinces the wealthy residents he is the son of famous actor Sidney Poitier and is attending Harvard.
Obviously a conman (don’t tell me you’d be fooled by a dinner!) Paul manages to worm his way into the wealth and splendour of Manhattan until his web of lies becomes too tangled.
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