The career of Will Smith has made him one of the biggest names in the history of entertainment. Smith showed talent with his hip hop songs along with his acting career taking off with the success of television series Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The popularity of Smith made him a hot commodity and the next step of progression was the big screen. Smith evolved into one of America’s sweethearts with starring roles in quite a few hit films. Every 90s kid has a fondness for the magic of Smith that has gone on for many decades.
As beloved as Smith is, unfortunately not all of his films are great. The recent history of his movie choices has resulted in some of the worst movies of our time. Smith’s movies range from classics that will always provide entertainment to stinkers that were always awful. We will take a look at both sides of the career of Smith. The majority of his movies are either remarkably charming or downright terrible. Both sides will be examined here. Smith’s box office career is on display as we take an in depth look into the eight best and seven best movies he has ever starred in.
15 Best: Concussion
One of the few great recent Will Smith films came out in 2015. Concussion saw Smith star as Dr. Bennet Omalu to tell the real story of the doctor’s discovery of concussion related injuries in the NFL ending careers and lives early. The emotional movie shows the struggle Omalu went through with the NFL attempting to ruin his career. Smith played the role to perfection and even delivered a picture Nigerian accent to stay true to the doctor.
Concussion received a slightly favorable rating of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes with the majority of viewers enjoying it. There were definitely some flaws in the storytelling, but it was an overall very good movie. Many NFL fans realized the epidemic of concussions harming lives in the game of football. This story is the main reason the league finally put in protocol to prevent players suffering from concussions to enter games. Smith using his talent in a powerful story was a great change of pace for his recent roles.
14 Worst: Suicide Squad
A recent film to show the negative side of Will Smith’s acting career was Suicide Squad. Fans were ecstatic at the news of Smith signing to play Deadshot in the DC films unique story. The movie featured a complete change from the usual feel good comic book movie. Suicide Squad placed together many of the most evil yet endearing villains in the DC world as they worked together to save the world.
Smith actually wasn’t bad in the film in the Deadshot role, but that wasn’t enough to save the movie from disaster. Suicide Squad made a lot of money due to interest in the story. However, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative from fans and critics alike. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an atrocious 25% positive rating and those to see the film ridiculed DC Films for another poor outing. Smith is in talks to play Deadshot once again in a movie specifically about the character that is hopefully better.
13 Best: The Pursuit of Happyness
Will Smith starred with his son and future internet sensation Jaden Smith in the heartwarming film The Pursuit of Happyness. Based off a true story, Smith plays a man who is suffering through hard times. Smith’s character Chris Gardner and his son struggle living from shelter to shelter. The homeless father takes a job at a law firm that pays no money forcing him to battle through the despair in hopes of it paying off in the end.
Gardner specifically thought of Smith as the right actor to play him and he was on the money. Smith’s emotional work in the role made The Pursuit of Happyness a movie anyone would tear up watching. The positive ratings of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes proved the majority of critics enjoyed the film. Smith showed his acting range outside of the usual comedic and action films. The Pursuit of Happyness was all emotion and drama that gave one of Smith’s better performances in the genre.
12 Worst: Hancock
The 2008 film Hancock was released at the beginning of the peak of superhero films. Hancock played by Will Smith provided a different story with the superhero being a huge jerk. The public turned against Hancock due to the damage left in his path when he uses his super powers to help others. Hancock being a rude anti-hero hooked in Smith to take the role as the star of the film.
A negative rating of 41% on Rotten Tomatoes saw the public react as negatively to Hancock as a movie as the public in the movie reacted to the hero. It often relied on lazy storytelling and didn’t provide the depth a story of this gene could have told. Smith played the character well enough, but the writing failed everyone involved. There are very few things as annoying in film as great talent being wasted. Smith unfortunately has to take the loss for Hancock.
11 Best: Ali
Will Smith did a tremendous job playing Muhammad Ali in the film about the legendary boxer’s life. Ali took a look at both his career ascension in boxing and the story of his life outside of the ring. Smith played Ali to perfection, especially in the deeper stories of his conversion to Islam and his political presence speaking out against war. Ali was regarded as one of the best films of 2001.
The performance by Smith earned him a nomination for Best Male Actor in a Leading Role at the 74th Academy Awards. Smith fell just short to Denzel Washington for his role in Training Day, but the nomination itself already proved how spectacular he was. Ali is considered by many to be the best pure acting role for Smith. The 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes did show that some critics weren’t impressed. Still, it is considered to be one of Smith’s best acting roles.
10 Worst: Focus
The forgotten film Focus was one of the recent stinkers associated with Will Smith’s name. Focus featured the story of Smith playing a con artist having to contend with his ex-girlfriend and former protégé in the heist of his life. Smith failed to bring the charm that usually carries even the weaker movies he stars in. Focus was considered a flop in just about every way imaginable.
The movie under performed in the box office for a film starring Smith. It was one of the first instances of his star power starting to dwindle in below average roles. Rotten Tomatoes has just 56% positive ratings for Focus making it a negatively viewed movie. Margot Robbie was the co-star of Smith in Focus before the two once again worked together for Suicide Squad. Despite being two talented actors, Smith and Robbie somehow end up being in awful movies together.
9 Best: I Am Legend
The post-apocalyptic thriller I Am Legend featured Will Smith playing a scientist as one of the last humans left on Earth after a plague killed or transformed the others into mutants. I Am Legend was ahead of the curve before the post-apocalyptic craze led to numerous movies and television shows being about the same subject over-saturated the market. The movie delivered huge success in the box office and reminded the world of Smith’s star power.
I Am Legend was a combination of a unique story, great writing and superb acting by Smith. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 70% rating showing even critics enjoyed the blockbuster film. Smith did a great job in the role showcasing the character’s struggle of being the last survivor attempting to work towards a cure. Many people still want a sequel to the hit film, but Smith’s character dying makes it nearly impossible to truly recapture the magic in continuing the story.
8 Worst: Shark Tale
Most star actors will eventually take a voice acting role in an animated film. Will Smith signed on to play the lead voice in the children’s’ movie A Shark's Tale. The problem is Shark Tale was released right around the time animated films started to improve its storytelling. Pixar’s hits created a higher level of expectations for the genre rather than just the same old lazy films with no depth.
Shark Tale was a combination of lazy and boring. Smith’s big voice acting role unfortunately led to a bust. The mob like movie about the sea creatures failed to impress the audience and critics. A negative rating of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes further confirms it was one of Smith’s worst films. You have to believe he expected huge success and multiple films out of the animated movie, but it didn’t succeed enough to create interest for movies.
7 Best: Enemy Of The State
Enemy of the State provided the ideal Will Smith action film. The story featured Smith’s character being framed for murder and his attempt to clear his name. Smith’s strengths as an actor clearly come from the comedy and action roles. The action here showed just how good Smith is as a leading man, especially since this time period in 1998 was around his peak as a mega-star.
A positive rating of 71% on Rotten Tomatoes shows Enemy of the State received mostly positive reactions from critics. It may very well be the most underrated film of Smith’s acting career. Many of his movies have been granted sequels to help add to the brand. Enemy of the State was a one and done film that perfectly told its story with great acting by Smith. It was definitely one of the better overall movies Smith has been the lead star of.
6 Worst: Wild Wild West
Wild Wild West was the first true abysmal movie Will Smith starred in. Not even the biggest Will fans could have enjoyed the abomination that hit cinemas. Smith and Kevin Kline starred in the western comedy that added the first noteworthy blemish to Smith’s resume. Wild Wild West relied on cheap laughs and hoped to succeed solely off the name value of Smith. The studios even convinced Smith to release a song of the same name to match the movie.
Unfortunately but deservedly for all involved, Wild Wild West was a massive flop tanking in the box office. The negative 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes chronicles the reaction from critics at the time for the horrible movie. If you believe Wild Wild West is Smith’s worst movie, you certainly have a strong argument. It was unquestionably his worst film for many years before a few recent blunders added negative competition.
5 Best: Independence Day
The essential Will Smith may very well be Independence Day. A thriller about an alien invasion coming to Earth on the Fourth of July saw Smith serve in the lead role as a Marine pilot leading the defense. Smith was able to play to both his comedic and action strengths with the movie being a huge success. There are definitely some glaring flaws to the movie, but the end result is one of the more charming stories about an alien invasion you’ll find.
Independence Day has been heralded for years since it’s released in 1996. The questionable 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes shows critics called out the movie on its flaws, but most viewers loved it. Smith fans will always view it at the top of his best films. The Independence Day franchise returned with a sequel in 2016 without Smith that completely bombed. Most of the charm associated with the first film was lost with the face of the franchise nowhere to be found.
4 Worst: Collateral Beauty
The most recent film of Will Smith as of this writing is confirmed to be one of his worst roles. Collateral Beauty was released in 2016 and was considered one of the worst movies all year. The story of Smith’s character dealing with grief led him to write letters to Love, Time and Death which all become characters in the movie. Collateral Beauty failed in both the box office and the reviews.
A horrendous rating of 12% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes tells you everything you need to know about Collateral Beauty. The movie ended up being Smith’s lowest opening in a lead role proving even his biggest didn’t want to see it. Collateral Beauty ended up hurting Smith’s reputation leading to many wondering if he was still a top level actor. The majority of his recent movies floundering and this one bombing in the box office must make Smith regret taking the role.
3 Best: Six Degrees of Separation
An underrated movie in the library of Will Smith’s acting career has to be Six Degrees of Separation. The film marked one of Smith’s first lead roles in a film and it truly showcased his talent. Smith played a young con man convincing a wealthy couple that he is a college friend of their children. The couple takes Smith in leading to an intriguing story that features many twists and turns.
Six Degrees of Separation helped push Smith’s career forward. Many believed his acting was best suited for comedy and television, but the unique film changed the perception. Rotten Tomatoes has 88% positive ratings for Six Degrees of Separation and the majority of the critics of the time commended Smith’s work in the movie. The star power of Smith provided the buzz needed to get people to watch it in theaters or get it on VHS back in 1993-1994.
2 Worst: After Earth
After Earth featured Will Smith and Jaden Smith once again bringing their father-son relationship to the screen in the story of humans finding a new home after being forced to leave the planet. Will plays the legendary general that helps run the new surroundings but having a negative relationship with his teenage son as they attempt to bond while accidentally crashing on enemy territory. As convoluted as it sounds, the movie somehow played out even worse on the big screen.
Reaction to the movie was overwhelmingly negative with just 11% positive ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. After Earth was the film that started to create the downward spiral for Smith’s acting roles. It seemed like he only took the role to try to help establish his son’s acting career. As commendable as it may as a father, it just made both Will and Jaden look bad in the process. After Earth was considered one of the worst movies in recent memory and should be viewed as Will’s worst movie in general.
1 Best: Men In Black
Will Smith showcased his charm, humor and acting skills all in the tremendous Men in Black movie. The huge hit saw Smith play the lead star along with Tommy Lee Jones as the “men in black” investigating alien activity on Earth. Fans and critics loved it with huge success in every aspect. A 92% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes makes it the highest rated Smith movie as of now. Men in Black made enough money to have a trilogy with each movie all providing success.
The charisma of Smith was the key to the franchise becoming a huge hit. Men in Black 3 also showed off the acting chops of Smith in one of his most recent great performances. The middle sequel Men in Black 2 did not reach the same success, but the franchise gave us two classics. It all started with the first Men in Black film establishing Smith as one of the biggest actors of our time.
Sources: Rotten Tomatoes, Movie Web