Reviews started to pour in earlier this week for Will Smith's new existential drama, Collateral Beauty, in which Smith encounters the personifications of Love, Death, and Time when dealing with the grief of his daughter's passing. Although reviews for the film haven't been kind, this film is just one of dozens of roles the actor has had, and it won't change the fact that he was one of the absolute biggest Hollywood stars of the '90s.
Smith's small screen performance in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a teen who relocates from Philadelphia to live with his rich relatives, captivating audiences with a unique fish out of water story. Smith's transition to the world of movies was so successful, in fact, there were multiple years in a row where audiences came to expect seeing him dominate 4th of July weekend with a humorous action-adventure story.
What are you favorite Will Smith movies? Make sure to let us know in the comments the roles that we missed!
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Mike Lowrey - Bad Boys/Bad Boys II
Smith's first foray into a leading man role came alongside Martin Lawrence, another rising sitcom star from the show Martin, in the Michael Bay directed Bad Boys. This role was a perfect outlet for Smith's comedic chops and physical presence, proving he could look authentic shooting a gun and give his partner a hard time along the way. The formula was so successful that eight years later, the trio reunited to continue the further adventures of these rude dudes.
Captain Steven Hiller - Independence Day
As aliens sent spaceships to all corners of the globe to destroy the human race, it was up to Steven Hiller to stop them. The cast of Independence Day was full of actors on the brink of potential stardom, with Bill Pullman following his While You Were Sleeping heat, Jeff Goldblum riding his Jurassic Park success, and Randy Quaid taking his fame from...Bye Bye Love? Regardless, Smith was the standout performer in the film, despite Goldblum holding his own as the nerdy computer guy and Pullman giving one of the most memorable speeches in all of cinema. This film's success kicked off a string of Smith bringing his wit and charm to summer action-adventure blockbusters.
Jay - Men In Black Trilogy
A beat cop learns he's in far over his head as he gets sucked into the role of cleaning up after mysterious alien occurrences around the world in the Men in Black films, which gave Smith some of his peak box office draws of his career. Tommy Lee Jones proved the perfect foil for Smith, contributing a stoic literalism in world full of outrageous characters.
Muhammed Ali - Ali
Smith got to flex his more dramatic muscles in films like Enemy of the State and The Legend of Bagger Vance, but neither of those compare to taking on the performance of one of the most famous athletes of all time in Ali. In addition to dramatic muscle, Smith also put on literal muscle to embody the outspoken Muhammed Ali. His performance was so compelling, in fact, that he snagged a nomination a that year's Academy Awards for Best Actor.
[H/T YouTube/Movie Clips]
Chris Gardner - The Pursuit of Happyness
Five years after his Oscar nomination, Smith returned to a dramatic role in The Pursuit of Happyness, the story of a man struggling to take care of his son, turn his life around, and make something of himself. The film was full of heavy dramatic sequences, and knowing that his actual son, Jaden, played his son in the movie clearly affected Smith in his portrayal and helped portray a father's devotion to his family. Against seemingly insurmountable odds, Gardner was able to ensure the wellbeing of his family and demonstrate that he had what it took to survive in the cutthroat world of sales.
Robert Neville - I Am Legend
Robert Neville is a man in a world that has long been left in shambles after a mysterious illness transforms humans into terrifying creatures that stalk the empty streets at night. Neville might not be the most memorable science fiction character of all time, but Smith was tasked with keeping an audience engaged in a film in which he mostly talks to himself or his pet dog. Without many other actors to engage with, Smith succeeded in this sci-fi epic conveying the horrors of science, with one scene in particular that Smith shares with his pet dog serving as quite the tearjerker.
Deadshot - Suicide Squad
This is another example of Smith absolutely shining in an otherwise mediocre movie, as his performance as Deadshot was one of the most entertaining elements of Suicide Squad. Smith had been involved in plenty of films in his career that might have a similar tone to Suicide Squad, with its blend of action and adventure, but never brought an established character to life in quite the way he did with Deadshot. One sequence in particular, where Deadshot stands toe-to-toe with Ben Affleck's Batman, is one of the most exciting, as you truly feel like you're seeing charismatic movie stars coming together in a way only Marvel had accomplished.