Best Will Smith Movies
Will Smith debuted on the big screen in "Where the Day Takes You" in 1992. Thirty years after that first film role, Smith brought home Oscar gold for his role as Richard Williams in "King Richard" at the 2022 Academy Awards.
In those 30 years, Smith has crafted a career as one of the biggest movie stars of all time — an A-lister who has seemingly dipped his toe in every genre, from action to drama to comedy to even animation.
Here's a look at the 32 films Smith has had either a leading or supporting role in during his (mostly) illustrious career — no cameos, "Jersey Girl" fans — and how they rank from worst to first.
Warning: This article contains major spoilers for all of Will Smith's films.
32. Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
Will Smith's career hit back-to-back speedbumps with "Wild Wild West" in 1999 and "The Legend of Bagger Vance" in 2000 — two consecutive box-office disasters after years of smash hits.
While "Wild Wild West" and its awfulness have been mostly forgotten over the years, "Bagger Vance" remains a blot on Smith's career thanks to its head-scratching use of Black stereotypes — mainly how director Robert Redford handles Smith's role as the titular character.
Audiences responded in kind. "Bagger Vance" barely made back half its budget at the box office.
31. Wild Wild West (1999)
Will Smith had stretched the sci-fi genre to its very limits by 1999, when he ran into the first bona fide disaster of his career with "Wild Wild West" — a remake of the television series from the 1960s.
"Wild Wild West" was so, so bad. And expensive. It cost upward of $240 million with marketing costs figured in and wasn't even able to make that back at the international box office.
The film was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards and won five, including Worst Picture and Worst Song.
30. Where the Day Takes You (1992)
It was exactly 30 years ago that Will Smith made his feature film debut as part of the ensemble drama "Where the Day Takes You" about teenage runaways in Los Angeles.
Director Marc Rocco, who had a minor hit with his previous film "Dream a Little Dream" starring Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, put together an impressive cast of young talent, including Smith, Dermot Mulroney, Sean Astin, Balthazar Getty, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ricki Lake, Laura San Giacomo, Kyle MacLachlan, Nancy McKeon, Alyssa Milan, David Arquett, Rachel Ticotin and Christian Slater.
29. Winter's Tale (2014)
Based on the beloved 1983 magical realism novel by Mark Helprin, "Winter's Tale" was a hot commodity in Hollywood. Oscar winner Martin Scorsese was attached to the film at one point before he deemed the book "unfilmable."
That didn't stop legendary screenwriter Akiva Goldsman from taking on the project as a director in 2014, and conscripting Will Smith to do him a solid by playing a supporting role as "Lucifer" with Colin Farrell as the lead.
Why did Smith owe Goldsman a favor? He was the screenwriter behind previous Smith blockbusters "I Am Legend" and "I, Robot." Although "Winter's Tale" was panned critically and lost a ton of money.
28. Collateral Beauty (2016)
We will give it to Will Smith's biggest failures as a leading actor. They weren't for lack of trying.
The undigestible "Collateral Beauty" starred Smith as a grief-stricken man writing letters to Love, Time and Death. Then, he gets personal responses from them.
Backing up Smith in the cast were Academy Award winners Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren, along with Academy Award nominees Edward Norton and Keira Knightley.
And even though the movie was awful, it still turned a profit. After being made for $36 million, it grossed $88 million.
27. Seven Pounds (2008)
Let's get the most important part of Will Smith's "Seven Pounds" out of the way first. The 2008 film was made for around $50 million and grossed $170 million at the box office. That type of return shows why Smith has been in our lives as an A-Lister for so long.
But making money doesn't guarantee a good movie. This film, while fascinating on the surface, becomes almost unwatchable in its execution, as Smith connects with people who will ultimately benefit from his suicide by receiving his organs.
26. Made in America (1993)
Will Smith's early films were an eclectic mix, including the early 1990s comedy "Made in American" alongside another Academy Award winner, Whoopi Goldberg.
While the movie was largely forgettable, it was a huge hit upon its release, making $108 million at the box office against just a $20 million budget.
This was one of two films Smith had supporting roles in that came out in 1993. Smith didn't return to moviemaking until 1995 with "Bad Boys," kick-starting one of the great box-office runs of all time.
25. Bad Boys For Life (2020)
It's not that we can't understand why "Bad Boys For Life" was made. We just can't understand why it was made almost 20 years after the previous film in the "Bad Boys" franchise came out in 2003.
We will say this about Will Smith. He's not against giving a helping hand to his former costars and friends. In this case, that seems like attempting to revive the career of Martin Lawrence.
While we're talking about how bad "Bad Boys For Life" is compared to its predecessors, its box-office returns leave nothing to the imagination, because it made almost $500 million at the worldwide box office against a budget of $90 million.
24. Aladdin (2019)
Will Smith was in full-on "playing it safe" mode in 2019, when he rolled out three leading roles — two of which were in movies geared almost entirely for children with the animated "Spies in Disguise" and the live-action remake of Disney's "Aladdin."
While "Aladdin" made over $1 billion at the worldwide box office it was almost wholly forgettable and unnecessary — the latest in Disney's live-action remakes of classic animated movies.
It should be noted that 2019 also ended a two-year break without movies for Smith, who hadn't had a movie come out since Netflix's "Bright" in 2017.
23. Bad Boys II (2003)
We remember enjoying "Bad Boys II" when it was released, so we were surprised by the critical savaging it took when we looked back on reviews.
When we went back for a rewatch, it's obvious this is not a movie that holds up very well. In fact, it doesn't really hold up at all.
This turd of a movie, also directed by Michael Bay, who directed the original, was always going to be made. That they went ahead and made a third one after this is pretty deplorable.
22. Gemini Man (2019)
Every now and then, movies come along that receive more praise for their technological achievements than for the movie itself. Such was the case of "Gemini Man" starring Will Smith and directed by two-time Academy Award winner Ang Lee.
"Gemini Man" was notable for its use of a groundbreaking camera that films at 120 frames per second and Smith playing dual roles — one as a de-aged version of himself. But that's it.
21. Spies in Disguise (2019)
Did we really need two movies for kids from Will Smith in 2019? Probably not. But the animated "Spies in Disguise" was the better of the two, beating out the turgid "Aladdin" by a long shot.
It still wasn't very good. Outside of his role as Spider-Man, Tom Holland is mostly unbearable, and this backs that up.
Despite making $171 million at the box office, "Spies in Disguise" was considered a failure against a budget of just north of $100 million.
20. Concussion (2015)
One of the dirty secrets of the NFL for decades was that some of the league's former players were suffering greatly following their careers due to their years bashing each other's heads in on a football field.
In "Concussion," Will Smith played Dr. Bennett Omalu, the man most responsible for uncovering the league's secret — chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated hits to the head.
Smith, as he's been prone to do every few years, was taking another shot at Oscar gold with his role here. He ended up nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Drama.
19. MIB II (2002)
There's a lot to be desired when it comes to the sequels Will Smith has put out over his career, which so far have been regulated to the "Men in Black" and "Bad Boys" franchises.
After the smash success of "Men in Black" in 1997, a sequel was inevitable. In this case, "MIB II" falls quite a bit short of "MIB 3," which was released a decade later in 2012.
All that being said, "MIB II" made almost $500 million at the box office.
18. Hancock (2007)
"Hancock" was one of the first on-screen attempts at subverting the superhero genre. It was done much better in later years using television as a medium for shows like "The Boys" and "Invincible" on Amazon Prime and "Watchmen" on HBO.
"Hancock" comes really close to breaking into the upper tier of Will Smith movies but just misses by a hair. We attribute this to the movie pulling punches somewhat, with cuts made late in the game that changed the rating from R to PG-13.
17. After Earth (2013)
"After Earth" reteamed Will Smith with his son, Jaden Smith, nine years after the smash success of "The Pursuit of Happyness" in 2006 — a movie that gained Will Smith an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
"After Earth" ended up being the lowest point of Will Smith's career. The M. Night Shyamalan-directed film was savaged by critics and fans alike, with most of that criticism centered around Jaden Smith's performance.
Will Smith eventually called the film "the most painful experience" of his career.
16. Bright (2017)
Sometimes Will Smith gets ahead of the curve. We like to think audiences didn't quite understand what Netflix was trying to do when it came to feature films when it released the fantasy/sci-fi movie "Bright" in a reteaming of Smith and "Suicide Squad" director David Ayer.
People were pretty hard on "Bright" when it came out, but the proof is in the pudding somewhat. It remains one of the most streamed Netflix movies of all time.
15. Suicide Squad (2016)
The best parts about director David Ayer's "Suicide Squad" were Will Smith playing Deadshot and Margot Robbie playing Harley Quinn in almost buddy cop form.
In a film mostly notable for having a green light to use the Joker but not using him, Smith and Robbie stood out as DC Comics villains. For some reason, Robbie came back for the 2021 sort-of sequel "The Suicide Squad," but Smith did not because of "scheduling conflicts."
In a world of comic-book movies that now includes multiverses across both DC and Marvel films, here's hoping we see Smith as Deadshot again.
14. I, Robot (2004)
"I, Robot" was a case of Will Smith giving the fans exactly what they wanted — a summertime sci-fi blockbuster with him saving all of earth and humanity in some way, shape or form.
Smith has been so smart about how he handles the sci-fi genre. After a deluge of hits early in his career, he's made sure to make a sci-fi movie every 2-3 years throughout his career.
Which we love him for.
13. Shark Tale (2004)
There were very few genres Will Smith hadn't conquered by 2004. He checked another one off the list with the animated hit "Shark Tale." The voice cast included fellow Academy Award winners Robert De Niro, Renee Zellwegger, Angelina Jolie and Martin Scorsese.
"Shark Tale" was a huge hit. It made almost $400 million at the box office with a budget of just $70 million.
Smith didn't make another animated film for 15 years, when he came back with "Spies in Disguise" in 2019.
12. Hitch (2005)
Audiences had never seen Will Smith in a role outside of an action movie hero or a hardcore drama before "Hitch" in 2005, a romantic comedy where he stars as a "date doctor" opposite Evan Mendes and Kevin James.
Guess what? Audiences really took to Smith as a romantic leading man. The movie was a gigantic success, with almost $400 million in box-office earnings against a budget of around $70 million.
11. MIB3 (2012)
The "Men in Black" franchise — the Will Smith version — came to a fitting close with "MIB3" in 2012, thanks to a smart time travel plotline that saw Josh Brolin stepping in as a young Tommy Lee Jones, which turned out to be a perfect fit.
It's such perfect casting because we can't think of another actor in Hollywood that could have actually played Jones' younger version. There's an especially poignant scene at the end that involves Will Smith's character "J" watching a mind-bending twist that wraps all three films together.
10. Focus (2015)
Will Smith has chemistry with almost anyone he's ever shared the screen with. Part of his appeal is whether it's a German shepherd or a craggy old white man or Academy Award-winning actresses, it's always electric.
Never has that been more apparent than the 2015 con artist movie "Focus" with Smith opposite Academy Award-nominated actress Margot Robbie.
"Focus" made $158 million at the box office against a $50 million budget and represented a return to form for Smith, who'd had back-to-back box-office disasters with "After Earth" in 2013 and a supporting role in "Winter's Tale" in 2014.
9. Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Will Smith didn't receive his first Academy Award nomination until he was nominated for Best Actor in 2001 for "Ali." But you can make a good argument that Smith should have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Six Degrees of Separation" in 1993.
In a weird twist, "Six Degrees" came back into the spotlight when Smith released his memoir in 2021 and disclosed the disintegration of his first marriage came about partly because he'd fallen in love with costar Stockard Channing during filming.
Channing ended up nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the film.
8. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Here's how big of a star Will Smith was by 2006. A gutwrenching drama about a homeless San Francisco man struggling to make his way through an internship at a brokerage firm made over $300 million at the box office.
What propels the movie is Smith's charm, charisma and vulnerability, no doubt given a huge lift by having his son, Jaden, play his character's son as they struggle to make it out of poverty.
The movie was based on the true story of stockbroker Chris Gardner, and Smith received his second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his role.
7. Bad Boys (1995)
Michael Bay was the signature action movie director of the 1990s and early 2000s. Bay was already one of the best music video directors of all time when he made his feature film debut with "Bad Boys" in 1995.
The pairing of Bay and Will Smith early in their careers proved to be box-office gold. It's worth acknowledging that it's Bay who turned Smith into a sex symbol thanks to those gratuitous, shirt-off shots that pepper the movie.
Smith later said he didn't understand what Bay was doing at the time.
6. King Richard (2021)
"King Richard" was the movie that finally brought Will Smith Oscar glory, when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Richard Williams, the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.
It's unfortunate we won't ever talk about how great this movie was or how great Smith's performance was moving forward — thanks to Smith walking on the stage at the Academy Awards and slapping comedian Chris Rock after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's hair loss.
5. Enemy of the State (1998)
By the time "Enemy of the State" came out in 1998, no actor in the world was more popular than Will Smith.
This was the succession of movies Smith made in a row — "Bad Boys" (1995), "Independence Day" (1996), "Men In Black (1997) then "State" alongside fellow Academy Award winner Gene Hackman and Lisa Bonet.
Our only complaint? We would have loved to see at least one more collaboration between Smith and the late Tony Scott, who directed the movie, and at least one more with Hackman, who retired from acting in 2004.
4. Men in Black (1997)
"Men in Black" was the third summer in a row Will Smith released a blockbuster, big-budget movie. And the third year in a row the movie was a gigantic hit.
By the time "MIB" came out, Smith had perfected his role as the lead in these types of films. As far as sci-fi movies go, few are more perfectly enjoyable than "MIB."
The dynamic chemistry between Smith and costar Tommy Lee Jones deserves a large part of the credit for that.
3. Independence Day (1996)
"Independence Day" is the movie that made Will Smith an international movie star. It was the highest-grossing film of 1996 and showed he had the gravitas to carry a blockbuster movie of the highest order.
It also showed Smith the power of the sci-fi genre and its fans, which he has loyally returned to like clockwork over the next three decades.
If you're not watching "ID4" every year on July 4, we think you might be doing it wrong.
Like the man said — "Welcome to Earth."
2. Ali (2001)
You could say thatWill Smith's Oscar win for "King Richard" in 2022 was one of those "lifetime of work" wins that happen sometimes. One of the roles you can point to in order to back up that argument is his stunning turn as Muhammad Ali in the 2001 biopic "Ali" directed by Michael Mann.
Smith was nominated for Best Actor for "Ali" but lost to Denzel Washington, who won for "Training Day." It's an embarrassment for the Academy Awards that Mann wasn't nominated for Best Director, and "Ali" wasn't nominated for Best Picture.
1. I Am Legend (2007)
Two versions of Richard Matheson's legendary sci-fi novel hit the silver screen before we got Will Smith's big-budget blockbuster in 2007 — "The Last Man on Earth" starring Vincent Price in 1964 and "The Omega Man" starring Charlton Heston in 1971.
How many stars in the history of movies could do what Smith does here and carry an entire movie with 90 percent of the on-screen time being himself, a German shepherd and a pack of CGI zombies? Not many.
It speaks to the popularity and brilliance of Matheson's work that the concept endured over such a long period of time, and we're of the camp that the alternate ending of Will Smith's version — the one where he lives — should've been the one that made it into theaters.
And guess what? Apparently, the people who made the movie thought so as well. A sequel starring both Smith and Michael B. Jordan is now in the works.