Ever since becoming The Fresh Prince superstar in the 90s, Will Smith has remained one of the most respected actors of our generation.
From making us laugh in Men in Black, kicking butt in Bad Boys, to getting us teary-eyed in The Pursuit of Happyness, this Hollywood icon continues to add unexpected and memorable roles to his very eclectic CV.
Now of course, nearly three decades of work can be difficult to sum up in one paragraph, so we’ve made your life much simpler by ranking it. Without further ado, here are Will Smith’s movies ranked from worst to best (in Tell Tales’ opinion, at least).
22. Bright (2017)
Although Bright had a wildly original premise, AKA an alternate world where mythical creatures live alongside us, the cringe-worthy dialogue and incomprehensible plot in this Netflix action movie make it almost unwatchable.
Will does his very best as a grumpy cop who pairs up with an orc-cop despite his prejudices, but even his character is not as loveable as it’s intended to be. All in all, his ‘worst’ film is proof that even the most beloved comedians can’t always make up for a bad story.
21. After Earth (2013)
If there’s one movie Will probably regrets doing, it’s After Earth. Despite a nice effort from him and his son Jaden, their incredible chemistry and some impressive visual effects cannot save this space adventure from falling flat.
20. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
In this eye-rolling golf drama, Will plays a wildly forgettable supporting role, helping Matt Damon’s character become a better golfer and figure out the meaning of life.
In another movie, the two actors could probably have had great chemistry, but their best efforts do not prevent Bagger Vance from sinking along with its many clichés.
19. Hancock (2008)
Will’s first dive into the superhero genre could have been fantastic, but it sadly doesn’t manage to take flight like its title character.
Hancock, the story of a superhero whose work destroys everything in his wake, had good intentions on the page, but failed to revive the superhero genre at a time where it was still dormant. Here, Will’s talent is dragged down by over-the-top writing and generally subpar action scenes.
18. Wild Wild West (1999)
Another genre Will doesn’t dabble in often is period dramas, let alone Westerns, but this movie proves he can pull it off just fine. It’s the forgettable screenplay, sadly, that makes this a snooze-fest despite its cast’s motivation.
People looking for a kitsch take on the Western genre will be able to stomach this with some popcorn and a soda, but don’t be surprised if you wake up the next morning realizing you’ve slept through most of it.
17. Aladdin (2019)
Reproducing Robin Williams’s epic role as the Genie was objectively impossible. The good thing about Will’s performance in this reboot is that he does not even try to emulate the late actor.
Instead of going down the extremely dangerous road that would anger thousands of fans, he gives the iconic Disney character his own spin and makes him likeable in a different way – the Will Smith way. Plus we get a bit of singing action from the star which is always fun.
16. Collateral Beauty (2016)
In this movie, Will plays an advertising executive who tries to rediscover the meaning of life after a life-changing loss. A drama film with good intentions that would have worked well if the pathos wasn’t so heavy-handed and the dialogue on the same level as that of an afternoon Christmas movie.
15. Seven Pounds (2008)
In this rather somber drama, Will plays a man who tries to make amends after accidentally killing seven people including his fiancé. Indeed, a synopsis that hints at something heart-wrenching, and ends up being mostly depressing.
As much as we love it when Will tackles dark roles that stray far from his Bel-Air days, the purposefully grim dialogue is just sad without any meaningful message to go with it.
14. I, Robot (2004)
We love it when Will plays goofy or sarcastic characters, but playing an angry cop who tries to save the world from a robot uprising also fits him like a glove.
This sci-fi thriller isn’t always as existentially profound as it was written to be, but Will’s broody acting, and some great visual effects (for 2004), make it a worthwhile Saturday night watch.
13. Concussion (2015)
Once again, Will proves he can be more than a pretty face by acting the heck out of this football drama, inspired by real events. The actor plays a doctor trying to raise awareness about the disastrous effect of head traumas on players.
The only reason why we didn’t give this movie a better ranking is because many of its ‘facts’ have long been disproven. Apart from this tiny disclaimer, Will’s gripping performance is so convincing, it’s no surprise it helped him get a Golden Globe nomination.
12. Suicide Squad (2016)
Suicide Squad sure had its problems (scratch that, this movie was a problem), but there’s no denying its ensemble cast was charismatic enough to wow us every now and then.
Will, who plays the pragmatic and confident Deadshot, was clearly more motivated than the screenwriters. He does contribute to save the messy plot from being a total and utter failure, which kind of makes us wish he played more superhero or villain roles.
11. Focus (2015)
In this crime film that doubles as a romance, Will gets to play a con artist whose reunion with his ex-apprentice and former flame (Margot Robbie) endangers his new scheme. There’s a lot to love in this upbeat comedy but let’s be honest – Will and Margot’s chemistry is what truly makes it stand out.
10. Gemini Man (2019)
In this mind-bending thriller, Will literally faces himself as he plays an elite assassin who realizes he’s targeted by a clone of his younger self.
Although the CGI can sometimes be slightly off, Will does a fantastic job making sure both roles look as though they are played by two different persons. This 2019 movie is simply fun to watch for the impressive stunts and Smith’s clear love for the story.
9. Bad Boys (1995)
What a great choice to kickstart his Hollywood career! Will Smith’s first blockbuster is a famous action-packed comedy that is still considered one of the best movies of the 90s till today.
He kills it as the suave and badass detective Mike Lowrey, and his chemistry with Martin Lawrence is one for the books. An all-around perfect recipe for an almost perfect movie.
8. Independence Day (1996)
It takes some time for Will to show up in this classic and popular adventure movie (25 minutes to be exact), but it’s well worth the wait.
In this run-of-the-mill ‘aliens have invaded’ scenario, Will plays a witty young pilot who is ready to do anything to save the world from doom. A heroic and fun role that blends his dramatic and comic talent to perfection.
7. Enemy of the State (1998)
Years of playing special agents, pilots and detectives have conditioned us to see Will as the kind of actor who can only ever play confident protagonists.
This movie however, challenges our expectations by having him become an honest everyman who was framed for murder. It seems like this kind of role shouldn’t stand out in a list of blockbusters, but that’s precisely what makes it so unique.
6. Men in Black (1997)
Although the last two films in this movie saga couldn’t quite compete with the greatness of the first installment, Will never let his hilarious performance as Agent Jay be hindered by bumps in the screenplay. There’s a reason why the best lines in the trilogy come from him.
5. Hitch (2005)
One of the most iconic rom-coms to date and a career defining role for Will. Knowing his real-life charisma, it’s not surprising to see him shine as a dating expert whose techniques are challenged by an indifferent, beautiful reporter.
Although some plot points are predictable, Will’s on-screen chemistry with Eva Mendes is off the charts and makes this romance flick a perfect Valentine’s Day (or any other day) watch.
4. Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Before he became a blockbuster superstar, Will surprised the world by playing a dramatic role that was quite out of his usual range – that of a young gay con artist who tricks a wealthy couple into trusting him and welcoming him into their world. Smith’s acting here is incredible for someone so young and truly foreshadows his varied career choices.
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3. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
After Earth was a disaster, but Jaden Smith’s first movie alongside his father was an absolute win and a powerful tearjerker. In this emotional drama, Will plays a down-on-his-luck father who is trying to get his life back on track after his wife left him.
The chemistry with his son is so authentic, it turned an ‘okay’ script into a wonderful story of resilience and love. Definitely one of the best Will Smith movies out there.
2. I Am Legend (2007)
In this gripping dystopian thriller, Will plays the last person roaming New York after a zombie outbreak. As he merely tries to survive alongside his adorable and loyal German Shepherd, his character finds himself on a path to save humanity.
Everything about this hit movie is top-notch, but Will Smith’s visceral performance as a lonesome dystopian cowboy is what makes it so excellent and is thus ranked as his second best film.
1. Ali (2001)
Here we have it, Will Smith’s best movie. It’s hard to imagine any other actor playing the legendary boxer, and we’re not just saying that because he does a great job looking like him.
While Will’s career doesn’t exactly scream ‘character actor’, he still manages to disappear into this role to the point of getting his first, well-deserved Oscar nomination. An inspirational message and equally powerful performance by Smith to say the least.
With top roles such as Agent Jay and Hitch, the Fresh Prince alumni has proven time and time again that he’s talented enough to take on new characters.
Some of these challenges worked better than others, but it’s a testament to his starpower that he can still make audiences cheer for him decades after bursting onto the scene.
Let us know in the comments which of these roles is your favorite, and don’t hesitate to share your own ranking of Will Smith’s movies, too!
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