The Best Will Smith Movies

'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' star has become a staple of the Hollywood big screen. From 'Independence Day' to 'Hitch,' here are the best Will Smith movies.

Will Smith

Image via Getty/Jason Merritt

Will Smith

Having a successful acting career after starring in a popular ‘90s sitcom is the white whale of Hollywood. Of the few stars from ‘90s television we still see coming out on top, Will Smith is the King—or rather, the Prince.

He may have started his career as a Grammy award-winning rapper, but Smith’s breakout role as the charming, street-smart teen from West Philly on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air marked the beginning of his status as a TV mogul. The comedy on the show still holds up today, as do many of Will’s fashion choices and the unforgettable theme song, which should honestly just replace the National Anthem at this point.

The Fresh Prince has done a lot since his days living with Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv, both on- and off-screen. While he wasn’t filming blockbuster hits, Smith became a quintessential family man when he married actress Jada Pinkett-Smith and gifted us with Jaden, Willow and Trey. As if being a role model parent wasn’t enough, Smith's Instagram is a treasure trove of viral posts that remind us why we love him in the first place. Most recently, Smith got blued up and played the part of Genie in the live-action Aladdin remake. Next year, he'll reprise his role as Mike Lowrey in Bad Boys for Life, alongside Martin Lawrence—you can watch the Bad Boys for Life trailer here.

Smith has seemingly done it all on the big screen—action, comedy, drama, and even voice acting. But the people’s champ shows no signs of stopping. To celebrate the impending return of our favorite detectives, let’s take a look back at some of the films that made Smith the mega movie star he is today. Here are 15 of the best Will Smith movies.

12. Where the Day Takes You (1992)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Marc Rocco

Also Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sean Astin

Still in his Fresh Prince prime, Smith made his feature length film debut in this indie drama about a group of runaway teenagers trying to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Where the Day Takes You has bleak moments, but the film’s powerful narrative is impressively carried by a troupe of incredible young actors including Smith, Sean Astin, and Dermot Mulroney.

11. I, Robot (2004)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Alex Proyas

Also Starring: Bridget Moynahan, Alyn Tudyk, Bruce Greenwood

Before he went on a date with Sophia the Robot, Will was dealing with far more advanced artificial intelligence. Set in 2035, I, Robot follows Smith as a robot hating detective who investigates the death of the man who invented robot technology. It’s a high-intensity, action packed sci-fi film driven by his character’s own distrust for technology. Also, Will Smith looks really good in a leather trench coat.

10. Hitch (2005)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Andy Tennant

Also Starring: Eva Mendes, Kevin James Carroll, Amber Valletta

While we don’t recommend hiring someone to help you get a girlfriend, Will Smith was perfectly cast as a love doctor helping a dopey Kevin James land his dream girl in this 2005 rom-com. He’s just the right amount of charming, smooth, sweet, and funny—on second thought, he was probably just being himself. Regardless, Smith is a master at this genre. More Will Smith romantic comedies, please and thank you!

9. Enemy of the State (1998)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Tony Scott

Also Starring: Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King

Only normies who never saw Enemy of the State make fun of people who put tape over their webcams. Smith plays an innocent lawyer who becomes the victim of government surveillance and smear-tactics after obtaining footage of a congressman’s murder. This conspiracy-crime thriller was one of Smith’s big box-office hits in the ‘90s, and his portrayal of an everyday businessman suddenly surrounded by high-stakes drama was way ahead of its time. Stay woke.

8. I Am Legend (2007)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Francis Lawrence

Also Starring: Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan, Willow Smith

The film’s title says it all: Smith really is a legend. He does a phenomenal job carrying at least 70% of this post-apocalyptic drama on his own, playing a U.S. Army virologist who becomes the lone survivor of an nocturnal mutant outbreak. Smith spends most of this film as a solo performer, having one of his most emotional moments with a mannequin (aside from that one scene), but really nails the broken spirit of a man who’s lost everything, but still has hope for the future.

7. Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Fred Schepisi

Also Starring: Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland, Ian McKellen, Heather Graham

Another one of Smith’s earliest films, Six Degrees of Separation was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, which happened to be based on a real person. Smith plays a young con man who shows up at the doorstep of a well-off couple, down on his luck and claiming to be a friend of their children, as well as the son of famous film actor and director Sidney Poitier. He charms the pants off of some rich white folks, and basically takes on the charisma of his Fresh Prince cousin Carlton Banks. Though he stars alongside a number of high-profile actors (Donald Sutherland, Ian McKellan, and Stockard Channing), Smith has the stand out performance as a cultured young man with a secret.

6. Bad Boys 2 (2003)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Gabrielle Union, Jordi Molla

This follow-up to the popular 1995 action flick is one wild ride. Picking up a few years after we first met Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, Bad Boys II is a sequel packed with everything imaginable: money laundering, drug smuggling, Russian gangsters, and, somehow, more explosions. Smith and his co-star Martin Lawrence didn’t skip a beat in their return as our favorite South Florida cops, making this crime epic even more fun to watch. 

5. Bad Boys (1995)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Michael Bay

Also Starring: Martin Lawrence, Téa Leoni, Theresa Randle

This isn’t your ordinary buddy-cop movie—it’s a Michael Bay buddy-cop movie. In this debut film of the Bad Boys franchise, we meet Smith and Lawrence for the first time as a Miami-Dade detective team with five days to figure out who heisted $100 million worth of confiscated heroin. It’s action-packed (as if Michael Bay would have it any other way), funny, and just as entertaining now as it was in ‘95. It also solidified Smith’s status as a movie star just before his days on TV came to an end.

4. Independence Day (1996)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Ronald Emmerich

Also Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox

Aliens, Jeff Goldblum, and blowing up the White House—Independence Day holds up better than you thought. This film is the epitome of a blockbuster classic, and helped skyrocket Smith’s career as that charming, witty action star we love so much. Following a worldwide attack by an alien mothership whose mission is to seemingly wipe out the human race and destroy Earth, people from around the world gather to save the planet. It’s a mindless watch with what are now laughably bad graphics, but Smith and Goldblum deliver some of their most iconic work and, damn, if it isn’t fun to watch.

3. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Gabrielle Muccino

Also Starring: Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe

What’s better than Will Smith in a movie? Will Smith AND his son in a movie. Jaden and his dad teamed up in this heartfelt drama based on the true-story of Chris Gardner, a multi-millionaire stockbroker who once spent a year of his life struggling to raise his toddler son while they were homeless. Smith balances compassion and strength as a father who can’t provide properly for his son and a driven businessman who’s fighting for a chance to catch a break. Moments between the IRL father and son range from touching to heartbreaking, and the Smith boys’ vulnerability landed one of them an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (and no, we’re not talking about Jaden).

2. Men in Black (1997)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Barry Sonnenfield

Also Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn

Nothing makes a movie better than a theme song that absolutely slaps. Men in Black was brought to us in the golden era of Smith’s ‘90s classics, and perfectly paired his young, fresh wit with the cantankerous, ornery wisdom of Tommy Lee Jones. After being recruited to work for a secret organization that monitors and relinquishes aliens from Earth, Smith joins Jones on a mission to prevent an intergalactic war from breaking out. The sci-fi action comedy is one of Smith’s most popular roles even 20+ years after its initial release, and, again, we can’t stress enough how hard the theme song goes. No amount of neuralyzing could make us forget it.

1. Ali (2001)

View this video on YouTube

Director: Michael Mann

Also Starring: Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles

Ali, bomaye! In the film that earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Smith took on the titular role of late boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Covering a ten-year span of his life, Smith portrays Ali through some of his most important fights both in and out of the ring, perfectly capturing the essence and idiosyncrasies of one of the world’s greatest athletes. The film touches on everything from his legal battles during the war to his relationship with activist Malcolm X, and Smith embodies the struggles and celebrations of an extremely complex and beloved superstar to the T.

Latest in Pop Culture