Best and worst Will Smith movies

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March 9, 2022
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Best and worst Will Smith movies

Will Smith started as a rapper in the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, winning a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. He got his first major film role in “Bad Boys” while starring on the hit TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Shortly after, “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” made him a superstar and one of the most bankable Hollywood actors of all time. Smith epitomizes the successful crossover artist who dominates television, music, and movies with a celebrity persona that combines distinct charisma with undeniable talent. Smith’s not known for acting as much as he is for inhabiting characters and imbuing them with the winning attributes of the Smith personality: wit and affability, even within tension and hardship.

Smith has been nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards three times, and has walked away empty-handed twice. He was nominated in 2002 for his depiction as the greatest boxer of all time in “Ali” but lost the trophy to Denzel Washington, who won for “Training Day.” He was nominated a second time in 2007 for “The Pursuit of Happyness,” losing the Academy Award to Forest Whitaker, who claimed the Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland.” Both of these nominations were for roles where he played real-life characters: the legendary Muhammad Ali and entrepreneur Chris Gardner. Whether he wins his third nomination, for his eponymous role as the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard,” will be determined at the 2022 Oscars ceremony.

Smith doesn’t always win with critics. He often appears in formulaic genre films, and when he branches into dramas as with “Concussion” or “Collateral Beauty,” he takes a hit in reviews. Smith’s movies are known for their huge box office receipts, and sometimes dismal reviews, as with “Hancock,” the superhero film popular with fans, but panned by critics. Smith’s likability and humor seem to transcend critical opinion. Fans flock to franchises like “Men in Black” and “Bad Boys,” and science fiction action films like Netflix’s “Bright,” which was popular despite its bad reviews. Occasionally, Smith’s appeared in notable flops, like “Wild Wild West” (which he chose over “The Matrix”) and “After Earth.” However, both films were profitable worldwide, though still considered financial disappointments. Nevertheless, Smith’s effortless charisma shows up onscreen in a warmth that conveys depth and goodness, and humor with soul.

Stacker compiled IMDb data on feature films starring Will Smith and ranked these films according to their IMDb user rating, with ties broken by the number of votes. Cameos, uncredited roles, and production credits without acting roles were not considered.

Read on to find out the best and worst Will Smith movies.

#31. After Earth (2013)

- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- Stacker score: 56.3
- Metascore: 33
- IMDb user rating: 4.8
- Runtime: 100 minutes

“After Earth” wasn’t a financial disaster, but it was considered under-performing. Critics skewered M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi adventure, which pairs Smith with son Jaden in their second film together—again, as a father-son duo—as they crash land on a harsh and inhospitable Earth. Smith called “After Earth” the most painful failure of his career and “excruciating” even more so because it involved his son.

#30. Wild Wild West (1999)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- Stacker score: 60.4
- Metascore: 38
- IMDb user rating: 4.9
- Runtime: 106 minutes

This adaptation of a 1960s television series remains one of the most expensive flops of all time and is still considered a major disappointment despite garnering a meager profit worldwide. “Wild Wild West” seemed a brazen attempt to repeat the blockbuster formula that succeeded with “Men in Black.” This steampunk action Western featured the same director and the same movie star. Smith produced an original rap song for the movie just as he had for “Men in Black.” The song “Wild Wild West” was a pop chart hit, but Smith’s cowboy charm couldn’t elevate the film.

#29. Collateral Beauty (2016)

- Director: David Frankel
- Stacker score: 63.2
- Metascore: 23
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Runtime: 97 minutes

Critics flayed this drama that personifies Love, Death, and Time, but audiences responded positively. Smith plays a grieving father who interacts with the archetypes after they’re deployed in a scheme to mark him as an unfit exec. Instead, he’s healed. Smith’s performance recalls his role in the earlier “Seven Pounds,” another film about extreme grief where audiences connected to Smith’s rendition of sorrow and redemption despite an implausible plot.

#28. Bright (2017)

- Director: David Ayer
- Stacker score: 63.9
- Metascore: 29
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Runtime: 117 minutes

“Bright” was one of Netflix’s most expensive films, costing a reported $90 million, and starting the streaming service’s trend toward huge budget films starring major movie stars. Critics weren’t impressed, but Netflix execs suggested that “critics are pretty disconnected from mass appeal.” Audiences were undoubtedly drawn in by Smith’s celebrity.

#27. Gemini Man (2019)

- Director: Ang Lee
- Stacker score: 66.0
- Metascore: 38
- IMDb user rating: 5.7
- Runtime: 117 minutes

“Gemini Man” uses the digital process known as “de-aging” to present Smith’s character at his real age, and also at the age of his younger clone, Junior. Smith portrays both characters, with the young clone performed via motion capture. Visually, Junior has a startling look, both surreal and bizarre. “Gemini Man” was a massive critical and financial flop, grossing only $62 million worldwide with a production budget of $138 million, and garnering a reported loss of $60 million dollars.

#26. Spies in Disguise (2019)

- Directors: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
- Stacker score: 68.5
- Metascore: 54
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Runtime: 102 minutes

From the animation studio responsible for the “Ice Age” franchise comes this animated film, which packs an all-star voice-acting cast alongside Smith including Tom Holland, Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, and DJ Khaled. Smith stars as a secret agent who inadvertently gets transformed into a pigeon and must work with a young scientist to foil an evil tech mastermind’s plans and recover his human body. “Spies in Disguise” received lukewarm reviews from critics and audiences alike, but generally underperformed at the box office.

#25. Suicide Squad (2016)

- Director: David Ayer
- Stacker score: 68.8
- Metascore: 40
- IMDb user rating: 5.9
- Runtime: 123 minutes

Smith plays the assassin Deadshot and brings characteristic charm to the role in this action-packed film, managing to be a cold-blooded killer and wisecracking good dad at the same time. Smith chose this DC universe tentpole film over an offer to do the “Independence Day” redux, explaining that he wanted to go forward and do something new.

#24. Made in America (1993)

- Director: Richard Benjamin
- Stacker score: 69.4
- Metascore: 49
- IMDb user rating: 5.1
- Runtime: 111 minutes

Smith has a small part in this comedy about artificial insemination starring Whoopi Goldberg as the mom of a young Black woman (Nia Long) who discovers her sperm donor dad is a white guy (Ted Danson). Smith provides scene-stealing comic relief in this supporting role early in his film career.

#23. Bad Boys for Life (2020)

- Directors: Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah
- Stacker score: 69.7
- Metascore: 59
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Runtime: 124 minutes

The third installment in the “Bad Boys” franchise starring Smith and Martin Lawrence came 17 years after the second, and smashed box office records, grossing over $426 million worldwide and becoming the highest-grossing film in the series. The critical and box office success of “Bad Boys for Life” has paved the way for a fourth “Bad Boys” film, which is reportedly already in the works.

#22. Bad Boys II (2003)

- Director: Michael Bay
- Stacker score: 72.2
- Metascore: 38
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Runtime: 147 minutes

By the release of this sequel, Smith and director Michael Bay were huge Hollywood names, and the first “Bad Boys” had started their launch to superstardom. This movie follows the first one’s formula: drug dealers run explosively amok in Miami and bad boy cops, Smith and Martin Lawrence, bust them. Critics hated it, but the sequel grossed double what the first made worldwide, despite seeming a rote imitation.

#21. Shark Tale (2004)

- Directors: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, Rob Letterman
- Stacker score: 75.0
- Metascore: 48
- IMDb user rating: 6.0
- Runtime: 90 minutes

Smith voices a little fish, Oscar, who falsely claims to have slain a shark in this animated family film. Oscar appears with Smith’s signatures: jutting ears and a tendency for one-liners. The story takes place in an undersea land that seems a market nod to an audience’s taste for “Finding Nemo”-style universes. Like many films in Smith’s canon, “Shark Tale” was both a hit with audiences and a dud with critics.

#20. Bad Boys (1995)

- Director: Michael Bay
- Stacker score: 75.7
- Metascore: 41
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Runtime: 119 minutes

The action film “Bad Boys” was director Michael Bay’s first film, and his lavish, kinetic film style is on full tilt. The Miami cop, Mike, was also Smith’s first leading role, with Martin Lawrence as his buddy cop partner as they face off with drug dealers. Smith’s talent shines as a part of Bay’s elaborate, bombastic action style of slow motion, extreme angles, gliding camerawork, where explosions punctuate wisecracks.

#19. Men in Black II (2002)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- Stacker score: 76.4
- Metascore: 49
- IMDb user rating: 6.1
- Runtime: 88 minutes

Critics weren’t impressed with this franchise sequel, but the formula worked for fans, who made it a box office success. The second “Men in Black” film reunites the major players in familiar scenarios. Smith’s comic riffs play off Tommy Lee Jones’ stoniness alongside the customary spectacle of CGI aliens.

#18. Seven Pounds (2008)

- Director: Gabriele Muccino
- Stacker score: 77.8
- Metascore: 36
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Runtime: 123 minutes

Critics panned this redemption drama for its implausible sentimentality, but fans fell for it. The film grossed over $168 million worldwide, making it a winning box office performance for Smith. “Seven Pounds” opens with Smith’s character announcing his suicide to a 911 operator, and continues in flashbacks moving toward the mushy, unpleasant, death-by-jellyfish finale. Smith’s appeal emerges in dramatic scenes that show the actor’s charm moves beyond comedy and action.

#17. Hancock (2008)

- Director: Peter Berg
- Stacker score: 78.5
- Metascore: 49
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Runtime: 92 minutes

Smith’s affable persona goes against that of his as the superhero Hancock. Here, he’s a depressed alcoholic convict in a role that still displays the actor’s charm, despite the premise that he’s an immortal with special powers who needs help with his image—details that contribute to an “unmissable layer of race relations.” Charlize Theron plays his ex-wife and fellow immortal, but the potential progress of an interracial relationship gets thwarted by obstacles in the couple’s path, such as losing superpowers if they’re together and the fact that her husband, Jason Bateman, is his PR guy. As with many Smith action vehicles, “Hancock” was a box office success and critical flop.

#16. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

- Director: Robert Redford
- Stacker score: 79.2
- Metascore: 47
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Runtime: 126 minutes

This film’s starkly offensive representational politics have not aged well—it’s become a benchmark example of the “magical negro” trope. Robert Redford directed this sentimental sports film that stars Matt Damon as a white golfer and Smith as the mystical figure who offers him advice on the game without need for credit or compensation.

#15. Focus (2015)

- Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
- Stacker score: 84.7
- Metascore: 56
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Runtime: 105 minutes

“Focus” notably cast Smith opposite white actress Margot Robbie in a love story that didn’t openly address race in its story of an outlaw and his protégé. The film drew racist attacks but garnered decent worldwide box office results while being one of the relatively rare Hollywood films to center interracial romance.

#14. Aladdin (2019)

- Director: Guy Ritchie
- Stacker score: 84.7
- Metascore: 53
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Smith was able to win over audiences in the role of the genie, made famously beloved by Robin Williams in the animated feature. Smith manages to charm, as usual, despite his blue body makeup and genie-fied features. Smith brings a sweet festivity to the part, and the film’s highlight is his lengthy, colorful musical number, which starts with the actor sporting a delightfully enormous turban. The credit sequence features a “Fresh Prince style” rendition of “Friend Like Me.”

#13. King Richard (2021)

- Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
- Stacker score: 84.8
- Metascore: 76
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Runtime: 144 minutes

“King Richard” is a biopic centering around legendary sisters Venus and Serena Williams’ early tennis careers and their relationship with their father and coach, Richard Williams, played by Smith. Serena and Venus were executive producers on the film, while Smith both produced and starred. The film was nominated for five Oscars, including a Best Actor nod for Smith, as well as Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (for Aunjanue Ellis, who plays the mother of Serena and Venus).

#12. Hitch (2005)

- Director: Andy Tennant
- Stacker score: 86.8
- Metascore: 58
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Runtime: 118 minutes

As Hitch, Smith is a love guru talking to the camera, directly addressing the audience as a smooth talker who knows romance. Smith pairs with actress Eva Mendes, a Cuban American, reportedly cast due to producer fears around the race of the leading man’s love interest. Smith commented on the “accepted myth” that audiences don’t want to see two Black actors in a mainstream rom-com.

#11. Concussion (2015)

- Director: Peter Landesman
- Stacker score: 87.5
- Metascore: 55
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Runtime: 123 minutes

Considered a flop for barely recouping its budget, “Concussion” stars Smith as real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered the effects of concussions sustained playing football. Smith sported facial prosthetics to transform into the Nigerian scientist. He also studied dialect, though his vocal performance was criticized. Still, Smith manages to infuse the performance with convincing gravitas.

#10. Men in Black 3 (2012)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- Stacker score: 87.5
- Metascore: 58
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Runtime: 106 minutes

Director Barry Sonnenfeld offers that Smith came up with the plot for “Men in Black 3” while filming the second installment. In the third movie, Smith’s Agent J travels back in time to save his partner (Tommy Lee Jones). “MIB3” was a box office titan, nearly matching the returns of the first two films. The familiar, easy chemistry between Smith’s quipster and Jones’ straight man kept the franchise audience entertained, though a decade had passed between entries.

#9. Independence Day (1996)

- Director: Roland Emmerich
- Stacker score: 89.6
- Metascore: 59
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Runtime: 145 minutes

“Independence Day” inaugurated a new era of tentpole summer blockbusters, films where audiences reliably flock to opening day screenings across the nation. “Independence Day” premiered on the holiday weekend in which it is set, setting in motion a collectively experienced cultural event in which going to the movie was linked to patriotism. In a supporting role, Smith gave a major star turn as a marine fighter pilot who, in a memorable scene, clocks an alien and then quips, “Welcome to Earth.”

#8. Where the Day Takes You (1992)

- Director: Marc Rocco
- Stacker score: 90.3
- Metascore: 64
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Runtime: 105 minutes

This little-known arthouse film features an all-star cast. Most of the actors in this drama about street teens in gritty Los Angeles became famous. Smith was already a Grammy winner with a hit sitcom, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” who’s joined by Dermot Mulroney, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sean Astin, James LeGros, Ricki Lake, an uncredited Christian Slater, and others.

#7. I, Robot (2004)

- Director: Alex Proyas
- Stacker score: 90.3
- Metascore: 59
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Runtime: 115 minutes

Smith’s notable musculature in “I, Robot” appears in several shirtless weightlifting sequences. Director Alex Proyas, known for striking neo-noir visuals, gives gritty familiarity to this futuristic sci-fi story about a cop (who has cyborg parts himself) prejudiced against robots. The artificial intelligence plot lacked depth, despite Smith’s popcorn-ready heroics.

#6. Ali (2001)

- Director: Michael Mann
- Stacker score: 91.7
- Metascore: 65
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Runtime: 157 minutes

Smith’s physique underwent intense transformation to embody legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. His celebrity persona as a comedic action star also transformed into serious actor status—this was Smith’s first dramatic leading role after a series of action films and blockbusters. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, but lost to Denzel Washington in “Training Day.” This was the first time two Black actors were nominated for the Best Actor Oscar in the same year.

#5. I Am Legend (2007)

- Director: Francis Lawrence
- Stacker score: 95.1
- Metascore: 65
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Runtime: 101 minutes

Smith plays the last man on Earth in this mega-blockbuster that seemed to foretell the state of a nation about to elect its first Black president. Released just prior to President Barack Obama’s election, Smith plays a scientist who finds the cure for a virus that turned the bulk of humanity into zombies.

#4. Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

- Director: Fred Schepisi
- Stacker score: 97.2
- Metascore: 72
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Runtime: 112 minutes

In this arthouse hit, Smith plays a young, gay scam artist who tricks wealthy white people into believing he’s Sidney Poitier’s son and an Ivy League friend of their children. Arguably, Smith was a “son” to Poitier’s legacy as a Black movie star in Hollywood. The film was released during Smith’s stretch on the TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” “Six Degrees of Separation” calls attention to widespread implicit racial bias around the identities of Black men. While the character Paul cannot transcend social injustice, Smith emerged as a cultural force, a representative of Black masculinity who refuses and belies stereotypes while working within one of their most overt systems—the entertainment industry.

#3. Enemy of the State (1998)

- Director: Tony Scott
- Stacker score: 97.2
- Metascore: 67
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 132 minutes

This turn-of-the-millennium action drama about surveillance in the digital age co-stars Gene Hackman in a role that hearkens back to his iconic turn as analog surveillance expert Harry Caul in 1974’s “The Conversation.” Smith plays a framed patsy whose life gets destroyed when an old friend plants an incriminating disc on him. The film follows a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse as the mafia and NSA agents descend upon the two. Smith is an everyman (cracking one-liners when it gets tense) who just wants to clear his name.

#2. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

- Director: Gabriele Muccino
- Stacker score: 100
- Metascore: 64
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Runtime: 117 minutes

Smith stars with his son Jaden in the younger Smith’s first film role in this drama about a down-on-his-luck salesman struggling to land a coveted stockbroker position while homeless. Smith was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his earnest performance as the poverty-stricken single dad in this tearjerker. Smith performs with heartbreaking sincerity in a true story that presents the idea that hard work pays off—which comes across as fantastical and sentimental despite the film’s realistic bent.

#1. Men in Black (1997)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- Stacker score: 100
- Metascore: 71
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Runtime: 98 minutes

Smith stars (with Tommy Lee Jones as his sidekick) in this worldwide blockbuster that catapulted the actor and rapper to superstardom. Smith also performed the film’s theme song, “Men in Black,” which won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. Madcap visuals of alien mayhem give the film wit, upheld by the “galaxy defenders,” and Smith’s effortless feel-good brand of cool.

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