Best and worst Will Smith movies

Written by:
October 28, 2019
Columbia Pictures

Best and worst Will Smith movies

Will Smith started as a rapper in the duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, winning a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. He got his first major film role in “Bad Boys” while starring in 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 stars 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. His is stardom infused with a sense of upbeat goodness. 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 Academy Awards twice, losing both times. He was nominated in 2002 for his work in “Ali.” Denzel Washington won that year for “Training Day.” He was nominated the second time in 2007 for “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Forest Whitaker won that year for “The Last King of Scotland.” Both of Smith’s nominations were for roles where he played real-life characters: the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali and the entrepreneur Chris Gardner.

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 the recent “Bright” on Netflix, 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. 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 as an actor 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.

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1 / 28
Andrew H. Walker // Getty Images

#28. After Earth (2013)

- Director: M. Night Shyamalan
- IMDb user rating: 4.8
- Votes: 183,936
- Metascore: 33
- Runtime: 100 min

“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, again as a father/son duo in their second film together, as they crash land on a harsh and inhospitable Earth. Smith called “After Earth” the most painful failure of his career and “excruciating” because it involved his son.

2 / 28
Peters Entertainment

#27. Wild Wild West (1999)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- IMDb user rating: 4.9
- Votes: 145,997
- Metascore: 38
- Runtime: 106 min

This adaptation of a 1960s television series remains one of the most expensive flops of all time, 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.

3 / 28

#26. Made in America (1993)

- Director: Richard Benjamin
- IMDb user rating: 5.0
- Votes: 14,885
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 111 min

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 white guy (Ted Danson). Smith provides scene-stealing comic relief in this supporting role early in his film career.

4 / 28
Skydance Media

#25. Gemini Man (2019)

- Director: Ang Lee
- IMDb user rating: 5.6
- Votes: 7,442
- Metascore: 39
- Runtime: 117 min

“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.

5 / 28
DreamWorks Animation

#24. Shark Tale (2004)

- Directors: Bibo Bergeron, Vicky Jenson, and Rob Letterman
- IMDb user rating: 6.0
- Votes: 157,118
- Metascore: 48
- Runtime: 90 min

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 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.

6 / 28
Atlas Entertainment

#23. Suicide Squad (2016)

- Director: David Ayer
- IMDb user rating: 6.0
- Votes: 549,613
- Metascore: 40
- Runtime: 123 min

Smith plays the assassin Deadshot and brings characteristic charm to the role, 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 he that wanted to go forward and do something new.

7 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#22. Men in Black II (2002)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- IMDb user rating: 6.2
- Votes: 321,333
- Metascore: 49
- Runtime: 88 min

Critics weren’t impressed with this franchise sequel, but the formula worked for fans who made it a box office success. The second 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.

8 / 28
Clubhouse Pictures (II)

#21. Bright (2017)

- Director: David Ayer
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Votes: 152,630
- Metascore: 29
- Runtime: 117 min

“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.

9 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#20. Hancock (2008)

- Director: Peter Berg
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Votes: 419,184
- Metascore: 49
- Runtime: 92 min

Smith’s affable persona goes against type as the superhero Hancock. 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 super powers 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.

10 / 28
Kramer & Sigman Films

#19. Focus (2015)

- Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 196,248
- Metascore: 56
- Runtime: 105 min

“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.

11 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#18. Bad Boys II (2003)

- Director: Michael Bay
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 209,808
- Metascore: 38
- Runtime: 147 min

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.

12 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#17. Hitch (2005)

- Director: Andy Tennant
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Votes: 281,501
- Metascore: 58
- Runtime: 118 min

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 Latina 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.

13 / 28
Cinetel Films

#16. Where the Day Takes You (1992)

- Director: Marc Rocco
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 2,998
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 105 min

This little-known arthouse film features an all-star cast. Most of the actors in this drama about street teens in gritty L.A. 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.

14 / 28
Twentieth Century Fox

#15. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

- Director: Robert Redford
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Votes: 51,235
- Metascore: 47
- Runtime: 126 min

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 / 28
Alan Light // Flickr

#14. Six Degrees of Separation (1993)

- Director: Fred Schepisi
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Votes: 18,852
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 112 min

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.

16 / 28
New Line Cinema

#13. Collateral Beauty (2016)

- Director: David Frankel
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Votes: 81,110
- Metascore: 23
- Runtime: 97 min

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 connect to Smith’s rendition of sorrow and redemption despite an implausible plot.

17 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#12. Ali (2001)

- Director: Michael Mann
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Votes: 88,856
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 157 min

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.

18 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#11. Men in Black 3 (2012)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Votes: 317,036
- Metascore: 58
- Runtime: 106 min

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 time 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.

19 / 28
Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer Films

#10. Bad Boys (1995)

- Director: Michael Bay
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Votes: 211,186
- Metascore: 41
- Runtime: 119 min

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.

20 / 28
Twentieth Century Fox

#9. Independence Day (1996)

- Director: Roland Emmerich
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Votes: 502,350
- Metascore: 59
- Runtime: 145 min

“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.”

21 / 28
LStar Capital

#8. Concussion (2015)

- Director: Peter Landesman
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Votes: 79,324
- Metascore: 55
- Runtime: 123 min

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.

22 / 28
Walt Disney Pictures

#7. Aladdin (2019)

- Director: Guy Ritchie
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Votes: 145,289
- Metascore: 53
- Runtime: 128 min

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 make-up 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.”

23 / 28
Twentieth Century Fox

#6. I, Robot (2004)

- Director: Alex Proyas
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Votes: 471,595
- Metascore: 59
- Runtime: 115 min

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 prejudiced against robots (who has cyborg parts himself). The artificial intelligence plot lacked depth, despite Smith’s popcorn-ready heroics.

24 / 28
Warner Bros.

#5. I Am Legend (2007)

- Director: Francis Lawrence
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 643,960
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 101 min

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.

25 / 28
Touchstone Pictures

#4. Enemy of the State (1998)

- Director: Tony Scott
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 216,403
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 132 min

This turn-of-the-millennium action drama about surveillance in the digital age co-stars Gene Hackman in a role that harkens 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.

26 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#3. Men in Black (1997)

- Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 485,653
- Metascore: 71
- Runtime: 98 min

Smith stars (with Tommy Lee Jones as his sidekick) in this worldwide blockbuster that catapulted the actor and rapper to super stardom. 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.

27 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#2. Seven Pounds (2008)

- Director: Gabriele Muccino
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 272,089
- Metascore: 36
- Runtime: 123 min

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.

28 / 28
Columbia Pictures

#1. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

- Director: Gabriele Muccino
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 412,965
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 117 min

Smith stars with his son Jaden Smith 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.

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