Best Will Smith Movies: Top 5 Classic Films, According To Fans

Will Smith has been a film star and leading man for over 20 years. Headliner for a variety of films ranging from comedy to action, and heartfelt family drama, Smith is a household name. Initially gaining fame for his rap career as well as his famous role on beloved sitcom “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air,” Smith has been a cornerstone of American entertainment. Through his decorated and highly awarded career, there are many box office hits. So, we looked to our sources to discover the top five best Will Smith movies.

On the night of what should have been a feather in the cap of Will Smith’s film career was instead overshadowed by his own unfortunate reaction to a joke gone wrong. Will Smith’s slap across the face of comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars will sadly live on forever as one of the most unforgettable moments in Academy Awards history. After Rock mocked the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who suffers from alopecia, Smith’s shocking response spoiled what would have otherwise been perhaps the pinnacle of his storied career. Fans and celebrities alike have been quite vocal about the incident, with many taking sides in the spat between the two Hollywood heavyweights. Now, a new poll shows that two in three Americans think Smith should actually be charged for his admittedly violent reaction.

That’s not to say that most people are taking Rock’s side either. More than three quarters (76.5 percent) feel that making fun of Pinkett Smith was inappropriate. Interestingly, nearly half of men (48 percent) think the joke was uncalled for, compared to 38 percent of women.

We all have people we look up to and support. While it’s never fun to find out a beloved public figure has done wrong, just how much does personal fandom influence how such transgressions are perceived among the public? New research from the University of Cambridge reports that the more that people express admiration for a public figure, the more likely they are to forgive and defend them after a “moral violation.” There are countless examples of this tendency.

The long-term effects of the Oscar incident are yet to be seen. With four upcoming projects at the time of this article’s publication, viewers will soon cast their streaming votes and spend box office dollars to decide. Our list of the top five best Will Smith movies is based on data gathered from our sources. Let us know your favorites in the comments below!

Will Smith attends the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival in 2017
Will Smith attends the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival in 2017 (Photo by Andrea Raffin on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Will Smith Movies, According to Experts


1. “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006)

Biopics are hands-down a genre that Will Smith absolutely dominates. “A struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional career in this biographical drama based on the life of Chris Gardner. Smith stars opposite his young son Jaden, which might explain why the stakes feel so high, reflected in every beat of Smith’s career-best performance,” raves

In this film, Smith shows vulnerability and emotional turmoil that resonates with viewers. “Throughout the film, he wears his pain on his sleeve, constantly breaking your heart, whether he’s giving away his character’s last $5 or locked inside a subway bathroom, crying and holding on tight to his sleeping son,” offers Entertainment Weekly.

Will Smith’s efforts earned him success across a spectrum of metrics. “‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ enjoyed both financial and critical success. With a relatively small budget of $55 million, the movie made over $300 worldwide. It earned a solid 64 on with no negative reviews… Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune noted ‘While the film is roughly half grit and half sugar, it works because Smith sticks to a tougher, more rewarding recipe of 99.9 percent grit and only .1 percent sugar.’ Smith earned an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor,” details Looper.

2. “Men In Black” (1997)

In 1997, American movie goers would discover the cosmos in action-comedy “Men In Black.” “The sci-fi action film has Smith starring as Agent J alongside Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K. Together, they are the ‘Men in Black’ who handle anything and everything that has to do with aliens and their presence on Earth. Both Jay and Kay are faced with unprecedented circumstances that could threaten the safety of the people of Earth. ‘Men in Black’ is pretty iconic with how much it affects pop culture and the film industry as a whole,” explains MovieWeb.

"Men In Black" (1997)
“Men In Black” (1997)

“Men In Black” was a major Fourth of July release and a huge summer blockbuster. “In trying to think of a film that wholly encapsulates the best of Will Smith’s most definitive characteristics, it is hard to picture anything more fitting than Men In Black. Not to mention, Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1997 hit is one of the most flawlessly executed films of its kind: the sci-fi action comedy,” according to Cinemablend.

Great comic timing and dazzling special effects gave audiences a unique experience. “Barry Sonnenfeld’s visually slick and darkly humorous adaptation of a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi comic book starred Smith as James Edwards, an athletic, mouthy New York City cop who is recruited by ‘K’ (Tommy Lee Jones), a veteran of a secretive government agency that tracks aliens on Earth… The movie deserves much praise for its urbane humor, fantastical though insightful plot, dynamic action sequences, special effects, charismatic performances by its leads, and Danny Elfman’s fun musical score,” states Indie Wire.

 3. “Ali” (2001)

In another biopic tour-de-force, Smith bulked up to prepare for his role as Muhammad Ali. “Mann’s biographical film of Muhammad Ali marked a big artistic step up for Smith’s acting career, giving him the opportunity to work with a director of Michael Mann’s caliber… Smith rose to the challenge — for an actor once known as a skinny, lanky kid, Smith became virtually unrecognizable, bulking up dramatically, and nailing Ali’s particular voice and physical qualities. The results were some of the best reviews of Smith’s career, as well as his first Golden Globe nod for his film week and Smith’s very first Academy Award nomination as Best Actor,” writes Gold Derby.

"Ali" (2001)
“Ali” (2001)

Smith’s detailed performance is lauded by all our sources. “2001 was such a confusing, disastrous blur that a lot of people have forgotten how good this movie is, and how triumphant Smith was in it. Denzel [Washington] may have won the Oscar the following year for ‘Training Day,’ but maybe if that performance wasn’t around, Smith, who received his first-ever Best Actor nomination for ‘Ali,’ would’ve been the next in line to take it,” reflects Thrillist.

“Ali” helped to firmly establish Will Smith as an actor capable of substance and nuance. “Smith gets to hit all his personal high points in ‘Ali,’ delivering a full-bodied entertainer while also carrying the drama and solemnity of other times in the iconic boxer’s story. It’s a riveting performance that changed the way people looked at Will Smith as an actor,” claims BuzzFeed.

4. “King Richard” (2021)

As the third and final biopic on our list, “King Richard” shows how Smith has refined his performances over time.  “This authorized but hardly hagiographic biopic of Williams, who famously told the world that his two little daughters would grow up to be the best tennis players in the world, and then they were, is a stirring, uplifting sports movie, sure — it will definitely make your kids want to go outside and play some tennis — but it’s also an incredible showcase for Smith, who plays Williams as an unmovable object,” writes Vulture.

"King Richard" (2021)
“King Richard” (2021)

“Perhaps sullied by Smith’s notorious Oscar mishap, this straightforward sports biopic accomplishes precisely what it wanted to, to celebrate the legacies of Venus and Serena Williams by focusing on the family who helped them find their path to greatness. Smith lays it on pretty thick throughout, but as usual, you can’t help but abide by his charm and screen presence,” adds

Smith’s great strength as an actor is in his emotionally complex portrayals. “With ‘King Richard,’ though, Smith finally took home the Best Actor trophy, thanks to a strong narrative (the Academy loves a narrative!) and a stirring performance as Richard Williams — the undeterred and controversial father of tennis icons Venus and Serena — that raises this film above the traditional sports biopic. Bonus points for pulling off the short shorts,” exclaims Entertainment Weekly.

5. “Six Degrees of Separation” (1993)

An early-career gem can be found in Smith’s 1993 film. “The highest-ranked Will Smith film on is one of his earliest, 1993’s ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’ Based on the play by John Guare, it cast Smith against type as a smooth, erudite hustler who finagled his way into the lives of wealthy New Yorkers,” details Looper.

"Six Degrees of Separation" (1993)
“Six Degrees of Separation” (1993)

At the time of release Smith was most well-known for his television sitcom work, and this film marked a departure from his previous endeavors. “Smith plays a charming Mr Ripley figure, a young man who cons his way into the lives of two wealthy high-society types, played by Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland, claiming to be the son of Sidney Poitier, so cunningly and tacitly playing on their liberal white guilt about race. Smith is charismatic and unsettling; it is still his masterpiece,” praises The Guardian

“Are you looking for a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat? Six Degrees of Separation is a drama mystery film starring Smith as Paul, a young man who makes an appearance at a fancy dinner party hosted by two art dealers. Interestingly enough, he is covered in blood when he shows up. The film includes other notable names including Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland, Ian McKellen, and J.J. Abrams. Six Degrees of Separation has an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes,” according to MovieWeb.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

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