En español | Will Smith, 51, knows a thing or three about kicking ass — both onscreen and at the box office. The action star with comic snap and dramatic chops is a box office dominator. He holds the record for the most back-to-back $100M-plus movies at the domestic box office: eight! He's played the lead in 29 films for an astounding aggregate of $6.5B worldwide. (Even in the strange pandemic year of 2020 he has top billing in the highest grossing movie thus far — his latest Bad Boys action sequel with Martin Lawrence).
But beyond the bottom line, Will Smith on the big screen just signals that everything's going to be all right. So as we soldier on in uncertain times, let's go all-in on Mr. Smith with his top films, ranked in descending order. If you've loved him since his teen TV days as the Fresh Prince, are an MIB fan for life, or hopped on the bandwagon when he played double roles in Gemini Man in 2019, you're going to love this list.
14. Shark Tale (2004)
Smith swims alongside major vocal talents Robert De Niro, 76, Renee Zellweger, 51, Martin Scorsese, 77, and Angelina Jolie in this DreamWorks computer-animated undersea adventure. As the voice of little funky fish Oscar, this bit of shark meat must save the underwater underdogs from the mean old predators while befriending a young male shark (Jack Black, 50) who's strictly vegetarian. It's no Finding Nemo, but it's colorful, funny and family friendly.
13. Gemini Man (2019)
There’s twice as much Smith to love when the action star does the classic double role shtick in this summer actioner from Ang Lee, 65. Smith plays both a younger hitman in hot pursuit of a wily prey, and the aging gotta-get-out-of-this-game target himself.
12. Hancock (2008)
In Peter Berg's summer action comedy hit, disenchanted, drunken, surly superhero Hancock (Smith) has a PR problem thanks to the collateral damage caused by his badass actions. Enter Ray (Jason Bateman, 51) to rehabilitate his image — and Ray's wife, Mary (Charlize Theron in action mode), to test his mettle.
11. Men in Black 3 (2012)
Director Barry Sonnenfeld, 67, returned to the wacky aliens-among-us sci-fi franchise. The third time may have been a charm, besting the sequel and keeping faith with the 1997 blockbuster original. Smith's talkative Agent J must travel back in time to 1969 to save his partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, 73), from an alien assassin, assisted by K's younger self (Josh Brolin, 52).
10. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Smith unlaces his action star sneakers, dons wingtips, and goes somber and sentimental in his Christmas release based on an unbelievable but true story. Unemployed salesman Chris Gardner (Smith) struggles as a single, homeless San Francisco father who tries to keep it together and make a better life for his 5-year-old son (real-life son Jaden) by taking an unpaid internship at a stock brokerage. The uplifting, serious turn earned Smith his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
9. I, Robot (2004)
Very loosely based on an Isaac Asimov short story, Alex Proyas's entertaining summer blockbuster features a cynical Smith as Luddite cop Del Spooner in 2035. When a rogue humanoid robot appears to have committed a murder, Spooner confronts his fears of technology while eliminating suspects; breathless action sequences ensue against a fantastic dystopic backdrop.
8. Enemy of the State (1998)
Smith carries the action lead opposite the great Gene Hackman, 90, under the direction of the late Tony Scott (Top Gun) in this suspenseful political action thriller that also features Regina King and Lisa Bonet. In the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much, Smith plays an ordinary innocent ensnarled in a corrupt government plot who must act in an extraordinary way to extricate himself and his family. Tagline: “It's not paranoia when they're really after you."
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7. I Am Legend (2007)
Smith's sci-fi action adventure film has him playing Robert Neville, a scientist who must fight a superbug that has stranded him as Earth's last healthy man — surrounded by bloodsucking plague victims. Aggressively directed by Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), the scenes where survivor Neville walks the scary, empty Manhattan streets with his dog as his sole companion have never seemed more eerie.
6. Bad Boys for Life (2020)
Charismatic Smith and Martin Lawrence, 55, reteam for the (belated) third outing in the bromantic series about Miami P.D. loose cannons. For the pair, this is their Lethal Weapon franchise, and their adrenaline-fueled combination of wisecracks, partner squabbles, and explosive action demonstrates that some boys just want to have fun and, like Peter Pan, refuse to grow up.
5. Ali (2001)
A muscular, emotional, brash Smith courts that biopic Oscar statuette (and got a Best Actor nomination) playing boxer Muhammad Ali in Michael Mann's testosterone-fueled sports drama. From the pugilist's knockout punches in the ring to his civil rights battles on the outside, Ali was a larger-than-life figure and Smith demonstrates that he's capable of punching in this dramatic weight class. Jamie Foxx, 52, and Jon Voight, 81, co-star.
RELATED: Will Smith's portrayal of Muhammad Ali made our brand-new AARP critic's list of the best biopics to stream now. Want to see the rest of the list? We've got it right here: 17 Entertaining Biopic Movies to Watch Now
4. Bad Boys (1995)
It's not just the snappy Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle's theme song that makes this comic actioner groove — but it sets the energetic tone. Smith pairs with Martin Lawrence as two Miami Police Department detectives with mad chemistry. Together, they blaze through this cop buddy bromance that's a fast, stunt-propelled action comedy.
3. Independence Day (1996)
Pilot Will Smith makes a direct hit with this Roland Emmerich tentpole released on, yes, July 4. With aliens attacking planet Earth, the aviator must protect his family, the president (Bill Pullman, 66), America and the globe. Smith's at his action-hero-family-man best. And in the end, the humans don't take no UFO flack — and audiences leave the sci-fi actioner feeling like winners.
2. Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
A relatively young Smith breaks out of his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air sitcom mode to play Paul, the charming Black hustler at the center of playwright John Guare's stage-play adaptation. Paul snookers a group of privileged New Yorkers by claiming to be the son of Sidney Poitier. He's a dramatic standout in the ensemble directed by Fred Schepisi that includes the incomparable Stockard Channing, 76, Donald Sutherland, 85, Ian McKellen, 81, and Mary Beth Hurt, 73.
1. Men in Black (1997)
Director Barry Sonnenfeld's fast-paced, eye-popping blockbuster represents the summer gold standard: snappy wisecracking dialog, box office stars playing to their strengths, surprising special effects – and no heavy message. A buff, athletic Smith plays a cocky G-man hunting aliens alongside dapper and dour Tommy Lee Jones, 73. Shout out to character actor Tony Shalhoub, 66, for a hilarious supporting role that explains why the movie got one Oscar – for Best Makeup.