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The 16 Best Will Smith Movies Ranked

Will Smith has long been one of the most successful, popular stars in Hollywood, voted as its most bankable in 2009 by Forbes.com. He started as a rapper, winning four Grammys and getting nominated for another four from the 1980s through the 1990s. He then transitioned to acting, starting with everyone's favorite 1990s sitcom, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," before going on to movies. He's since been nominated for two Oscars and five Golden Globe awards. His charm, magnetic personality, and versatility as an action star, comedic actor, and dramatic performer have allowed him to carry a wide variety of films. 

Of course, just because a movie is popular doesn't make it a critical success. While Smith has gotten plenty of accolades, not all of his projects are highly ranked on Metacritic.com, a review aggregator site that averages together critics' reactions into a single score from 0 to 100. Indeed, a number of them have been ranked in the 20s and 30s on that site. That said, Smith's sheer charisma has always had the ability to raise the level of the material given to him. Let's take a look at Will Smith's 16 best-reviewed films on Metacritic, starting from lowest to highest.

16. Hancock

In 2009's "Hancock," Will Smith made a number of daring choices. Debuting in 2008, it was a superhero movie appearing between the initial rush of "Spider-Man," "X-Men," and "The Dark Knight" and the absolute stranglehold the Marvel Cinematic Universe would establish. It featured an anti-hero who wasn't created in a comic book — a risky move, since original characters don't come with built-in fans. 

Smith's John Hancock is an immortal, amnesiac, and alcoholic superhero who woke up in a hospital 80 years before the events of the film with no memory of his identity. He uses his abilities to fight crime in Los Angeles, but his actions are so reckless and costly to the city that most of its denizens hate him. After saving the life of a PR specialist played by Jason Bateman, Hancock's life changes forever. 

A huge plot twist halfway through the movie turned it from a movie about an unlikable jerk into something completely different. Smith going against type and being crude instead of charming made the film a novelty in the early going, but its eventual twist reduced his importance to the plot. The pivot got mixed reactions from viewers. Critic Roger Ebert noted that Smith made "the character more subtle than he [had] to be" in a positive review, while The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan said, "It's a strange feeling to see the summer's most promising premise self-destruct into something bizarre and unsatisfying." 

While "Hancock" was successful, making over $600 million worldwide, a discussed sequel never materialized. The stars and executives were busy and could never quite get on the same page. 

15. Men in Black II

"Men in Black II" hit screens in 2002, five years after the original. It wasn't quite as good as the first installment, with Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (via Metacritic) describing it as "a stylish package with not much inside." The film scored an average of 49 at Metascore.com. 

Smith returned as the smooth-talking Agent J, who was having trouble with a series of new partners after Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K retired at the end of the first film. When J brings him out of retirement in order to help him investigate an alien murder, their chemistry remains intact, even as the overly convoluted plot dominates the film and distracts from Smith and Jones' relationship. Rosario Dawson was fun as a waitress named Laura who turned out to be much more than she seemed. Lara Flynn Boyle and Johnny Knoxville chewed the scenery to pieces as the alien villains. 

Despite its flaws, the movie was a success, making over $400,000 worldwide. Still, it wasn't the cultural phenomenon the first one proved to be. This isn't surprising for an action movie sequel, since these movies usually tread the same ground as the original, and that was certainly true here. Still, Smith's charm was just as potent in his role as he was in the first film.

14. Aladdin

After taking time off from acting, Will Smith returned to the big screen with 2019's huge hit "Aladdin." Speaking with Vanity Fair about the project, the blockbuster star said, "I can honestly say this was the most fun I had making a movie, and one of the greatest experiences of my professional career." The latest in a wave of live-action Disney remakes, it made over a billion dollars worldwide, affirming Smith's status as an all-time box office draw. Smith was reluctant to take the role of the genie given Robin Williams' memorable role in the animated original, but his son Jaden urged him to try. Smith noted that Williams brought a lot of his stand-up act and energy into the original role, so he made it his own by leaning on his hip-hop roots. 

It received a 53 on Metacritic.com, with IGN's Tom Jorgensen pondering, "While Smith does fine work, how reliant this Genie is on Smith's personality does make you wonder if an actor pushing farther out of their comfort zone would have gotten us closer to the boundless creativity that made Robin Williams' performance so memorable." The CGI in the reboot's first trailer was heavily criticized, and Vox's Aja Romano described the effects (via Metacritic) as "lackluster." Still, critics like CNN's Brian Lowry described it as "a great deal of fun," and audiences worldwide seemed to agree. 

13. Concussion

2015's "Concussion" was a dramatic role for Will Smith. He portrayed Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist who established a link between chronic traumatic encephalopathy and former football players. The National Football League shunned him and pressured him to leave his home in Pittsburgh, but he was ultimately vindicated. Smith reported that he felt "conflicted" at first in taking this role, as he loved football and his son Trey played it. He shadowed Dr. Omalu and watched him perform brain autopsies to fully understand the role. 

"Concussion" got middling reviews, with a score of 55 on Metacritic.com. Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic wrote, "Smith's performance, in which he resists the urge to go over the top, and the subject matter make 'Concussion' an interesting movie, but not the urgent one it could have been." Steve Persall of The Tampa Tribune said, "As usual, Smith makes a compelling hero to follow, modestly righteous, prone to those frustrated outbursts making for good awards show clips." He wasn't wrong about that, as Smith earned a Golden Globe nomination for this role.

12. Focus

2015's "Focus" employed Will Smith's charm in a different way: as a seasoned grifter. Co-starring with Margot Robbie, the first part of the film details their meeting and Smith taking her under his wing as a con man. The second half of the film saw them meet three years later in Argentina, where Smith was going for an even bigger grift. The title of the film refers to Smith's reluctant romance with Robbie, as losing focus on your goal can prove fatal for a con man. The film was shot on-site in locations with a lot of character, like New Orleans and Buenos Aires, which gave it an extra layer of flair and dazzle. 

The movie's twists and turns were fun because Smith and Robbie made such a great pair. Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly noted, "What keeps the film humming along as smoothly as it does is the chemistry and charisma of its leads." Empire's Nick de Semlyen was more measured in his praise, writing, "Like one of the neon-colored cocktails Smith drinks in it, it's more of an immediate rush than something you'll remember in a year." It scored a 56 overall on Metacritic.com.

11. Men in Black III

2012's "Men in Black III" was Will Smith's first movie in four years, as he returned to his most dependable blockbuster series. The third time wasn't the charm, however. Production was difficult, and the movie failed to make back its $250 million budget from its domestic haul, though it did make over $620 million worldwide. Perhaps reacting to the tepid reviews for "Men in Black II," Smith reportedly was exacting on set and involved in rewrites, delaying the process for a movie that didn't have a completed script when it started filming. The film's elaborate story involved Smith's Agent J going back in time to work with a younger version of Agent K (uncannily played by Josh Brolin) and required a whole stable of writers to have it make sense and keep it funny. 

Although this effort didn't pay off commercially, the critical results were much better: It received an aggregate score of 58 on Metacritic.com. The Globe And Mail's Rick Groen said that "Delight, a modest yet palpable measure of the stuff, is restored." Vulture's David Edelstein noted, "The finished product is in a different league than the whompingly terrible 'Men in Black II' — it hits its marks. But it's not inventive enough to overcome the overarching inertia, the palpable absence of passion." This isn't surprising for a third entry in a series with a fairly thin premise, especially one that depended so much on the charisma and chemistry of its stars, but it's clear that Smith did his best to make it hum.

10. Hitch

EW's Derek Lawrence once referred to 2005's "Hitch" as "the greatest rom-com of all time." Apart from "Focus," which is really more of a crime caper with a dash of romance, "Hitch" was also the only romantic comedy of Will Smith's career. Lawrence particularly praised Smith's acting, lauding his performance as "the ultimate cool Will Smith." 

Smith played Alex "Hitch" Hitchens, a "date doctor" who helped other men achieve long-term relationships. Kevin James played Albert, a new client, whom Hitch assisted. Eva Mendes played Sara, a gossip writer whom Hitch fell for. There are the usual sentimental moments and misunderstandings that sparked conflict, with a charming happy ending. There was also a surprising amount of slapstick in the film that involved Smith, not James, as his unruffled professionalism is tested in a number of situations.

"Hitch" got an aggregate score of 58 from Metacritic.com. The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern said the movie was "immensely likable, and [allowed] Mr. Smith to fulfill his manifest destiny — as an urbane comedian who is also, shades of Cary Grant, a romantic hero." Mark Holcomb of The Village Voice said, "While far from perfect, "Hitch" is a rare studio product that earns the goodwill it smugly demands."

9. Bad Boys for Life

Will Smith's first big hit was 1995's "Bad Boys," a buddy cop movie with Martin Lawrence. With a modest budget of $19 million, Sony banked on the young star of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" as an action hero, and they were right. It made over $140 million worldwide. It seems impossible to imagine now, but the film was originally meant to star Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey

Co-star Martin Lawrence was cast first, and he chose Smith to be his co-star five minutes into a dinner they spent together. He told EW, "It was one of the best decisions I ever made." Though the "Bad Boys" movies were formulaic and poorly reviewed, there was no denying the crazy chemistry between Smith and Lawrence as squabbling partners.

Twenty-five years later, 2020's "Bad Boys for Life" was released to mostly positive reviews, yielding a 59 on Metacritic.com. Released in January, it was one of the last big hits before the global pandemic shut down movie theaters, and it earned over $400 million worldwide. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "It's a bumpy ride for sure, but Smith and Lawrence haven't lost their irresistible mojo and 'Bad Boys for Life' plays like a blast of retro '90s action. It's like they never left." Smith himself told Variety, "Of all the movies I've done, when people walk up to you on the street and say, 'Hey man, when are you gonna do another one?' It's 'Bad Boys.'" 

8. I, Robot

2004's "I, Robot" was a middling success at the box office and with the critics. Will Smith played Del Spooner, a technophobic cop in a world where specially designed robots serve humanity. Constrained by Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, this was supposed to prevent them from ever hurting a human being — until one of their co-creators was found dead and murder was suspected. The film explored issues related to prejudice and free will, and Spooner's angry detachment was tested when he met a robot who was more than he seemed.

"I, Robot" received a 59 on Metacritic.com's aggregator scale, thanks in part to its stylish aesthetic. It made $353 million worldwide, but only $144 domestically (via Box Office Mojo, earning a modest profit on its $120 million budget. The New York Times' Dana Stevens said that it "lacks both the intellectual rigor and the soulful sublimity of 'A.I.,' but it nonetheless allows some genuine ideas and emotions to pop up amid the noise and clutter." Continuing on its visual qualities, The Washington Post's Desson Thomson said, "It's fun and playful, rather than dark and foreboding. And there doesn't seem to be an original cyber-bone in the movie's body. But it's put together in a fabulous package."

7. Independence Day

While "Bad Boys" made Will Smith a star, his role as part of an ensemble cast in the mega-hit "Independence Day" blasted him into the stratosphere. Starring as a charismatic, cocky young Air Force pilot named Steven Hiller, he stole every scene he was in, especially the famous "Welcome to Earth" sequence where he punched out an alien. "Independence Day" made over $800 million worldwide on a $75 million budget. 

This was very much a popcorn movie and didn't have pretensions to be much else, but it's where Smith cemented his cool but charming persona. He didn't seem to take himself too seriously while he was out there beating up aliens. Considering that the studio had to be talked into hiring an actor best known for his lightweight television sitcom and rap career, his overnight success was astounding. 

It earned an aggregate score of 59 on Metacritic. Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum said, "It's the first futuristic disaster movie that's as cute as a button." Janet Maslin of The New York Times said it was hard to resist Smith "because the Captain, like Indiana Jones, is so unflappably tough." The mix of humor, action, and surprises was perfectly suited to Smith's skills as an actor.

6. The Pursuit of Happyness

In a career full of unexpected twists, 2006's "The Pursuit of Happyness" was a big one for Will Smith. Adapting the true story of Chris Gardner, a struggling salesman who went through homelessness with his young son on his way to achieving success as a stockbroker. Smith once again played against type as a struggling, scruffy, but ultimately optimistic man whose idealism carried him through the toughest times. Smith wasn't cool or funny in this movie, but his conviction and his bond with his son Jaden (who played Gardner's son) made the film a success.

"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 Metacritic.com with no negative reviews. Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly said of Smith's turn as Gardner: "It's a beautiful and understated performance, one that hums with a richer, quieter music than Smith has mustered before." 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. 

5. I Am Legend

In 2007's "I Am Legend," Will Smith plays Robert Neville, a scientist determined to find the cure for a plague that has wiped out most of humanity and turned the rest into bloodthirsty vampire creatures called Darkseekers. It was based on the classic science-fiction novel by Richard Matheson, although the version released in theaters deviated significantly from the original story. In the theatrical version, Neville sacrificed himself to save the cure and the two immune humans who joined him. In the alternative version on DVD, Neville realized that the Darkseeker leader was looking for his lover, making a butterfly shape with his hands referring to her butterfly tattoo. To his horror, he realized that he was a monster to them, after killing and experimenting on so many of them for years in his attempt to craft a cure. 

Both endings were decidedly downbeat and unusual for a blockbuster action film. In addition, Smith had the challenge of being either by himself or just with a dog throughout much of the movie. The movie was still a success, bringing in over $585 million worldwide. The Village Voice's Scott Foundas said, "In what has been a pretty remarkable career up to now, it's this performance that fully affirms Smith as one of the great leading men of his generation." Comparing Smith to Tom Hanks in "Cast Away," Reelviews' James Berardinelli noted, "Will Smith pulls off this half-insane role perfectly."

4. Ali

Will Smith built a career from comic suavity, but he took a turn with 2001's biopic "Ali." Directed by Michael Mann, it zeroed in on a crucial 10-year period for the boxer who dubbed himself "The Greatest," Muhammad Ali. Though Smith had to bulk up for this role, the Ali who started this era was a lightning-quick boxer with a lean, cut body, much like Smith's. Smith's charisma mirrored Ali's, but he also depicted a quieter, more contemplative side of the champ as he met with Malcolm X and converted to Islam. It followed him through his term in prison for refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War and his eventual redemption against George Foreman in Zaire.

"Ali" was a commercial flop that didn't make back its $107 million budget. However, Smith received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination as well as a Golden Globe Award nomination. "Ali" received a solid 65 from Metacritic's aggregator scale. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "'Ali' is a bruiser, unwieldy in length and ambition. But Mann and Smith deliver this powerhouse with the urgency of a champ's left hook." 

3. Enemy of the State

After establishing himself as a box-office star, Smith upped his game with 1998's "Enemy of the State," a conspiracy/surveillance thriller that paired with screen titans Gene Hackman and Jon Voight. Smith expressed a lot of enthusiasm about co-starring with Hackman, telling The Morning Call, "It's exhilarating to sit across the table from Gene Hackman and know he's not going to miss a line. He's not going to stumble. Everything that comes out of his mouth is dead on the bull's-eye. You sit there wondering, 'How close can I come to that?'"

The film followed Smith's character, a lawyer named Robert Dean, as he got involved in a cover-up of a murder by a rogue faction of the government dedicated to expanding surveillance (in some ways, the film was rather prescient). Hackman played an ex-operative who assisted him in striking back against the conspirators, who were led by Jon Voight's character.

"Enemy of the State" was a hit, making over $250 million worldwide. It earned a decent 67 on Metacritic.com's review aggregator. "Bruckheimer and director Tony Scott have wisely set their course by Will Smith, who is sensational in a dramatic role that leans on him to carry a movie without the help of aliens or Big Willie-style jokes for every occasion," noted Rolling Stone's Peter Travers. Most of the critics noted that the plot was absurd, but it didn't matter because of Smith's wit and chemistry with Hackman.

2. Men in Black

Along with "Bad Boys" and "Independence Day," 1997's "Men in Black" helped establish Will Smith as a superstar who could carry a film to great success. Based on a comic book series, this movie was about a secret organization that monitored and regulated alien life on Earth. Their agents wore black suits and carried neuralyzers that erased the memories of those who've seen too much. Smith was recruited by Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K and became his new partner, Agent J. At the end of the film, K retires and J takes on a new partner. 

It's a bit of a broken record to talk about Smith's chemistry with a fellow actor, but he and Jones had a wonderfully plausible relationship, full of snarky antagonism and, ultimately, genuine affection. Smith's glib sneer stood in vivid contrast against Jones' grim, deadpan personality. 

Of course, the film was a runaway success, making nearly $600 million worldwide. The lighthearted sci-fi comedy was still somewhat unusual at this time and felt original. It earned a solid 71 from Metacritic.com. Reelviews' James Berardinelli said the movie "is a snappy, clever, often-funny motion picture that provides the perfect blend of science fiction-style action with comic dialogue."

1. Six Degrees Of Separation

The highest-ranked Will Smith film on Metacritic.com 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 by claiming to be Sidney Poitier's son. Known at that time as the star of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," portraying a bisexual con man was a big leap for Smith. He was so intent on doing a good job with the role that he claimed he used the method acting technique: He not only inhabited that character all the time, he also fell in love with co-star Stockard Channing, since his character was in love with hers. He said that he "got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character." (Though his method acting didn't extend as far as kissing a male co-star, as one scene required). 

The film received an average score of 72 from Metacritic.com. The Seattle Times' Misha Berson wrote: "A resonant moral conundrum tripling as a wry social satire and an armchair mystery, 'Six Degrees of Separation' has been transferred to the screen with intelligence and panache, if some initial disorientation in the jumpy opening sequences." Smith took a chance and it paid off, as other directors in Hollywood paid attention to his work ethic and attention to detail.