Not many actors have had more longevity or success at the box office than Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Will Smith. After finding moderate success as a hip-hop artist, the 52-year-old’s transition to film allowed him to find his true niche.
Early in his acting career, Smith drew audiences with his comedic prowess and boyish charm. Once he got opportunities to star in feature-length films, the actor proved he had the range to become a truly groundbreaking artist. Today, Smith sits within the upper echelon of male film stars.
With summer approaching, a season filled with Hollywood blockbusters, here are some of the movies you can watch on streaming sites like Hulu that helped Smith establish his name:
Men In Black (1997)
Rarely has a major movie made human contact with aliens as fun as Men In Black. In this action-comedy, an agency of people clad in black attire work to protect the Earth from the threat of aliens and to keep them out of the public eye. Smith stars as Agent Jay, a wise-cracking former street cop who joins the MIB to broaden his horizons and find his purpose.
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Fiorentino
Runtime: 98 minutes
IMDb rating: 7.3
Bad Boys (1995)
In the ultimate buddy film, Martin Lawrence teams up with Smith for one of the most iconic action films of the ’90s. The two funny guys play a pair of police officers who are infamous for causing major damage in car chases, gunfights, and simple arrests as they fight crime in Miami. The movie finds them trying to protect a witness to a murder while getting to the bottom of a case involving narcotics stolen from the evidence room in the police precinct.
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Lisa Boyle, Joe Pantoliano
Runtime: 119 minutes
IMDb rating: 6.9
Read more: Best Amazon Prime Movies
Independence Day (1996)
In what is considered his breakout feature, Smith reprises the role of Air Force pilot Capt. Steven Hiller, who is recruited for a mission to save the world from invading aliens. Outmatched against the aliens’ technology, Smith and the rest of the cast use whatever methods possible to prove that humanity’s will to survive is a force to be reckoned with.
Cast: Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell
Runtime: 145 minutes
IMDb rating: 7.0
I, Robot (2004)
It’s the year 2035, and the robotic machines we’ve created are planning to take dominion over Earth. In this action-thriller, a cop who detests robots (Smith) investigates a service robot for possibly committing a crime and uncovers a conspiracy that threatens mankind.
Cast: Bridget Moynahan, Bruce Greenwood, Alan Tudyk
Runtime: 115 minutes
IMDb rating: 7.1
I Am Legend (2007)
Following the devastation of a virus that kills millions, if not billions of people, a surviving virologist (Smith) tries to create a cure that could save the remaining people who have been turned into mutants. Although the film was the victim of enormous anticipation and hype, it has aged well and really showcases Smith’s acting chops.
Cast: Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan
Runtime: 101 minutes
IMDb rating: 7.2
Fighting films are hard to nail because of the limitations of most actors. However, Smith’s portrayal of boxing great Muhammed Ali is one of his best. This sports drama from director Michael Mann covers ten years of the boxer’s life; from his sensational championship victory over Sonny Liston to his discovery of the Islamic faith, all the way up to Ali’s renowned Rumble In The Jungle fight against George Foreman. Although the movie didn’t do well at the box office, Smith received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Jada Pinkett Smith
Runtime: 157 minutes
IMDb rating: 6.8
Seven Pounds (2008)
In this emotional drama by Gabriele Muccino, a man living with a big secret goes on a remarkable journey to redeem himself by helping change the lives of seven strangers. Although it is a big contrast to Smith’s other notable acting jobs, the actor’s role in this film is perhaps his most memorable.
Cast: Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy
Runtime: 123 minutes
IMDb rating: 7.6
The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006)
This story, based on the astounding life of businessman Chris Gardner, sees Smith and his then-eight-year-old son Jaden star as Gardner and his young son, respectively. After the father spends is remaining savings on a dying technology, he must find a way to survive and take care of his son while trying to land a job as a stockbroker. The heartfelt performance earned Will an Oscar and a Golden Globe nomination for best actor.
Cast: Thandiwe Newton, Jaden Smith, Brian Howe
Runtime: 117 minutes
IMDb rating: 8.0
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