Skip to main content

Will Smith’s 8 Most Iconic Movies of All Time

Image used with permission by copyright holder

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)

Men in Black
71 %
pg-13 98m
Genre Action, Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction
Stars Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
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.

Read more: Best Amazon Prime Movies

Bad Boys (1995)

Bad Boys
41 %
r 119m
Genre Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller
Stars Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Téa Leoni
Directed by Michael Bay
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.

Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day
59 %
pg-13 145m
Genre Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Stars Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman
Directed by Roland Emmerich
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.

I, Robot (2004)

I, Robot
59 %
pg-13 115m
Genre Action, Science Fiction
Stars Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk
Directed by Alex Proyas
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.

I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend
65 %
pg-13 101m
Genre Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller
Stars Will Smith, Alice Braga, Charlie Tahan
Directed by Francis Lawrence
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.

Read more: Best Netflix Movies

Ali (2001)

65 %
r 157m
Genre Drama
Stars Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight
Directed by Michael Mann
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.

Seven Pounds (2008)

Seven Pounds
36 %
pg-13 123m
Genre Drama
Stars Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson
Directed by Gabriele Muccino
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.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

The Pursuit of Happyness
64 %
pg-13 117m
Genre Drama
Stars Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandiwe Newton
Directed by Gabriele Muccino
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.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
DeMario Phipps-Smith
Former Digital Trends Contributor
DeMario Phipps-Smith is a Chicago native passionate about working to uplift marginalized communities. He previously worked as…
Ranked: The best serial killer movies of all time
The most masterful serial killer flicks, ranked
Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. in Zodiac.

Whether they’re based on a true story or not, serial killer movies are often the most visceral, intense cinematic experiences you can have in any given two hours. While they may not be great for every occasion, a good movie about a serial killer can thrill like no other, and leave you with nightmares for weeks afterward. We’ve pulled the cream of the crop for this list, which features all manner of killers who kill for all manner of reasons, or for no reason at all. 

10. M (1931)

Read more
The best disaster movies of all time, ranked
From flying sharks to Mayan predictions, these disaster movies have it all!
The characters in This Is the End


Natural disasters are some of the real world's most terrifying events. Hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and tornadoes all strike large portions of the population worldwide every year, causing devastation and trauma. Hollywood has taken full advantage of humanity's fear of an impending disaster, creating the disaster movie genre to leverage our worries, and often make them entertaining. Natural disaster movies often fluff up or exaggerate the effects of a disaster, making them more violent, and with graver consequences. Sometimes action heroes have to save the day when the world is about to end. It is this extra bit of Mother Nature's wrath that makes these films the most captivating, even if the story or characters leave something to be desired. These are the best disaster movies ever made in one easy list.

Read more
The 11 best Bradley Cooper movies of all time
From A Star Is Born to The Place Beyond the Pines, these are the best movies of Bradley Cooper's career to date
Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born.

Bradley Cooper is a movie star, but he's also a great actor. Since he first emerged as a leading man, he's starred in everything from bawdy comedies to more high-brow fare, and he's proven that he can fit into almost any genre or milieu. Cooper has played war heroes, FBI agents, rock stars, and space raccoons, and he's been great at pretty much all of that.

It should be said, though, that Cooper takes the act of making a movie seriously. He studied at the Acting Studio, and he seems to always be insanely committed to the projects he participates in. Now, as he begins to direct more and more, it's time to take a look back at the best movies that Cooper has been involved in over his long career.

Read more