Best Will Smith Movies & Performances Ranked



If Tom Hanks is America’s Dad, then Will Smith is the cool big brother.

Smith has received some of the best reviews of his career for his performance as Serena and Venus Williams’ father in “King Richard.” After the world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in Sept. 2021, Smith and the film from director Reinaldo Marcus Green received critical acclaim, later earning the star his first Academy Award for best actor (following a notable “Slap”).

To celebrate Smith’s birthday, Variety is ranking the 13 best performances of his film career so far. 

Smith has been a favorite of audiences and awards voters during his impressive three-decade career. He’s explored multiple genres, such as drama, comedy, action, science-fiction, horror and animation. 

With three career Academy Award nominations to his credit, which also include Michael Mann’s “Ali” (2001), as famed boxer Muhammad Ali, and Gabriele Muccino’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), as single father Chris Gardner the Philadelphia-born actor and producer was a respected figure in the Hollywood biz.

As one of the producers of “King Richard,” he made history as the second Black man to be recognized in both categories in the same year, following Denzel Washington for “Fences” in 2017.   

While this list focuses solely on Smith’s film performances, we can’t mention his finest acting moments without mentioning his iconic television role as the titular “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Smith nabbed his first Emmy nomination in 2021 in outstanding comedy series as one of the producers for Netflix’s “Cobra Kai.”

Despite being a movie star for three decades, Smith’s legacy may confined to his actions at the Oscars where he slapped Chris Rock on the evening of his Academy Award win for best actor. Whether he’ll be able to fully bounce back still remains to be determined, but his contributions to Hollywood will always be undeniable.

Read Variety’s list of Smith’s best performances below.

Honorable mentions: “Wild Wild West” (1999), “Hancock” (2008) and “Spies in Disguise” (2019)


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