In celebration of the release of MEN IN BLACK 3 I have put together a list of my favorite movies featuring Will Smith. The criteria for this list may seem a bit mixed as I put it together not to reflect how good the movie is, but how much I liked Will Smith in it. Therefore, instead of being a top list of his movies it’s more a top 5 of my favorite Will Smith performances/characters in his many movies.
It became kind of a double edged sword when it came to picking performances. Smith has his fair share of dramatic performances that he is usually very good at delivering, but also more action movie roles where he shouts and wise cracks his way through which are fun in their own right. I won’t even blame anyone for any venomous things they have to say here because as much as I hate to admit it, some of my favorite performances of his are movies that a lot of people probably hate.
Hancock (Hancock) - I’m just as down about the end direction of HANCOCK as most people, but I was 100% on board with Smith’s portrayal of the drunken bad boy superhuman for the first half of the movie. I like the dark side Will Smith lets loose from time to time and seeing him uppercut a mouthy little brat miles in the air I found disturbingly hilarious. However, once we get into the second half and the ridiculous climax of the groupie one night stand had my willingness to play along with the film hanging by a thread.
Men In Black (Jay) - When I was much younger I really loved the first MEN IN BLACK film. I skipped the second one in theaters and didn’t catch it on DVD till well after the release and didn’t care for it all that much. Remains to be seen if I make time theatrically to MEN IN BLACK 3 but I will say that just from the trailers it looks funner than the second. I really enjoyed Smith’s origin story to becoming Agent J in MEN IN BLACK and still like to check it out when it comes on cable or on DVD once in a while. I always crack up during the scene when he’s in the room taking the test and he loudly pulls the table over so he has something to write on. Smith though has had finer moments in action comedy, but MEN IN BLACK remains one of my favorites of his.
Independence Day (Captain Steven Hiller) - Possibly one of the tent pole films of Smith’s that many people quote to this day- not that the rest don’t have their moments- but few have the same ring as “Welcome to Earth.” INDEPENDENCE DAY is another favorite from my younger days due mostly to the visual spectacle of the alien ship’s deadly main weapon that destroys the White House and other buildings in cities over the world. Will Smith tends to be one of the more enjoyable characters in the film especially when he is dishing out one liners and punching aliens.
Bad Boys/Bad Boys 2 (Mike Lowery) - Michael Bay has been building a long list of loud, exceedingly dumb and very expensive looking action movies and if any are somewhat redeemable I would have to go with the BAD BOYS series. It’s been a while since there was a movie I liked Martin Lawrence in and this is one of my favorite roles of his. However, Will Smith is the anchor of both films- his attitude and ability to mix comedy into more serious action chops makes some of the dumber aspects of BAD BOYS more bearable. Smith’s line delivery makes the sophomoric humor in Bay’s movie less cringe worthy as well- somewhat anyway. Regardless, Will Smith makes this series as watchable as it is for me.
I Am Legend (Robert Neville) - Last but not least the severely uneven adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel features my favorite Will Smith performance to date. The film itself starts off phenomenally before really going off the rails towards the end and severely dropping the ball on the creature CGI. Smith is just fantastic in the movie though- the camera winking is completely missing and replaced by some serious dramatic chops. I personally love the scene when he finds his favorite mannequin, Frank, in the street where he shouldn’t be and the scene that immediately follows between him and his dog. Even during the shaky ending Smith gives it his all, it’s just the film that lets him down in the end.