Top 5 Movie Guide: Will Smith

With this week's edition of the Top 5 Movie Guide, we decided to focus our efforts on the star of this weekend's upcoming film "Men in Black III", Will Smith. "Mr. July", as he's sometimes referred to due to his impressive run of summer blockbuster successes, has starred in twelve films that have banked over $100MM in their theater runs, and four which have surpassed $200MM. He holds current records for 1) most consecutive films reaching the $100MM mark (8), and 2) the highest average theater gross per film for a lead actor ($127MM). He is the ninth highest-grossing actor of all-time, with his films topping more than $2.54BB domestically (Samuel L. Jackson sits atop this list).

Will Smith started his career as a rapper and musician, but quickly got big screen breaks with films like "Bad Boys" in 1995 and, more notably, "Independence Day" in 1996. Smith hasn't stopped since, churning out box office success after box office success; success that could have been a lot greater had it not been for one minor misstep: in 1999 he turned down the role of Neo in "The Matrix" and instead opted for one of the leads in "Wild Wild West". Smith to this day states that "Wild Wild West" is his biggest regret.

To balance things out though, his role of Agent Jay in "Men in Black" wasn't originally meant for him. The role was first turned down by both Chris O'Donnell and David Schwimmer before eventually landing in Smith's hands. And ultimately, while many might have more appreciation for some of his other roles, it's his presence in the Men in Black franchise that's one of the most notable of his career.

After the break, check out all of the films we find the best of this actor's career.

Alex Schopp -
When we decided to go with Will Smith, I thought I'd have to sort through tons of films fighting for spots on this list. But upon closer examination, I thought I liked Will Smith way more than I think I actually do. He's a good actor that picks fun movies, but going through his filmography, I'm really surprised by my lack of interest for most of his films.

     1. Independence Day (1996)

Initially I thought there'd be much more competition for this slot than what there was. But this ended up being my number one film without any real competition. Even though some of the effects in the film haven't aged particularly well, it's still a fun movie on an epic scale with a really great cast. And it has one of the best movies speeches of all time!
     2. Hitch (2005)
Solid romantic comedy. Smith's character is so cool in this - I think we've all wished we could be that suave at some point. And even though Eva Mendez isn't the best actress around, she still looks really good. And Smith and Kevin James play off of each other very nicely.
     3. Men in Black (1997)
Just your all-around fun story. And a lot of the visuals in this movie were really well done too. Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are great partners in the film, but it's easily Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar that steals the show in this one.
     4. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
Emotional film that featured probably the first truly serious performance I saw from Will Smith. It was a good rags to riches story, and I thought Smith did a solid job with it.
     5. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
I like Will Smith. I like Matt Damon. I like Charlize Theron. I like golf.

Ben Foutch -
Smith has been smart about choosing certain blockbuster roles. I'd like to see him stretch his acting chops a bit though. Doesn't hurt to take a pay cut every once in a while...

     1. Men In Black (1997)

     2. Enemy of the State (1998)

     3. Bad Boys (1995)

     4. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

     5. Hitch (2005)

Derek Clem -

     1. Independence Day (1996)

     2. Hitch (2005)

     3. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

     4. Men in Black (1997)

     5. I, Robot (2004)

Nathan Hinds -
This was a really tough list to narrow down to five films. In terms of actors who generally always stick to blockbusters, he is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. And while I wish he would do more movies, I like that he seems to really wait for the good roles. Too bad I don't have much hope for MIB3.

     1. Independence Day (1996)

One of the best summer blockbusters of the 90's. I'm skeptical about the sequel(s) that are planned, but they could never diminish my love for this movie. What a start to his mainstream career.
     2. Bad Boys II (2003)
See the Buddy Cop List for reference of how much I love this movie. Just another installment from the Great Michael Bay!
     3. Men in Black (1997)
Such an odd pairing between Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but it worked to perfection in what is one of my all time favorite sci-fi comedies.
     4. I, Robot (2004)
Another rock solid entry into the sci-fi genre for Will Smith. I feel like Smith's career is packed full of so many awesome sci-fi films yet none of them are mentioned among the all time greats. That kind of defines his career in a way too, just teetering on the edge of greatness.
     5. The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)
There are about four other films that I could rotate in and out of this spot, but I went with something I don't expect to show up on the other guys' lists. For me this is the greatest fictional sports movie ever (well, maybe outside of "D2: The Mighty Ducks"). Also, I made that statement without really looking into it too much.

Andy Schopp -
Will Smith hasn't actually done as much as I thought, but whatever he's done it's always been solid and very enjoyable.

     1. Independence Day (1996)

     2. Men in Black (1997)

     3. Hancock (2008)

     4. Hitch (2005)

     5. Wild Wild West (1999)

Well there you have it, some of our favorite Will Smith films and performances. This was an odd list as two films kind of emerged as winners, though both in different ways. "Men in Black" was the only film that showed up on all five lists, however, "Independence Day", which appeared on four of the five, was in the number one spot on all of those lists. "Men in Black" had an average ranking of 2.6, so it was still very appealing to all. And ultimately, since it was on every list, maybe this film does have stronger all-around appeal than any of Smith's other films. Regardless of the reasoning, both of these films are easily staples of this actor's career, and two that you need to check out if for some unimaginable reason you haven't already.

Other than those two, a few other films had strong performances as well. While "Independence Day" got an earlier reference for its high rankings, "Hitch" also appeared on as many lists, but with an average ranking of 2.6 (same as MIB but with one less selection). Obviously, another staple to Smith's career though, adding a slightly different tone to what many of the other selections had to offer. "The Legend of Bagger Vance" surprised as the only film with three selections. This one may very well be one of Smith's lesser-known roles, so if you didn't ever get around to seeing this one, the majority of us recommend it as one of his best. "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "I, Robot" were officially the only films with two selections, though two different films were mentioned from the Bad Boys franchise, giving them two selections as well.

As always, we hope that each of these film selections helps you to expand your knowledge of Will Smith's entertaining filmography, and guides you to better and more enjoyable all-around viewing experiences.

Happy watching!