Iconic Roles is a look at some of the best performances in film and television by actors and actresses.
In a matter of days, Will Smith will portray an escaped slave called Peter in the upcoming Emancipation. The story is set during the American Civil War and will feature plenty of action scenes following Peter’s journey to join the Union Army. Smith had his breakout role in the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air before becoming a Hollywood star. The 54-year-old is best known for his ability to mix great action scenes with funny moments, always saying the right thing at the best moment.
Over the years, the Philadephia-born acted in a great variety of movies and expressed his artistic soul across different media, going as far as picking up four Grammy Awards, among other accomplishments. The definite consecration received from the cinematographic industry came earlier this year when he won an Academy Award for Best Actor thanks to his efforts in King Richard.
Here are some of the best Will Smith action movies to rewatch ahead of Emancipation.
Mike Lowrey in Bad Boys (1995)
Smith proved he was a great leading actor in action movies in his first collaboration with Michael Bay. In the action-packed buddy cop story, Smith portrayed a reckless narcotic detective working side-by-side with his friend and colleague Marcus (Martin Lawrence) to save their department from shutting down. Smith perfectly fit Michael Bay’s filming style, distinguished by plenty of slow-motion scenes and excessive turmoil. Plus, Bay gave Smith very much creative freedom while shooting, allowing the actor to improvise some of his lines. Bad Boys was a box-office success that spawned two sequels, a television series, and a video game. A fourth long feature film has already been announced, with Smith attached to reprise his role as Mike.
Captain Steven Hiller in Independence Day (1996)
In addition to comedy and action movies, sci-fi blockbusters were a constant in Smith’s career. Briefly, Independence Day follows Hiller’s attempt to save humanity from an alien attack led by a gigantic extraterrestrial mothership. Smith added his ease and likeability to twist the stereotypical soldier giving in all to protect Earth. Independence Day was an all-time box office smash and is the second-most profitable project Smith has worked on behind 2019’s Alladin. The ensemble cast also featured Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, and Randy Quaid, among others.
Agent J in Men in Black (1997)
There was a time when it seemed that Smith turned into gold everything he touched. Men in Black was a massive commercial blockbuster and a decent critical success, and part of the merit for that undoubtedly belongs to Smith. Once again, Smith portrayed a secret agent dealing with aliens attempting to take over Earth. The story expanded the funny mentor-apprentice relationship between Agent J and the grumpy Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Smith also released a song titled “Men in Black” for the occasion. Men in Black‘s success turned into a franchise that counts several installments across different media. The producers’ attempt to relaunch Men in Black in 2019 wasn’t as successful as expected, partly due to the absence of Smith’s Agent J.
I Am Legend (2007)
One of the best Will Smith action movies follows a virologist and his loyal dog attempting to survive amidst a zombie apocalypse. Indeed, the movie’s third act didn’t live up to the expectations, but one can only praise Smith for carrying the whole film on his broad shoulders. I Am Legends had one of the biggest box-office openings in history and went on to conclude its theatrical run with more than $585 million. A sequel is already in the works, with Smith reprising the iconic character.
John Hancock in Hancock (2008)
What if the “Fresh Prince” had superpowers and too much love for booze? Well, fans received an answer to the intriguing question in the Peter Berg-directed movie where Smith portrayed a swag alcoholic with superhuman powers. Hancock also starred Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, and Eddie Marsan, among others. The appreciated story earned more than $620 million worldwide. Given the movie’s success, a sequel has been teased for many years, yet it has never entered production. Still, Hancock stands as one of the most iconic roles in Smith’s career and one of the best Will Smith action movies.