May 18, 2024

A Look Into Will Smith’s Iconic Acting Career


Oscar and Grammy Award-winner Will Smith is one of the highest-paid actors of all time and deserving of it, too. Grossing more than $9.3 billion globally for his iconic roles in television and film, the decorated actor Is credited as a “bankable star.” This means Smith is guaranteed to bring box-office success by merely appearing in the film. Born in Philadelphia, Smith began his career as a rapper, creating music with his best friend, DJ Jazzy Jeff. After releasing multiple chart-toppers between 1984 to 1994, Smith ultimately ventured into his solo career. The duo didn’t split, as DJ Jazzy Jeff appeared in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The show featured Smith’s most iconic role as a fictional embodiment of himself.

Smith premiered his acting career in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1990 as a teenager adjusting to his extended family. He raked in $2.8 million within his first three years on the show but didn’t see much of it due to owing money in back taxes. Smith’s skills would eventually make him one of the wealthiest actors, with a reported net worth of $350 million. 

From Drama to Comedy and Action, Will Smith’s Many Acting Roles

LOS ANGELES – 1996 actor Will Smith poses for a portrait in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

Staring in multiple films in the ‘90s, like Independence Day (1996), Enemy of the State (1998), and Wild Wild West (1999), Smith was able to use his experience acting to mold a multifaceted career. Smith has taken on comedy, action, drama, and just about every film genre. He has even voiced for multiple animated roles like Shark Tale (2004) and Spies in Disguise (2019). He’s also long exhibited his ability to transform into a relatable role model for anyone of any age. In 2019, he even landed a part as the Genie on Disney’s live version of Aladdin. Taking on multiple roles at a time in varying genres, Smith epitomizes the hustle of a true actor with a genuine devotion to their work.

His passion for action is evident, as many of his iconic roles fit within the genre. Starring as a detective in the Bad Boys franchise alongside Martin Lawrence, Smith shows fans his recognizable comedic banter. However, movies like I Am Legend portray him as a survivor with the power to do anything he sets his mind to.  Other notable performances by Smith are his roles in Ali, Hitch, Gemini Man, I, Robot, Concussion, and Seven Pounds. In the latter, his character seeks out people to share vital parts of himself, displaying Smith’s highly favored ability to evoke emotion in any given film. 

Men in Black (Trilogy)

Based on the Marvel comic book, this plot surrounds a conspiracy theory that an elite undercover group of men has had their identities wiped to investigate extraterrestrial life on Earth. Men in Black is also loaded with science fiction theories and people with powers unheard of. Smith’s character, Agent J Darrell Edwards III, investigates the criminal activity of extraterrestrials. The films’ plots center around the MIB (men in black) who uncover evil plans to take over the world. In Men in Black III, Agent J (Smith) seeks more information about his partner, Agent Kevin Brown, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Additionally, all three films have grossed over $1 billion at the box office, while Men in Black III earned $654.2 million. This makes Smith one of the only four actors in the world to earn $100 million from a role in a film. 

Emancipation (2022)

Whipped within an inch of his life, an enslaved man named Peter flees by foot from a Louisiana plantation. This thrilling drama is arguably one of Smith’s most moving roles yet. He ravishes his way through horrifying treachery to return home to his family. Based on the true story of “Whipped Peter,” Smith also had to take control of himself in this role to embody the history of the message. Justifying his part with complete dedication to the role, Smith gave all of himself in this Oscar-worthy performance. 

King Richard (2021)

Winning an Oscar for his standout performance as the father of tennis’ most elite, Serena and Venus Williams, Richard Williams motivated his two daughters toward their professional careers. This is also an extraordinarily inspirational role played by Smith. He depicts the father’s love and support with patience, power, and perfection. It was Richard’s idea to have his two daughters begin the sport, and Smith takes on the role of molding two champions impeccably with his experience of being a father himself. In real life, Smith also shows his kids Jaden, Willow, and Trey equal love, just as Richard did with Serena and Venus.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

This film was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe. Smith transcended his role, giving an emotionally raw performance of Chris Gardner in this true story. Smith delivered the role with all he had, which also permeates on screen. Displaying depth and intensity, Smith’s character is a homeless single father who struggles to find work. He and his young son face the adverse streets of San Francisco with hunger and a yearning to survive. Jaden Smith also appears in this film as his father’s on-screen son.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Based on the popular DC comic, this superhero film is jam-packed with an epic cast. Smith’s character, Deadshot, is an expert marksman and assassin who hunts but vows never to kill a woman or child. Though his job is to kill off the evil prey of the world, he is just as focused on his relationship with his daughter. When he’s approached by Batman, he has to decide to either work or protect. Deadshot’s ability to maintain and balance his stern and affectionate demeanor under the control of the government as an obedient criminal makes for an entertaining film.

Collateral Beauty (2016)

In this moving drama, Smith embodies an NYC advertising executive, Howard Inlet, who tragically loses his daughter. He stops working and communicating with his friends but turns his pain into a plan to restore his life. To heal, he writes individual letters to Love, Time, and Death. Then, he starts to experience synchronicities that end up as lessons. He learns that what you go through affects everyone, so it’s best to have a grateful heart to receive life’s blessings despite an inevitable death.

Upcoming Work from Will Smith

What’s to come from Smith in the next couple of years should be highly anticipated. His ability to take on multiple roles simultaneously makes him more focused than ever. I Am Legend 2: Last Man on Earth will star Smith alongside Michael B. Jordan in its 2024 November premiere. At the same time, Bad Boys IIII is due to be released by 2025.

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