Friday, September 25, 2015

Pointless Lists: Top 10 Will Smith Performances


In West Philadelphia born and raised. On the playground is where he spent most of his days - chillin' out, maxin', relaxin' all cool, and shootin' some b-ball outside of the school. And today is his 47th birthday. To honor him, I'm going to run down what I think are the best movie performances by The Fresh Prince.

10.
as Del Spooner
I, Robot
I know, I know. You hate this movie. I don't. It's not that I love it, but it's not that bad. And Will Smith is pretty darn good in it. It's one of his more somber roles, but he makes it work. He makes feel that his character is a man brimming with pain and resentment.

9.
as Detective Mike Lowrey
Bad Boys & Bad Boys II
The original Bad Boys was Smith's first bona-fide hit, but he may have delivered a better performance in the second. In both, he goes full on super suave action hero and does it to great effect. His chemistry with co-star Martin Lawrence is off the charts and really elevates both films.


8.
as Ben
Seven Pounds
This is arguably the most polarizing film Smith has ever done. While many hail it as a thought provoking, philosophical, and genius piece of film-making, just as many see it as pretentious crap. In any event, it's Smith at his most morose

7.
as Hancock
Hancock
Smith's first foray into the superhero genre was in this fun, enjoyable flick that falls apart in the third act. Smith still brings the goods. His character is an inversion of sorts in that he's actually unlikable for a large chunk of the film. The attributes that have served him so well in other roles are stripped away, leaving a broken man in their wake. He has to learn to like himself and Smith makes it a believable journey.

6.
as Captain Steven Hiller
Independence Day
Though hardly his first movie, it was his first ginormous box office success. As such, it was the one that introduced many people to what would become the Will Smith persona. Yes, he's arrogant and loud, but he's also funny, and we love him.

5.
as Hitch
Hitch
If there's one thing Will Smith has an abundance of, it's charm. And it's of an effortless sort. His work in Hitch shows this perfectly. It's a character that could have easily come off as a slimy individual. In Smith's hands, he becomes a tender, flawed guy afraid of the love he so desperately needs.


4.
as Robert Neville
I Am Legend
Playing the last guy on Earth takes some doing to pull off and not bore your audience. Smith does so wonderfully. He's endlessly compelling in a role that sees him use his considerable charm in a far different way than we're used to seeing.


3.
as Agent J
Men in Black Franchise
When most people think of vintage Will Smith, this is what leaps to mind. It makes perfect sense because this is the character that most readily lends itself to Smith's particular talents. He gets to be brash, cocky, and somehow still likable. It also helps that he has amazing chemistry with co-star Tommy Lee Jones.



2.
as Muhammad Ali
Ali
The Michael Mann directed biopic about the famed boxer disappointed at the box-office and has been largely forgotten by people who don't consider themselves cinephiles. It's an underrated gem fueled by the story's exploration of its subject and several dynamic performances within that exploration. Jon Voight and Jamie Foxx were both outstanding as Howard Cosell and Bundini Brown, respectively. However, their work would be for naught without the efforts of the man at the center of the film. Smith earns his first of two Oscar nominations for Best Lead Actor by managing to give us an excellent impersonation AND conveying the essence of the man.


1.
as Chris Gardner
The Pursuit of Happyness
For this, Smith earned his second Oscar nomination for Best Lead Actor, and for good reason. It is his most fully realized performance. He makes Chris Gardner a fully formed human being that we not only root for, but for whom we have unconditional empathy. Though his entire portrayal is saturated with genuine emotion, it shines through most in two particular scenes. The first shows our hero in the most vulnerable state possible, tenderly preparing his son for a night of sleeping in a subway bathroom. The other is that final triumphant moment where all the hard work finally pays off. When he claps his hands with eyes full of tears and exhales, so do we.


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24 comments:

  1. I love lists like these! I only saw The Pursuit of Happyness for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and Will Smith was just amazing in that.
    Can I join the 'I didn't hate I Robot' club??
    - Allie

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    1. You are more than welcome to join that club! I'm always looking for new members!

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  2. He was so good in The Pursuit of Happyness. I cried like a baby at the end of that movie.

    I did not hate I, Robot. I enjoyed it, I'm glad you did too!

    He gave a good performance in I Am Legend, but that movie was shit adaptation of the novel. Ugh.

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    1. I liked I Am Legend, but you're right, as an adaptation it takes lots of liberties. I actually wrote a whole post on it.

      http://dellonmovies.blogspot.com/2013/10/3-movies-1-book-i-am-legend.html

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  3. Great list! Loved him in Independence Day, Hitch, and Men in Black. I have yet to see #'s 1 & 2.

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    1. I hope you check them out. Would love to hear what you think of them.

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  4. Great post! I agree that he was terrific in The Pursuit of Happyness. I haven't seen Ali yet -- I should check it out soon.

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    1. Please do. Would love to hear what you think of it.

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  5. I actually really like I, Robot. I like his black leather converse and I like him in the shower with Stevie Wonder playing. Hello!

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    1. Not the same reasons I like it, but whatever floats your boat.

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  6. This is a pretty easy list to write, I imagine, considering that most of Smith's roles are suited to his effortlessly charming personality. Throw a blanket over his filmography and you've just about covered it. I think Pursuit of Happyness really stretched him, and I Robot is his least "aww hell nawww" kinda role for an action-y film. But Ali is where it's at. I don't think a better combo of director and actor has been found - that film, and Smith's performance in it, are superb.

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    1. Glad to see some more love for Ali. It really is an underappreciated film.

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  7. I think The Pursuit of Happyness is his best work so far with the first Men in Black in third. I kinda liked I, Robot but I didn't like Seven Pounds and I fucking loathe Bad Boys 2. I enjoyed him in Hitch because I just think he's hilarious and the fact that he was willing to let Kevin James steal the film from him. Wait, where's Six Degrees of Separation? That should be 2nd.

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    1. I agree with all of this...mostly that Kevin James owned him in Hitch (such a spirited and natural performance) and that Six Degrees of Separation should be on this list).

      Oh, and #1 is clearly Fresh Prince!

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    2. No, it's not Fresh Prince.... it's THE CARLTON SHOW!

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    3. I knee someone would get me, glad it's you two. This means I still haven't seen Six Degrees of Separation. Sigh.

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  8. SO agree on The Pursuit of Happyness. Far and away his best work, an act of being the character instead of being a movie star acting the character. Actually agree with all the top 4.

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    1. Thanks. That's an excellent assessment of his work in The Pursuit of Happyness.

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  9. It'll always be Ali for me, so I was glad that came in at number 2 here. But man, that moment you screencapped from The Pursuit of Happyness always kills me.

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    1. That's such a wonderful and powerful moment. I love it. He was really great in Ali, too. Won't hold it against anyone who has that as their top choice.

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  10. I also didn't hate I, Robot; in fact, I think it's one of my favourite Will Smith movies. Definitely agree with Pursuit of Happyness claiming first spot. That moment at the end when Smith claps his hands still brings chills to my body. I think there's two Will Smiths out there: the first is the confident, brash Smith that was the basis of his career, roles like Bad Boys and Men In Black. Then there's the serious Smith who decided he wanted an Oscar and took on roles like Seven Pounds and Ali. His portrayal of Gardener is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, taking the best parts of both worlds and blending them together to form a charming but gritty character.

    Oh wait, there's a third Will Smith - the After Earth Smith who is basically a robot with no personality.

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    1. Yeah...me no like the third Will Smith.

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  11. The Pursuit of Happyness is a good pick for #1. He really seemed to put his heart into that performance. I still haven't seen Ali.

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  12. And I see I said almost exactly the same ting I said in a previous comment. Oh well.

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