If Tom Hanks is America’s Dad, then Will Smith is the cool big brother. Smith has received some of the best reviews of his career for his performance as Serena and Venus Williams’ father in “King Richard,” which is finally hitting theaters this weekend, in addition to streaming on HBO Max. After the world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September, Smith has emerged as one of the leading contenders for best actor. To celebrate the movie’s opening, Variety is ranking the 10 best performances of his film career so far.
Smith has been a favorite of audiences and awards voters during his impressive, three-decade career. He’s explored multiple genres, such as drama, comedy, action, science-fiction, horror and animation.
With two Academy Award nominations to his credit for Michael Mann’s “Ali” (2001), as famed boxer Muhammad Ali, and Gabriele Muccino’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006), as single father Chris Gardner, the third time could be the charm for the Philadelphia-born actor and producer.
As one of the producers on “King Richard,” if the film is nominated for best picture, along with best actor for Smith, he would become only the second Black man to be recognized in both categories in the same year. The first was Denzel Washington for “Fences” in 2017.
While this list focuses solely on Smith’s film performances, one of his most iconic roles was on TV as the titular “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Smith nabbed his first Emmy nomination this past year as one of the producers for Netflix’s “Cobra Kai.”
Honorable mentions: “Enemy of the State” (1998), “Wild Wild West” (1999) and “Hancock” (2008)