Considering Will Smith’s impish charisma and still-boyish good looks, it’s shocking to realize he’s been around for nearly 30 years. Take that Paul Rudd. Audiences have literally witnessed the actor grow from a 24-year old MC of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince to family man. He’s garnered chart toppers and box office hits; television stardom; and blissfully lived as the other half of a power couple with wife Jada Pinkett-Smith. He’s one of the few movie stars left, a cultural crossover sensation capable of leading a film to profitability based on his sheer talent and aura.
This week, the actor returns with Bad Boys for Life, the third installment in a series that began in 1995. It’s a fitting reoccurrence as the first entry marked the beginning of the performer as a box office staple. In fact, Smith’s career can be split into three arcs. His first decade covered the “young hotshot” archetype in which he portrayed bachelors maturing over the course of a film. He then transitioned to “weathered adults,” family men who have lived through hardships. And, more recently, he’s taken on a scattershot of roles, from science fiction to biopics, as villains or mentors.
The films below make up an assemblage of those personas. Even so, his charm and comic timing is present in every role, be it action stars to men at the end of their ropes. Altogether, we feel these make up the best performances of his career.