Entertainment Movies A Look Back at Will Smith's Most Iconic Roles From The Fresh Prince to The Pursuit of Happyness, the actor has given us 30 years of cinematic gold By Diane J. Cho Diane J. Cho Diane J. Cho was the Features Editor of PEOPLE Digital from 2019 to 2022. She worked at the brand for nearly four years covering news, features, human interest, evergreen, holiday gift guides and more. She launched the How I Parent and What It's Really Like to Be …. digital series and has interviewed several celebrities and influential leaders within the entertainment industry. Prior to joining PEOPLE, Diane worked at Bustle, VH1 and Complex. She received her bachelor's degree in Journalism from Rutgers University and her master's degree from Columbia Journalism School. People Editorial Guidelines Updated on September 25, 2021 02:36 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos 01 of 09 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996) The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. NBCUniversal via Getty Smith played a fictionalized version of himself on the beloved sitcom that ran for six years. Will, a streetwise kid from Philly, was sent to live with his wealthy Uncle Phil, Aunt Viv, cousins Hilary, Carlton and Ashley in Bel-Air, and the rest was history. Throughout the series, fans fell in love with Will as he learned to navigate his new surroundings and upper-class lifestyle with his family by his side. 30 years later, fans remain loyal to the show for bringing real issues within the Black community — including run-ins with the police, wealth inequality and interracial relationships— and sharing them with audiences through nuanced storytelling topped with a heartfelt, happy ending. 02 of 09 Bad Boys (1995) Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in Bad Boys. Who better to catch some bad guys than Bad Boys Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey? Smith, as Detective Lowrey, won over all the ladies with his undeniable swagger and made audiences belly laugh as he bantered with costar Martin Lawrence (Burnett) throughout the film. The two leading men went on to take their blockbuster film success to future films Bad Boys II and Bad Boys for Life. Plus, there's more to come: a Bad Boys 4 is now in the works. 03 of 09 Independence Day (1996) Everett Hollywood heavyweights Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman played second and third fiddle to Smith, who stole the spotlight as Capt. Steven Hiller with classic lines like "Welcome to Earth," and "Now that's what I call a close encounter." Plus, who could forget his steamy kiss with Vivica A. Fox. 04 of 09 Men in Black (1997) Columbia/Everett The successful, action-packed comedy launched Smith into superstardom, and also led to two more installments of the franchise. Smith, as Jay, kicked alien butt alongside Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Kay in the '90s classic. Smith also wrote the accompanying Men in Black single, and shot a video for the film which won a Grammy in 1998. 05 of 09 Ali (2001) Frank Connor/Columbia/Kobal/Shutterstock To take on the life of one of the most prolific figures in history is not an easy feat. However, Smith honored boxing legend and civil rights icon Muhammad Ali with a striking performance that captured the charisma, intelligence, power and fearlessness the late icon, who died in 2016, shared with the world. 06 of 09 Hitch (2005) Columbia Pictures If you're struggling to find love, date doctor Hitch will coach you on how to win over the woman of your dreams. The love consultant was doing just fine with his clients until he met his match in Sara (played by Eva Mendes), and the two went head-to-head in the name of love. The classic '00s romcom is still a fan favorite, and the sight of Smith's character having an allergic reaction remains forever etched in our minds. 07 of 09 The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) Everett Not only did Smith act alongside real-life son Jaden, the star also took on the inspirational role of entrepreneur and motivational speaker Chris Gardner. The 2006 film told the story of how Gardner overcame unfathomable odds to provide for his son and build a successful career. Smith's role as Gardner earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, a Golden Globe nom for best performance by an actor in a motion picture and a Screen Actors Guild nom for outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role. 08 of 09 I Am Legend (2007) Everett In the post-apocalyptic thriller, Robert Neville (played by Smith) must find a cure to defeat a deadly virus that wiped out every human in New York City — except for himself. The suspenseful action flick was also his real-life daughter Willow's movie debut. 09 of 09 Hancock (2008) Frank Masi/Relativity Media/Overbrook/Kobal/Shutterstock Smith isn't your traditional superhero in Hancock. He's an alcoholic who ends up possessing superpowers and uses them to try and improve society, but causes a bit of havoc as he attempts to save the day. Thankfully, Ray Embrey (played by Jason Bateman) appears in his life to turn his life and public image around.