Will Smith, now 50, has been a household name for about 30 years now. But he just had his highest-grossing film ever in 2019 with Aladdin. That Disney remake is coming to Digital on August 27. Before you consider buying his blue genie magic, you can stream several other Will Smith movies right now on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other platforms.
Each week, I like to focus streaming recommendations on what's available for free through a subscription or free trial, rather than stuff you have to pay extra for. Otherwise you can stream almost anything at any time if you track it down and buy it. Apart from that, we live at the mercy of what Netflix and other services give to and take from subscribers each month. So, ahead of Aladdin's Digital release and the new September 2019 titles coming soon, float like a butterfly over to these Will Smith movies available to stream right now.
Will Smith earned his first of two Oscar nominations (so far) for his portrayal of Cassius Clay Jr./Muhammad Ali in this Michael Mann film covering 10 years of the iconic boxer's life. The star-studded supporting cast includes Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Jeffrey Wright, Mykelti Williamson, Mario Van Peebles, and Smith's real-life wife Jada Pinkett Smith. The 2.5-hour film earned solid, if not spectacular, reviews and a B+ CinemaScore from polled moviegoers. However, the Christmas Day 2001 release ended up losing money at the box office, making only $87.7 million off a reported production budget of $107 million, per Box Office Mojo. Still, Ali was seen as a huge step forward for Smith's career as a serious actor in addition to already being famous as a comedic actor and action hero. Ali was also a departure for writer/director/producer Michael Mann, who was better known for crime films like Heat, Manhunter, and Thief.
The Pursuit of Happyness
This movie turned me into a pile of mush when I saw it in 2006. I'm a sucker for this kind of down-and-out-and-desperate movie, and it made me nearly as emotional as cinema classics like Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D. Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, father to Christopher Gardner, played by his own son Jaden in his film debut. Smith gives arguably one of his best performances, earning him his second Oscar nomination. The movie -- wonky spelling and all -- won over fans with an A CinemaScore and an 87% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 8.0 rating on IMDb. Critics were OK with it too, giving it a fresh rating and crediting Smith's performance for elevating the film above what could've been pure melodrama.
Stream The Pursuit Of Happyness right now on Amazon Prime.
When Netflix released Bright in 2017, it became the new poster child for the fan vs. critic divide. Critics were sour on director David Ayer's (Suicide Squad) modern-day fantasy cop drama, giving it a 26% Rotten Tomatoes score and a Metscore of 29 on Metacritic. But the movie has an 84% audience score on RT from more than 19,000 users. It's a lot lower on IMDb -- 6.4 from 150,000 users -- so it's clear opinions are divided. Netflix touted the movie's streaming figures, saying it had been viewed more times in its first week than any one of its other movies up to that point. (This was before Bird Box and Murder Mystery.) There's even a Bright 2 sequel in the works. I watched Bright after the reviews came out, so I had low expectations. The movie isn't great, but I got through it easily enough and I will watch the sequel if/when it arrives. It's a perfectly fine Netflix movie, and I don't mean that as an insult. I just mean I'm happy to watch it at home and not have to pay extra for it. Is that an insult? Maybe it is.
Stream Bright right now on Netflix.
By the time I, Robot came out in 2004, Will Smith had already established himself as an action hero. He brought his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air TV charisma to the big screen with Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Enemy of the State. Not all of his action movies were successful -- lookin' at you, Wild Wild West -- but by 2004 he had already produced sequels for Men in Black and Bad Boys. I, Robot was a slick futuristic sci-fi thriller with just enough thought-provoking content to be a decent meal alongside the action dessert. It came out in July 2004, in keeping with Will Smith's ownage of that month at the box office, and picked up $347,234,916 worldwide. Smith continued on a dystopian future track in later movies like I Am Legend -- one of my favorites from him -- and After Earth.
This was another polarizing movie for Will Smith. Some critics hated it in a way they later hated his 2016 movie Collateral Beauty. But viewers seemed to appreciated Seven Pounds, giving the 2008 romantic drama a 75% RT audience score, from more than 636,000 user reviews, and a 7.6 IMDb score from 270,000 users. In the movie, Will Smith's character aims to change the lives of seven people, including Rosario Dawson's Emily. When the movie came out, Newsweek asked Smith why he took on such a haunting film. Here's his answer:
Usually with the films that I make there are ideas that I connect to, but lately I've been dealing with the bittersweet in life because it feels more natural. You don't ever get it really the way you want in life. That really fascinates me. As an actor there are certain parts of a character that you create, and you train yourself to have those reactions and then it becomes hard to stop them when the role is over. You have to retrain yourself. My character in this film is like hot grits. You know you can't shake them off and when you do, it hurts.
Netflix doesn't have many Will Smith options for viewing at this point -- that may change in September 2019, and change again in October 2019, etc. -- but Seven Pounds is one of them, so if you haven't seen the movie and want to know why it earned extreme reactions, give it a stream when you have 2 hours and 3 minutes to spare.
Stream Seven Pounds right now on Netflix.
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What movies have you been streaming lately, and through which streaming services?