Whether you’re a die-hard fan who has seen every single episode of The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air or just happened to see a couple clips on YouTube, there is no denying the sheer talent and charm of Mr. Will Smith.
From his heartbreaking scene with his long lost father in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to his quick witted and high energy comedy most recently seen in Aladdin, his star power has always been visibly apparent.
In 1995, as Fresh Prince started to draw near its end, Smith took Hollywood by storm. Co-starring in the action-packed buddy comedy Bad Boys, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s electric chemistry carried Michael Bay’s by-the-numbers action vehicle to two films, with a third on the way!
Although Lawrence received top billing at the time, Will brought his trademark swagger to the role of hot-shot cop Mike Lowery in such a way that it felt like Lowery was truly the film’s lone protagonist. Bad Boys grossed a very respectable $192 million against a $19 million dollar budget.
His performance almost single-handedly elevated a standard shoot em’ up affair to a ’90s action classic. It was evident Smith had star power, but no one could have imagined the historic run of monumental success that would carry on for the next 13 years.
Welcome to Earth!
During the summer of 1996, I remember the early trailers for Independence Day promoting a mysterious and foreboding sci-fi thriller. I honestly wasn’t sure what it was about or what to expect.
Suffice to say, I was completely flabbergasted as I approached my local theater to see an enormous line of people circling from the box office to around the side of the building. It was the 4th of July weekend and clearly there was a “Spielbergian” Jaws type of movie phenomenon happening.
What the clever marketing didn’t initially portray was that Independence Day was more Indiana Jones than Alien. It was a hilarious, action-packed, special-effects extravaganza that boasted a pitch-perfect group of talented character actors like Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, and Randy Quaid, to name a few.
The true star of the alien invasion blockbuster was clearly the ace pilot, Captain Steven Hiller, played by the ‘Fresh Prince’ himself. His bravado and badass heroic persona once flashed in Bad Boys came soaring through as he nonchalantly blasted aliens out of the sky with witty one-liners to boot.
Made on a $75 million budget, it nearly made that back the first weekend alone with a $50 million opening. Not only was it the highest grossing film of 1996, it completed its gross at $817 million worldwide, which is honestly unheard of back then.
For Smith, this was only the beginning.
Here Comes the Dynasty
On July 2, 1997, Men in Black blasted into theaters with a $51 million opening and Will Smith had done it again. Another July 4th weekend with another smash-hit blockbuster.
This was unprecedented, and about as incredible as a sports team winning back-to-back championships. Men in Black went on to amass an enormous $589.4 million and spawned two sequels both starring Smith and a spin-off film that released just this year.
On top of the enormous success at the box office, Smith also had scored a #1 music single for the film. He was literally on top of the world; it seemed like everything he touched turned to gold.
Although Wild, Wild West received a horrible reception with both audiences and critics, the film still managed to pull in $200 million worldwide, albeit on a $170 million budget. The misstep proved that Smith wasn’t untouchable, but also set the stage for a comeback story the likes of Hollywood have never seen.
The King of July
It seems that after proving his mettle as an actor, he decided to go back to the well of his previous successes and began an unparalleled streak of eight films consecutively grossing over $100 million that began with Men In Black II ($442 million) and ended with Hancock ($624.4 million). Four of these eight films opened in July ranging from $273 million worldwide to $624 million. All of this happened before the superhero explosion and current state of film that we’ve seen in the MCU or the new Star Wars trilogy.
This was all happening based on the sheer star power of one man.
Most of Smith’s films are pretty good, but sometimes they aren’t or they are made better simply because of his presence. He is quite possibly the most talented movie star to grace the screen, because whether you like him or not, his track record speaks for itself.
Ain’t Never Seen a Star Like Will Smith
The grand total of the eight films released during Smith’s hot streak sits just above $3 billion, which is absolutely ridiculous. On top of the mountains of cash he has accumulated, Smith received another Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his heartfelt performance in The Pursuit of Happyness. He has reached the highest pinnacles that most actors only dream of and the crazy part is, he is still going strong!
Disney’s 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin is currently at $921 million and is still in theaters. The possibility of this film reaching $1 billion is very real, which would be a first for Smith. In October, he is returning to the kind of action sci-fi that originally brought him fame with Gemini Man. Then, finally, in January of 2020, we are getting the highly anticipated and most likely final installment of Bad Boys, aptly titled Bad Boys for Life.
This was a story all about how a young talented musician’s life literally got turned upside down. Smith went from a witty young rapper in the late ’80s to one of the most lucrative film actors in history. Even at age 51, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In fact, don’t be surprised if Aladdin is just the start of yet another Will Smith hot streak.