Will Smith’s Best Movie Is One You Probably Haven’t Seen

By Erika Hanson | 4 months ago

will smith best movie

While most of the world would agree that West Philadelphia is where Will Smith was “born and raised”, the matter of the renowned actors’ best film is always up for debate. Starring in close to as many films as he has celebrated birthdays, the 53-year-old actor, rapper, and producer has delivered plenty of remarkable roles over the years. From iconic films like Men In Black to I am Legend and Hitch, the Fresh Prince has delivered promising roles in highly acclaimed films. However, it would be one of his debut and largely unknown roles in Six Degrees of Separation that still holds up nearly three decades later as Will Smith’s best movie.

Coined by some as a tragicomedy, Six Degrees of Separation, Will Smith’s best movie, was an interweaved comedy-drama presenting themes of human life and relationships under the surface. Directed by Fred Schepisi and released by MGM Studios, the film was an adaptation from a play of the same name from John Guare. A retelling of real-life events, the award-winning movie followed an affluent New York City couple whose lives are forever changed after meeting the young black man, Paul (Will Smith). As a skillful con artist, Paul appears injured and beaten at the couples Fifth Avenue townhouse. Claiming to be the son of the renowned African-American actor Sidney Poitier and a close college friend to their Ivy League kids, Paul is invited into the aristocratic home. 

A look alone at the exceptional cast lineup for the film hints at the brilliant acting abilities seen throughout Will Smith’s best movie. Stockard Channing, who received an Acadamy and Golden Globe for best actress in the film, and Donald Sutherland were highly praised for their portrayal of the wealthy Kittredge couple. However, it was the 25-year-old Will Smith, who at the time was only known as the Fresh Prince on television, that would impress audiences the most with his shocking performance of the con man.

At the time of the film’s debut, the world knew Smith as the congenial oddball African-American street smart kid from Philly through The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In Smiths’ very first scene in the film, Paul explains that his thesis, about the corrupting influence on young men of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, had been stolen, he directs white people to pay attention and believe him, feeding on their approval in the process. This juxtaposition is just one reason it’s Will Smith’s best movie.

As one of Will Smith’s highest-rated films on Rotten Tomatoes, Six Degrees of Separation holds a 88% critic rating and a 71% audience score. As a more artistic film with largely complex themes, the movie did not have a large following upon release. And while the film is still largely unfamiliar to most, Will Smith still receives plenty of recognition for the role.

Recently, the actor even opened up about filming Six Degrees of Separation, and the unlikely love story that followed. Proving how far the young actor took his role, Will Smith talked about actually falling for co-star Stockard Channing. Speaking to Esquire, Smith said, “I got a taste early of the dangers of going too far for a character. My character was in love with Stockard Channing’s character. And I actually fell in love with Stockard Channing”.

So what exactly is it about Six Degrees of Separation that makes it Will Smith’s best movie? For many, it’s likely the first occurrence at seeing just how deep-rooted the actor’s emotion skills could carry on. As the film develops, Paul’s schemes become highbrow-legend which becomes the joke of the party amongst the noble friends of the Kittredge’s. In the end, Paul has a profound effect on the people who encounter him, linking them in their shared experience through the famous six degrees of separation theory. As an elaborate mousetrap story, the central con gradually dissipates into self-analysis and moralization not just for Smith’s character, but also the couple at the brunt of everything. 

As acclaimed as his acting skills for the 1993 film maybe, Will Smith never even received a nomination for the role. In fact, the esteemed actor has yet to ever win an Academy. Many of his fans will often drawback to Six Degrees of Separation as leverage to back the actor’s merit of the award. While the film is still largely overlooked and underseen, it definitely deserves a watch and all the acclaim for guiding Will Smith into the iconic actor he is seen as today