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Happy Birthday to Oh-So-Lovable Will Smith

He may be turning 44 today, September 25, but Will Smith still looks like the wholesome, all-American kid who parlayed a successful career as the Fresh Prince into his status as one of the most successful actors of his generation.

So it's no big deal nowadays to find rappers making a successful transition to the screen -- there's Eminem, Queen Latifah, Ice-T, and LL Cool J -- but no one's been as embraced as Smith has. He is considered one of the most powerful people in Hollywood and the only actor to star in eight consecutive films grossing more than $100 million at the box office. And with worldwide receipts of nearly $6 billion, Smith's stardom has long since been assured.

Still, Smith's affable charm and seemingly unaffected personality gives him an approachability that assures him added appeal. His role on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was that of a savvy street kid moving on up to his aunt's mansion. It was through that corny premise that Smith found his way into our living rooms and hearts.

Need to know the reasons why we love Will Smith so gosh-darned much? Take a gander at these fresh flicks to get an idea. 


10. Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Even though he portrayed a smooth-talking con man, Smith is so charming we can hardly blame the upper-crust couple whose home he's intruded on for being totally duped. We probably would too. A cerebral showcase, the film showed Smith as an actor of great depth and perception even early on.


9. Independence Day (1996)
Young Mr. Smith helps save the world from an alien invasion, forever earning our gratitude and admiration. And in the role of the fearless Capt. Steve Hiller, he manages to destroy the invaders' mothership, one of the greatest moments of celluloid triumph ever to grace the big screen.


8. Men in Black (1997)
Smith tangles with aliens yet again, this time alongside the ever-feisty Tommy Lee Jones. With tongue firmly planted in cheeks, the pair help make M.I.B. a successful franchise that's spawned two sequels and opportunities for many more.

7. Ali (2001)
Agreeable Will in the role of a boxing badass? He not only took the challenge that came with portraying one of America's greatest sports icons but also did it convincingly despite some initial skepticism. Smith's first real heavyweight role, Ali brought him into the big leagues after earning nominations for both an Academy Award and the Golden Globe.


6. I, Robot (2004)
Smith plays Detective Del Spooner, a moody guy on a mission with a mechanical chip on his shoulder. Literally, it seemed. A dark sci-fi thriller, Smith conveys his usual humanity and passion as he desperately tries to thwart the takeover of civilization by a group of rogue robots.


5. Hitch (2005)
Portraying a professional "Date Doctor" would seem a perfect fit for Smith, given his natural charm and obvious ability to woo the womenfolk. Just ask Jada. As it turns out, however, his character's tried-and-true methods don't do his own social life much good, and when in the end, he comes to his moment of revelation, we can only admire him that much more.

4. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006)
An out-of-luck professional struggles to survive life on the street with his son in tow, while desperate to find a job and give the kid some semblance of normalcy. Smith's real-life son Jaden costarred, which only added to the plot's teary-eyed poignancy. Fact is, it's based on a true life tale. Can you say "inspirational"? The critics could and gave him a host of awards, including Oscar and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.


3. I Am Legend (2007)
Scary stuff, this apocalyptic sci-fi thriller, which not only shows Will fending for himself against an army of disease-ridden mutants but also having to mercy-kill his only companion, a German shepherd named Samantha, after she gets infected. Don't know about you, but I can take devastation and desolation... But dang, don't make me put down my pup!


2. Hancock (2008)
Playing the title character -- a clumsy superhero badly in need of a makeover -- Smith veers away from his usual lovable persona and takes on a role as a degenerate. Needless to say, a PR makeover restores him to hero status, making him that agreeable guy we knew he was all along.

1. Seven Pounds (2008)
As a man who escaped a car crash that killed six other people, Smith attempts to make amends by saving the lives of other people by donating his body parts. Although the premise sounds somewhat somber, we'd have to give it kudos for what may well be a first in the history of cinema: a character with a pet jellyfish!




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