All The Times Will Smith Made Us Cry
From ‘bad boy’ Mike Lowrey to the mischievous Fresh Prince, Will Smith has proven time and time again he can win audiences over with his unwavering charm.
Actor, rapper, comedian, songwriter, producer, four-time Grammy award winner… there’s no denying Smith can do it all. But while he’s perhaps best known for the roles that showcase his comedic genius in all its glory, the times he’s laid bare his soul for all to see are often overlooked.
Which is why today, on the actor’s birthday, we’re looking back on all the times he made us cry throughout his career. Because what better way to celebrate him turning 52 than remembering all the times he broke our hearts?
‘How come he don’t want me, man?’ – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1994)
No question about it, the most emotional Will Smith scene ever is when his French Prince character finds out his deadbeat dad Lou isn’t coming back for him in the season four episode, Papa’s Got A Brand New Excuse.
After Lou walks back into Will’s life following a 14-year absence, the teenager drops his trademark swagger and becomes an excitable child again. The Banks see through Lou’s lies though, leading Uncle Phil to confront him – eventually culminating in Lou walking out on his son once more.
In a matter of seconds, a young Will goes from denial to anger to pure and utter heartbreak, before uttering the devastating line: ‘How come he don’t want me, man?’ And just like that, millions of people around the world descended into floods of tears.
To this day, I still sob watching him break down in Uncle Phil’s arms, questioning why his dad doesn’t want anything to do with him. I did the first time I watched it, I did just then when I re-watched it for the millionth time, and I did all the times in between.
Almost three decades since the episode aired on television, Smith’s portrayal of, well, Smith still hits home in a way that no other scene from a sitcom ever has. And it’s all thanks to the actor’s incredible range and impeccable timing.
‘Goodbye, Sam’ – I Am Legend (2007)
Despite the fact the film centres on an incurable virus (yikes) that wipes out the entire of New York City’s population, the most heartbreaking moment of all is undoubtedly when Smith’s character, US Army virologist Robert Neville, has to put his beloved dog Sam down.
After the loyal German Shepherd gets bitten while defending him, Robert desperately tries to save her but is eventually forced to kill his furry companion by strangling her as she struggles in his arms.
Zero words are spoken, but as tears stream down his cheeks – and the cheeks of literally everyone watching – Robert’s torment at saying goodbye to his only friend is clear to see, with the loss in his eyes speaking a thousand words.
It’s easy to see why this scene in particular struck a chord with so many; losing a pet is already one of life’s most devastating blows, so add in to the equation that pet being your one last remaining connection in the world and Robert’s plight becomes all too clear to see.
The image of Sam laying in a crumpled heap next to her owner is genuinely heartbreaking, and one that can’t easily be forgotten even years after the film’s release. I challenge anyone watching not to cry.
‘Say what you want to say to me!’ – Seven Pounds (2008)
Admittedly it was hard narrowing this movie down to just one sad scene, but in the end we don’t have to look any further than the opening sequence, when Smith’s character Ben – actually Tim, but we won’t get into that – harasses a blind salesman (Woody Harrelson) over the phone.
With the film’s premise being that Ben is determined to change the lives of seven people in an effort to redeem himself, no matter what the cost, he needs to be absolutely certain the people he’s going to help are deserving of it.
To test salesman Ezra Turner, then, Smith’s character tries to get him to react to his cruel taunts, demanding him to tell him what he really thinks of him. ‘You blind, vegan, beef salesman virgin coward, say what you want to say,’ he screams down the phone as Turner simply thanks him for calling in a defeated tone before hanging up.
It’s only after he hangs up and ends his verbal assault that Ben’s true nature comes to light, with the character breaking down in genuine shame for hurting an innocent man – even though he did deem his actions necessary at the time.
Smith’s portrayal of a man so broken inside he felt this was the only way to help people is harrowing, and without giving too much away this particular scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Be prepared, you’ll need tissues.
‘Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t do something’ – The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
A film based on the true story of a homeless man struggling to survive alongside his young son was always going to be a tear-jerker, but Smith’s emotional portrayal of Chris Gardner really brought home just how devastating a situation it was.
In one stand-out scene, Gardner is playing basketball with his son – played by Smith’s real-life son, Jaden – when he tells him he might as well give up playing because he won’t be any good at it. Notably upset, Gardner Jr. throws the ball over his shoulder and stops playing.
It’s then that Gardner, who has seen his own dreams shattered over the years, realises his mistake; instead of discouraging his son and crushing his hopes, he should be lifting him up and being his biggest cheerleader.
Launching into a powerful monologue, Smith drove home the delivery in a way that resonated with every single person who had ever been told they weren’t good enough or they couldn’t do something.
It was a performance so moving it earnt Smith his second Oscar nomination, with the speech still giving chills to this day. Though the speech only lasted 40 seconds, the sincerity in Smith’s actions and the way he and Jaden connected ensured it stayed in our minds for much longer.
‘This is exactly why falling in love is so goddamn hard’ – Hitch (2005)
I know, I know. Hitch is a romcom and shouldn’t be making us cry in the traditional sense, but the scene where Smith’s character Alex, aka Hitch, finds out what Sara (Eva Mendes) really thinks of him is enough to set anyone off. Well, me anyway.
After she tells Hitch he’s a ‘scam artist’ who ‘tricks women’ to get what he wants, the date doctor is visibly distraught, becoming defensive just as anybody else would when hurt by someone they love.
Again, Smith’s portrayal of the way his character is feeling in that moment is pivotal to how we respond to the scene; the moment he walks out of the café after professing his love for Sara, giving one last lingering look in her direction, is no doubt one that broke hearts all around the world.
All in all, Smith’s impressive range and versatility in such roles goes to show that he’s more than just the ‘funny guy’, or ‘the suave guy that always saves the day’.
Instead, he’s consistently proven his worth and in doing so has cemented himself in pop culture forever – and if that isn’t worth celebrating on today of all days, I don’t know what is.
Happy birthday, Will. Hope we didn’t make you cry too much.
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