Will Smith Has a Running Catchphrase in All His Films — “Aw, hell no!”

While, lately, Will Smith has been making more headlines for his personal life than his professional one, it’s worth noting just what an accomplished actor he is. His breakthrough role was tied to his then-burgeoning music career when he became the title character in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Since then, Smith has captured fans across all different genres in his wide-ranging acting career and had a decent musical career on top of that. It turns out that even though he’s been in wildly different films, he has managed to tie many of them together with a signature catchphrase. 

Will Smith has been in a lot of comedies 

Will Smith
Will Smith | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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Smith captured hearts and minds with his performance as “The Fresh Prince,” which was the name he was credited with at the time. The sitcom that featured a street-savvy kid from a primarily black part of Philadelphia transplanted into primarily white and affluent Bel-Air still resonates with modern-day audiences even though it premiered in 1990.

Smith followed up his role there with another iconic performance in Bad Boys. The 1995 action-comedy pitted Smith alongside Martin Lawrence, and the duo would team up for sequels in 2003 and 2020. 

That isn’t the only long-running franchise that has marked Smith’s film career. In 1997, he starred as Jay in Men in Black and then would go on to reprise the role in 2002 and 2012. These performances made him a clear A-lister in the genre of action-comedy, and even in more dramatic films (such as Independence Day) his characters often provided comic relief in addition to impressive stunts. 

More serious works punctuate Will Smith’s acting career

Not one to be typecast, however, Smith has strayed from this comfortable position of action-comedy on many occasions. In 2006, his appearance in The Pursuit of Happyness showcased his ability to play a serious role and won him plenty of critical acclaim.

He followed it up with the starring role in 2007’s I Am Legend. Here, Smith brought to life a literary world in which he is a sole human survivor in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The tension of the drama and emotion took center stage, demonstrating he was more than an action star. 

While many actors who take on more serious roles later in their lives tend to make a shift from comedy to drama, Smith has been able to toggle back and forth between the two with ease. He’s just as impressive in roles like Hancock as he is in Collateral Beauty. He’s also able to take on family favorite roles like the genie in the live action Aladdin as well as more mature parts like that in Bright

One catchphrase shows up again and again for Will Smith

Despite the wide variety of genres for the films in which Smith has appeared, he has still managed to weave several of them together with a signature catchphrase. Much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous “I’ll be back” line, Smith’s iconic phrase is both part of the plot and a running gag for true fans who follow him from project to project. 

Smith’s phrase is “Aw, hell no!” and he has managed to slip it into several parts across different films. Hit utterance of the phrase from I, Robot is even credited as an early example of the meme on the website Know Your Meme.

Whether Smith’s character is uttering the phrase in defiance of a direct order or simply expressing an exasperated perspective on the state of the world, fans have resonated with his ability to capture disbelief and frustration with one iconic phrase. Will he be giving up this habit for the projects he currently has in the works? Aw, hell no!