There are really no words to describe the loss to the entertainment industry and its fans following the shocking death of Robin Williams on Monday. He was one of the funniest people who ever walked the earth and provided us all with countless hours of laughs, heartfelt moments, and pleasure and amusement of every kind. His acting career showed enormous range and the legendary actor left behind an incredible catalog of unforgettable performances.
His suicide is all the more shocking considering he is a father in addition to being an enormous success and celebrity. But severe depression knows no prejudice, and Williams took his own life after suffering greatly from this disease.
Robin displayed a remarkable array of performances over the years. He wasn’t only a funny man – he played serious, more emotional roles that left audiences in tears. There was really nothing this Oscar winner couldn’t do.
Here are the movies that I believe, when added together, show all sides of this beloved man. These are my favorite memories of him, collected.
Good Morning, Vietnam – 1987
This movie is credited with introducing most people to Robin Williams, the movie actor. He was of course known for starring in TV’s Mork and Mindy and from stand-up. But it was in Vietnam that Robin was able to truly showcase his ingenious and special talent of conjuring a multitude of voices at a manic pace, as Armed Forces Radio Service DJ Adrian Cronauer. This ability is perhaps one of the things fans loved most about him, as he could have people in stitches for minutes on end. Good Morning, Vietnam was a huge success that earned Robin his first Oscar nomination and first Golden Globe. The movie dramatized the wartime experience of Cronauer and was able to mix belly laughs with poignant drama amongst one of the decade’s best-selling soundtracks. And it truly cemented Williams’s outrageously energetic comic persona.
Dead Poets Society – 1989
This film was seemingly seen by an entire generation and contains some of Robin’s most quotable lines in his entire filmography. This inspirational tale about an embattled English teacher, played by Williams, at a private academy showcased his unique and compelling voice inspiring his students with wit, humor, and encouragement. Robin’s poetry professor utilized outside-the-box teaching methods that truly touched his students and audiences. When the film came to the final scene, and his students take to their desks to declare their love for their teacher, viewers were beyond touched and left yearning for a teacher like John Keating.
Awakenings – 1990
When you think of Robin, you absolutely think first of his ingenious comic talents. But he also had the acting skills to take on far more serious roles. Awakenings is perhaps one of the most touching, serious, and heart-wrenching movies ever. It may have been Robert DeNiro’s performance as the catatonic patient who most stood out in the film, but it was perfectly balanced by Robin’s performance as the calm and deep-feeling Dr. Malcolm Sayer. As Sayer, Robin showed a doctor who believed in and fought with all his might for his patients, and it was just beautiful.
Hook – 1991
I still remember going with my father to see this movie in the theaters. In short, it rocked my world that day. This reimagining of Peter Pan was fantastical, exciting, and full of adventure just perfect for a then seven-year old child. Robin made Pan both realistic as a normal person and rousing as the boy who wouldn’t grow up, once he remembered his true identity. It was really an inspired choice to cast Williams in this role and he was perfectly suited across from Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. I still love, love this film and will teach my children too also.
Aladdin – 1992
The 90’s were an incredible time for Disney 2D movies and none was more fun, joyful, and magical than Aladdin. I believe that at least 90% of what made that movie so successful and wonderful was Robin’s performance as the Genie. This will be forever be one of the greatest voiceover performances by an actor. Just flawless.
Mrs. Doubtfire – 1993
I saw this movie not once, twice, but five times the year it came out. And I do not believe I was alone in that feeling that I could not get enough of it. There could not have been a Mrs. Doubtfire without Robin – he was the lifeline and the heart of this movie, and truly every movie he was in. As Daniel Hillard/Euphegenia Doubtfire, Robin again showcased his incredible vocal/accent abilities and his one-of-a-kind humor. This movie is nonstop laughs mixed with heart and familial love and values.
Jumanji – 1995
This wouldn’t be on everyone’s list of best Robin Williams movies, but it’s on mine. I was eleven when it came out and thought it was spooky, completely fascinating, and totally interesting in every way. Robin led the film as Alan Parrish, a man who comes back to reality after being stuck in a board game’s jungle world since childhood. Parrish leads the gang, including a very young Kirsten Dunst, against jungle-related things that come through the game into the real world. It’s a great movie for older children and Williams is just great in it (as usual).
Good Will Hunting – 1997
After earning Oscar nominations for his work in Good Morning America, Dead Poets Society, and The Fisher King, Williams finally scored a win for his crucial supporting role in Good Will Hunting. Williams plays Sean Maguire, the therapist who helps a stubborn Will Hunting (Matt Damon) move beyond his troubled past. Their sessions together revealed a lot about the characters as well as the the actors, as this movie paved the way for more serious roles for Williams and launched Matt Damon’s career. Robin’s role and beautiful performance provided an impetus for the film’s touching final act while delivering some of his most sensitive and brilliant dramatic work. This will forever be remembered as one of Robin’s best roles and the bench in Boston’s Public Garden, where the scene with Damon took place, has turned into a touching memorial site since the great actor’s death.
One Hour Photo – 2002
Robin Williams is mesmerizing in this absorbing thriller as Sy, “the photo guy,” who has painstakingly developed photographs for the Yorkin family since their son was a baby. Eventually, the profoundly lonely, obsessive Sy convinces himself he’s part of their family. But eventually, Sy’s desperate, hidden attachment sends him down a dark path, sending his focus from obsession to something much more terrifying. It’s a testament to his skill as an actor that even though Parrish is an obviously disturbed character, Williams makes it hard not to identify, and even sympathize, with Sy’s unfortunate plight. Seeing Robin in a dark role was a blast for audience members and fans.
HBO Presents Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction – 2009
I was lucky enough to see this tour live and it was laugh-til-you-cry hysterical. HBO provided the masses the opportunity to see this funnyman in his favorite element, in front of a crowd making the whole room laugh. This was one of his more recent recorded stand-up routines so it’s a great tool to remember him by. And who you see here is who we believe to be the real Robin Williams, at the age we will always picture him as.
He will be sorely missed. RIP.