On August 11th, 2014 Robin Williams was found dead of an apparent suicide. Typically when a celebrity passes, it is a tragic occasion and I personally feel some sorrow, but typically I just shrug and say ‘Well that is a shame’ but it isn’t the end of the world. After all, I didn’t know them personally, so no skin off my nose, right? But this is one that hit me and hit me hard. Of all the performers and actors out there, Robin Williams was my childhood. From his role as the Genie in Aladdin to Mrs. Doubtfire and to his hilarious stand up routines, a lot of my humor can be attributed to Williams and his acting. Upon hearing that Williams passed, I was devastated. Such a large part of my childhood gone just like that. It is a shame and it is a shame of the reasons why and the events that transpired. But with that being said I wish to commemorate Mr. Williams and everything that he has done for me and my life that he had a hand in shaping with his art. So in honor of Robin Williams and his memory this is my Top 5 Greatest Robin Williams Movies of All Time.
This list is my personal opinion based on the quality of the movie and the impact that it had on the viewing population and the career of Mr. Williams. If you disagree with it, I am always welcoming of a friendly debate. This list is also meant to commemorate his movie roles, not his television roles so you will not find Mork and Mindy on this list. With that being said let’s start with some honorable mentions.
Dead Poet’s Society
World According to Garp
One of Williams often overlooked films, this 2002 film directed by Danny DeVito and starring Williams and Edward Norton, this film portrayed a much more dark and gritty world of children’s television. While not initially a critical darling upon release, the film was later reevaluated as one of the best movies of the 2000’s and a well thought out and well directed dark comedy classic. In this movie, Williams plays ‘Rainbow’ Randolph Smiley an actor who plays ‘Rainbow Randolph’ a cheery children’s entertainer who is a drunken deranged lunatic. After being busted by an undercover sting, trying to make money by accepting bribes to allow their children on the show. Randolph finds himself on the streets, homeless, and replaced by the new character Smoochy the Rhino. Randolph becomes obsessed with ruining the wholesome Sheldon Mopes and obtaining his original time slot.
Death to Smoochy is one of those rare films that was a little ahead of its time. The idea of a dark and gritty world surrounding something so sweet and innocent is tackled very well and it is helped in large part because of Williams acting as Randolph. Not only does Randolph Smiley come across as a guy who got into the business for the same reason as the well to do Mopes, it is clear that the industry has turned him into a bitter shell of his former self who desperately needs help. He not only comes across as relatable but even redeems himself as the movie reaches its climax. It isn’t higher on the list as the other four had much more of an impact on Williams career and Williams’ role in them effected main stream media more, but this is a movie that is definitely worth the watch.
I cannot think of a better person to play the adult version of the whimsical Peter Pan. Hook is one of those great movies that does not succumb to the sequelitis of its predecessors but instead decides to continue the narrative and portray Peter Pan or Peter Banning as a much more realistic person. No longer a child, Peter is brought back to Neverland after Captain Hook kidnaps his two children. With Williams in the role as the manboy in green and with Dustin Hoffman as the nefarious foil, Hook is one of those movies that finds a soft spot in all of our hearts.
Williams is perfect for the role of a grown up Peter Pan. While he is certainly has an adult centered style of humor, he is also phenomenal as a children’s entertainer and has that right balance of whimsical child like fantasy while being in the body of an accountant in his mid 30’s. He has to learn to be a kid again and Williams does it flawlessly.
Williams was much more than just a comedian, he was also a damn good actor. While some of his more serious movies have somewhat been lost to the ages due to a variety of different things, Good Will Hunting will stand as a testament to Williams abilities as a competent and intelligent thespian, wrangling in an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Dr. Sean Maguire. The story that shows that intellect is not limited to those of us who are blessed enough to attend Universities is the story of a janitor at MIT named Will Hunting who is blessed with an eidetic memory, flawless intellect, and a bit of a temper. After an incident that leaves Will in behavioral counseling, Williams’ character is called in to help Will through his troubles.
This role more than any other shows that Williams is one hell of an actor. Portraying Maguire as a wise, intelligent, yet understanding psychologist he gives off a feeling of a father figure that some of us are missing in our lives. The park scene between Damon and Williams is one of the best acted and most iconic scenes in movie history and stands a testament as one of the best movies of the 1990’s thanks in part to Williams’ performance.
This movie has to be on this list! There is no way you cannot keep it off. This was the defining movie role that kept Williams in our minds and in our hearts. The line “Good Morning, Vietnam” will be forever etched into movie history as one of the most memorable lines in all of cinema and one of the greatest comedies of all time. In this movie, Williams plays Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer. Cronauer is transferred to Saigon to be a radio DJ for the armies networks. Instead of maintaining the same rhetoric, Cronauer fights the system by inter-dispersing news and information with his own brand of humor mixed in with the much disliked rock and roll style of music.
Not only is this a role that tests the boundaries of freedom of speech in a time when censorship was considered prudent, Williams does an excellent job bring high laughs comedy into such a dire situation as the Vietnam War. Often considered as a dark time in American history, Williams walks that fine line between comedy and drama and does it very well. It is clear why this is one of Williams’ first major roles and one of his best.
How could this movie not make it on this list? The moment when most of us heard of Williams’ passing, the first movie that came into our minds was more than likely this one. The Genie from Aladdin may not have been Williams’ favorite role, in fact he was furious that he was paid meager wages for his role as the Genie and yet given top billing for his performance… But with that being said, no other character has been able to touch most of our childhood’s in such a way as The Genie did in Aladdin. Aladdin was the first movie that I ever watched in the theaters as a child. It is one of my favorite movies of all time and I can thank Williams’ performance as The Genie as the main reason for my enjoyment.
The Genie is the perfect comic relief in a movie such as Aladdin. He is of course, funny and breaks a lot of the tension that builds in the film. The timing is perfect and the humor is genuine. But at the same time, The Genie is still a three-dimensional character. You understand his desire to be free and you see him become genuinely upset when he is left in chains or has to serve someone as nefarious as Jafar. The Genie is the total package and one of the most iconic roles in Williams’ career that will stay with us as we show Aladdin to our children and their children in turn. Thanks for all the laughs and tears Robin Williams, you will be missed.