Today marks what would have been Robin Williams’ 70th birthday. One of the most talented stand-up comedians and actors of his generation, Williams was one of Hollywood’s best-loved stars. A warm and charismatic screen presence, he remains greatly missed by film fans of all ages.
A hugely accomplished actor, over his 38-year long career, Williams starred in a wide range of different TV shows and films. From his star-making turn as the alien Mork in the sitcom Mork and Mindy to the complex and surprisingly dark roles he took on in the early 2000’s it’s impossible to pigeonhole him into any one genre. While he’s probably best remembered for his more comedic roles, looking back at his filmography, it’s interesting how his best-received roles always had a dramatic edge to them.
So to celebrate his birthday, we’ve taken a look back through his most famous, and lesser known roles so we could put together a list of his best movies. A tribute to the incredible talents of the late, great Robin Williams.
What are Robin Williams best movies?
- Good Morning, Vietnam
- Mrs Doubtfire
- One Hour Photo
- Dead Poets Society
- Good Will Hunting
A brilliant blend of a fantasy and an adventure movie, Jumanji introduced Robin Williams to a new generation of moviegoers. Centred on a supernatural board game, the film tells the story of Alan Parrish who becomes trapped in the Jumanji game while playing with his friend Sarah in 1969.
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Fast forward to 1994, and siblings Judy and Peter Shepherd find the game accidentally releasing Alan (Williams). Unfortunately, though the jungle came with him and the gang must finish the game before Jumanji destroys their town. While it may not be a critical darling like other films on this list, Jumanji remains a fun, exciting, and thrilling kids movie, which allows Williams to play to his major strength, being hilarious.
When Williams was cast in Insomnia, director Christopher Nolan said he hoped the movie would show a side of Robin that people hadn’t seen before. While we’re not quite sure if he succeeded in that goal as effectively as Williams’s other 2002 movie, One Hour Photo (see below), it’s undeniable that having an actor associated so much with fun play a bad guy was an inspired turn. Serving as a terrifyingly effective nemesis to Al Pacino’s exhausted detective, William’s performance helps elevate this Scandi remake to new heights.
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Balancing the dramatic and the manic with grace Good Morning, Vietnam was an early sign that there was more to Williams than just rapid-fire gags. Set during the height of the Vietnam war, Williams plays Adrian Cronauer, a radio DJ sent to the war-torn country to amuse the troops.
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While there, he horrifies his superiors with his irreverent takes on the war effort. Still, it’s only when he begins a relationship with a local Vietnamese woman that Adrian begins to understand the horrors of war. A masterclass in improvisational comedy, the film rightly earned Williams a nomination for Best Actor at the 60th Academy Awards. While he didn’t win, Good Morning, Vietnam stands as a monument to his phenomenal skill as an actor.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
O captain, my captain! Williams’s inspirational turn as John Keating, an English teacher who encourages his students to “make their lives extraordinary” through poetry, is one of the actor’s finest performances. Restrained, sincere, and incredibly lovable, Dead Poets Society and Good Morning, Vietnam served as the one, two punch that proved to the world Robin Williams could be so much more than just a funny guy with a motor mouth.
Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
When we think of Robin Williams, we so often think of fun family movies and they don’t come better than Mrs Doubtfire. A hilarious romp, this comedy movie is about a divorced dad who, with the help of his make-up artist brother, disguises himself as an English nanny Mrs Doubtfire so he can see his kids.
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The movie basically exists to showcase Williams’s unparalleled comedic talents and his incredible range of impressions. Williams is more like a living cartoon character than a man in Mrs Doubtfire, and it’s this incredible energy that cemented the movie as an all-time classic.
One Hour Photo (2002)
Williams played against type in this phenomenal psychological thriller movie about a lonely photo technician who develops a dangerous obsession with the seemingly perfect Yorkin family. An unusually creepy and sedate performance from Williams, his empty smile and unnatural awkwardness help to underline One Hour Photo’s haunting suspense.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Perhaps William’s finest live-action performance, Gus Van Sant’s tale of a young unrecognised genius and his relationship with a professor who sees his potential, is a heartfelt and touching movie that manages to avoid being overly-schmaltzy.
Williams is in fine form in the movie as professor Gerald Lambeau playing the character with warmth, empathy and subtle good humour. It was this performance that finally secures Williams his Oscar when he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Aladdin is an animated masterpiece featuring dazzling animation, classic songs, and a whole host of memorable characters. However, the stand out is Robin Williams’s Genie, who’s blessed with “phenomenal cosmic power” but cursed with “itty bitty living space”.
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As performances go, The Genie is iconic, and it perfectly exemplifies Robin’s ability to focus his seemingly unending child-like energy into a stream of phenomenal improvised gags. Combine that with some top-notch animation, and you have a recipe for an all-time classic character.
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