The world became a little less funny this past week when legendary comedian and Oscar winning actor Robin Williams took his own life in his home in California. By all accounts, the 63 year old entertainer was not only beloved for his unmatched talent, but for his kind, generous spirit and warm heart.
It’s tragic that a man who made so many millions laugh was battling personal demons and overcome with such depression. But his legacy will live on in the countless performances and iconic roles he’s given the world over the past several decades.
Below, The Tribune has compiled a list of our top ten favorite Robin Williams characters, roles and performances from the past 37 years in which he first hit the Hollywood scene.
This 1990 film was directed by Penny Marshall and was nominated for three Oscars. Williams played a caring doctor who is giving his catatonic patients a new drug that revives them for at least a little while. The striking thing about this film was that Williams’ costar was Robert De Niro, and the comedian proved to be up to the task of standing toe to toe dramatically with one of the most legendary dramatic actors of all time.
This overlooked 2002 gem was directed by Christopher Nolan right before he jumped into the Dark Knight series. The major takeaway here for Williams was that it was the first time in his career that he played a cold, calculated and indisputably evil villain. And just like he did with De Niro 13 years prior, Williams held his own against Al Pacino, another of the world’s greatest ever actors.
8. Mork & Mindy
The television series that started it all. While Williams had been gaining buzz for his work on the stand up comedy circuit, this 1978 show about an alien who comes to Earth to study humans announced Williams’ arrival to the entire globe, made him a star and launched his upcoming movie career.
7. Mrs. Doubtfire
In many ways, Williams’ role as a father who cross dresses as an elderly female nanny so that he can be close to his kids showcases his brilliance in every facet. He is allowed room to be as zany and hilarious as he wishes to be, but the gentle heart and the dramatic chops are there in the touching scenes with his children. This Chris Columbus comedy was a blockbuster hit in 1993.
While critics panned this when it released in 1980, it has deservedly since gained more of a fondness with both critics and fans over time. In our minds, Williams plays the squinty eyed sailor pitch perfectly, and he even nails his musical numbers.
5. The World According To Garp
The first time the world realized that Robin Williams was more than just a comedian. Back in 1982, the news that the guy who played Mork and Popeye was taking on the titular role in John Irving’s bestselling novel was met with much mockery. But Williams knocked the role out of the park, blending together his now respected skills as both comedian and dramatic actor.
4. Good Morning, Vietnam
Perhaps no role was ever better suited for any actor than the role of a wild, uncontrollable disc jockey was for Robin Williams. Director Barry Levinson gave Williams the creative freedom to improv on the microphone as he saw fit, and the result was comedic genius. Against the backdrop of the war in Vietnam, Williams’ acting abilities were once again stretched into dramatic territory and he was rewarded with his first Academy Award nomination in 1987.
3. Dead Poets Society
Two years after his first Oscar nomination, Williams followed up with his second nominated role as one of cinema’s all time most inspirational teachers in John Keating. From “Carpe diem” to “O Captain! My Captain!” to the everlasting image of Williams jumping onto his students’ desks, this often quoted performance is one of Williams’ most beloved.
Is it possible that an actor could get nominated for a performance in an animated film? That was the question in Oscar voters’ minds back in 1992, and the reason was because Robin Williams was a manic comedic tour de force as Genie in the Disney blockbuster Aladdin. We dare anyone to try and name a better voice acting performance in the history of cinema.
1. Good Will Hunting
Williams’ finest moment was rewarded with film’s finest prize. After being nominated three previous times, Williams finally won an Academy Award for his brilliant performance as a kind, caring, tough love Boston psychologist who takes a young mathematics prodigy under his wing. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Oscar winning script might never have seen the light of day if not for Williams’ signing on and his weight in Hollywood to get it made. Please do yourself a favor and go to YouTube immediately after putting this newspaper down and search for “Good Will Hunting park scene.” Those four minutes and 47 seconds may be the best acting of Robin Williams’ career, and it’s a pure pleasure to behold.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams. And thank you for the all the laughs you’ve given the world for so many years.