Like millions of people across the globe, I was absolutely shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams. He was an incredibly beloved actor and comedian with absolutely perfect comic timing – and his range of voices was just mesmerising. He could switch from one accent to the next just like that as it if it was second nature – but he could also move you to tears with his brilliant performances. Even if the film he was in was crap, he was mesmerising to watch. I must say, not since James Gandoflini’s death have been so affected by a celebrity passing away.
Now many tributes have already been paid to Robin Williams already and some might say that I’m “late to the party”. However, work commitments have prevented me from doing this blog until now – and I wanted to do honour this man in some way. Like many, Robin Williams was my childhood hero and I loved watching his films. So today, I am writing this list, not to mourn him – but remember what a fantastic person he was.
Today, I pick my Top Five favourite Robin Williams movies. These are the films of his that I enjoyed the most and can watch a million times and still love them. As always, this is based only on films I’ve seen, so films such as Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society won’t be on the list – however I am going to make sure that I see those films soon. Hook is also a film I should give an honourable mention to and, whilst I do love that film, I could only choose five for this list.
As always, these films are in no particular order. Also, just in case you haven’t seen any of these films, I should warn you that spoilers are ahead. I just hope my emotions can stay in check whilst writing this.
I saw this film at the cinema and it scared the living crap outta me! Based around a cursed boardgame, Robin Williams plays Alan Parrish, who was trapped in the game as a child and only released when the kids of a new family move into the vacant Parrish house. It’s up to them, and Alan’s childhood friend Sarah, to finish the game – and all sorts of chaos ensures as everything from stampedes to monsoons start taking over the house.
Jumanji may be more “serious” than other Robin Williams movies, but Williams is, as always, entertaining to watch. His performance of Alan is a great balance between a man who has faced horror for all his life, mixed in with a scared little boy, coming to terms that everything he knew is gone. Especially harrowing is his battle with Van Pelt, a big game hunter that’s capable of reducing him to terror (interesting enough, Jonathan Hyde, who also plays his father – making Van Pelt a metaphor of Alan’s fear of his father).
I love Jumanji as it’s a roller coaster ride from beginning to end. The special effects are awesome, Robin Williams performance is brilliant and it also has a good moral about facing up to your fears. Even today I still find that scene where Alan is sucked into the board game pretty scary. It may not be one of his best films critically, but it’s an entertaining family film nonetheless.
This film is especially poignant in that a picture has been circling social media of the genie and Aladdin, with the words “Genie, you’re free”, which has been lauded (and in some cases, criticised) by the public. But let’s not dwell on the sad parts, we’re here to remember Robin Williams for the talented man that he was. And few films showcase his extraordinary skills than Disney’s Aladdin.
As the Genie, Williams is quick witted, hilarious – dazzling us with amazing visuals and comedic dialogue that only Robin Williams could pull off. Even more amazing is when you realise that Williams actually ad-libed most of the dialogue in the film and let himself go crazy. Very few people could pull that off and make it convincing.
And let’s not forget Friend Like Me, one of the most amazing Disney songs ever. Don’t believe me? See for yourself and tell me this isn’t fun to watch.
It is a shame that Robin Williams had a fall out with Disney and didn’t come back to do any of the Aladdin films for a long time (he was replaced by Dan Castellaneta of The Simpsons fame), but his voice on the Genie remains one of the most loved of all Disney films. We certainly will never have a friend like him, that’s for sure.
3. Mrs Doubtfire
I just had to mention this film, because this film deserves it for being both funny and poignant in a way no other film can match. Everyone remembers laughing themselves stupid at Robin’s Williams performance and his antics – and not to mention the excellent voices that he puts on during the film. However one of my favourite things about this film is that the main character Williams plays is called Daniel. Two thumbs up from me!
In the film, Daniel is an out of work voice actor who marriage is on the rocks. When his wife files for divorce, and gets full custody of the kids, Daniel uses his acting talents to disguise himself as a Scottish Nanny so that he can be close to his kids. Through his actions as Mrs Doubtfire, he becomes closer to his children. However his family are somewhat threatened when his wife’s new love interest Stu comes to visit (played by Pierce Brosnan). I will admit I do like the dynamics between the two characters, it makes for some funny moments.
As much as I love the comedy that Williams does, in Mrs Doubtfire, it’s the heartfelt moments that really catch you out. The last scene where Mrs Doubtfire (on her own TV show) reads a letter from a worried girl that their parents are divorcing, and Mrs Doubtfire tells her that as long as there is love there will always be a family is really moving and perfectly coincides with Daniel’s own fight to keep his family. It’s a film that can move you to tears as much as move you to laughter and that’s testament to Williams acting ability. A standout film for many fans of Williams and it’s not hard to see why.
4. One Hour Photo
Now this one I find is one of the most underrated Robin Williams films. Because unlike others on the list, this one isn’t a comedy – it’s a psychological thriller. You wouldn’t think that someone like Williams, who does mostly comedy, could do serious acting. You’d be wrong.
In this film, Williams plays a photo technician called Sy, that takes his work very seriously. He leads a lonely life, dedicated to the old school art of printing pictures, leading no real life of his own. He becomes somewhat attached to the Yorkin family. And by attached I mean obsessed, wishing to be part of their happy family. When the husband, Will Yorkin, starts cheating on his wife, Sy becomes hateful of him and seeks to make him pay. What follows is a scene where Sy catches Will and his paramour unaware and torments them until he is captured by the police.
Yes, you heard me right, in this film Williams plays a psycho. It’s not the first time he played a character like this (he was the killer in the Chris Nolan Insomnia remake), but here he is just as chilling. But strangely enough, you actually kinda feel a little sorry for the guy. He’s not really a bad person. Sure he does bad things, but when it boils down to it, he’s just lonely. He’s never had a loving family or anything like that (in fact the film hints that he was sexually abused by his father) so he just wants to be part of the Yorkin’s family life. And in his own way, he believes he has good intentions, drawing attention to what a poor husband Will is.
You won’t get many laughs in this film. But what you will get is a creepy, frightening, but somewhat sad character that you will either come to despise or feel really sorry for. If you didn’t think that Robin Williams could do serious, this film will make you think twice. As I said, it’s an overlooked film when people talk about their favourite Robin Williams movies, but I think it deserves a mention, if anything to demonstrate the range than Williams is capable of.
5. Good Morning, Vietnam
I’m just gonna say that, hands down, this is my FAVOURITE Robin Williams movie. Very few films have made me laugh my ass off more than this one.
In Good Morning, Vietnam, Williams plays Adrian Cronauer (of whom the film is loosely based on), a DJ that is brought in to do a radio show for the troops whilst stationed at Vietnam. Although his superiors hate him, his brand of comedy mixed with news, and a little bit of rock and roll, is highly popular with the troops and even lifts their spirits. But all too soon, the horrors of Vietnam start to take form and Adrian finds himself at odds with what his superiors want him to say and his own desire to make the truth heard.
Like all Williams films, this has some extremely funny comedy mixed in with real world issues. Must like with Aladdin, Williams improvised a lot of the radio talk he did – which again shows what a talent he was when it comes to it. The fact that he can change from one voice to the next in the drop of a hat, and do it so convincingly, just adds a lot to the performance and makes it amusing to watch.
I think may favourite scene is when he starts a fight with a soldier in a bar, declaring him to have big muscles but no “p***s”. It’s just the way that Williams can turn a serious and dangerous moment into a comedic moment at the drop of a hat. It’s one of my favourite comedy moments of cinema.
Like all films in this list, I could watch this over and over again, if nothing just for the brilliant impressions that he does. Good Morning, Vietnam is a little more light-hearted than other war films (although it certainly gets the point across as well) but it is highly entertaining and worth the watch.
Those are my favourite Robin Williams films, what are yours? Please let me know, and remember...
RIP Robin Williams, you made our lives so much better and you will be missed.
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