Robin Williams: His 10 Best Performances

On 11th August 2014, Robin Williams was found dead at his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was 63 years old.

As we join the world in mourning the loss of one of Hollywood’s greatest comedians, let’s look back at the roles he has played, the ones that helped shape our love and admiration for this great man, while whipping us with a few hard-hitting lessons along the way.

1. Daniel Hillard, Mrs. Doubtfire

In this 1993 comedy classic, Mr. Williams played an unemployed voice actor named Daniel Hillard who, after going through a divorce with his wife – Miranda and losing custody of his children, decides to masquerade as a woman named Mrs. Doubtfire in order to spend time with his children.

2. Alan Parish, Jumanji

Don’t let the video fool you. This was really one of Robin Williams’ “straight man” roles. In the movie, Williams plays the role of Alan Parish, a 12 year old that gets stuck in the board game – Jumanji. Of course, he doesn’t actually play the 12 year old. Williams emerges as Alan Parish the adult, whom after years of being stuck in the game has now grown up.

3. Peter Pan/Peter Banning, Hook

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We’ve all heard the story of Peter Pan. There’s the storybook version, the Disney animated version, the sequel of that version, and a whole lot of other live action films based on the character. 

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But Robin Williams’ adaptation of The Boy Who Won’t Grow Up actually offers an interesting twist to the story – the boy actually grows up. And that’s not all. He’s not mischievous, cocky or child-like. He’s a stiff, button-ed up, cut-throat merger and acquisitions lawyer who has completely forgotten that he used to be Peter Pan. Oh and he can’t fly.

4. John Keating, Dead Poets Society

DIDN’T YOU WISH YOU HAD A TEACHER LIKE JOHN KEATING? I did.  Dead Poets Society is probably one of the greatest and most iconic films in history. It’s also one of Robin Williams’ best works.

As John Keating, Williams was a teacher who utilised unorthodox methods to teach his students poetry. It was his powerful performance that made audiences, particularly young students, look at poetry in a whole new light. Years from watching this film and I still have “O Captain! My Captain!” ringing in my head. So really, if you haven’t seen it, go download it or something. You’re missing out.

5.  Hunter “Patch” Adams, Patch Adams

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Ah! That infamous red nose! Among the many wonderful roles Williams has played, this would be one of the most memorable. Patch Adams is a movie that centres on its titular character – Hunter “Patch” Adams (played by Robin Williams), a medical student who uses humour and compassion to treat his patients.

He dons that red nose and fights to build relationships with his patients in the hospital, even when it threatened his career. If you had any doubt over the phrase “Laughter is the best medicine”, Patch Adams will prove you wrong.

6.  Philip Brainard, Flubber

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I watched this film when I was about 8 years old. Being the na├»ve little kid I was back then, I had no idea what was going on. All I knew was that I wanted to own that gooey green stuff the guy in glasses (Philip Brainard) called “Flubber”. I also remember really liking the guy in glasses.

In fact, he was the only character I actually remembered after the movie. With a co-star as awesome as Flubber, it’s hard not to be overshadowed. But as Philip Brainard, Robin Williams acted with such exuberance that he basically nailed it.

7. Chris Nielson, What Dreams May Come

Out of his many films, this would have to be his most spiritual of all. In this movie, Williams plays a character named Chris Nielson – a man who first loses his children, then watches his marriage crumble to pieces, and is finally forced to come to terms with his own death in a car accident. 

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Now, that’s a whole lot of emotion for an actor to take on in one character. But Robin Williams played the role with such great acting prowess, drawing each emotion to our faces without being overly dramatic that he renders you completely, utterly heartbroken. 

8. Adrian Cronauer, Good Morning, Vietnam

Quiz time: What’s the signature line from this movie? That’s right. “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!” Honestly, Adrian Cronauer was the DJ who put all other DJs to shame.

In the film, Robin Williams plays the wise-cracking, fast-talking DJ for the US Armed Forces Radio Station, Adrian Cronauer who basically delivers joke after joke without skipping a beat. Heck, he was such a natural at it that he bagged a Golden Globe.

9. Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting

As Dr. Sean Maguire, Robin Williams was gentle, but honest and he never put up with any bullshit. He forced his patient, Will Hunting to face his fears by giving him the encouragement that the boy sorely needed. Williams didn’t just act, he simply was. His steady deliverance of the line “It’s not your fault.” still sends chills up my spine.

10. Genie, Aladdin

If you’re telling me that you have not seen this movie, you’ve probably had a very sad childhood. Here, Williams voiced the ever-lovable genie, and belted out one of the most memorable songs in the movie – “Prince Ali” (and here is where you sing: Fabulous he! ALI ABABWAAA! ). 

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His portrayal in Aladdin pretty much proved to everyone that you didn’t need to watch Robin Williams perform to know how good he was, because his was a skill that surpassed physical performances. His was a gift that was, all in all, legendary.

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Make ‘em laugh up there, Robin Williams. Rest in Peace. 

*This article has been written by Eileen Woo