Jesse’s Top 5 Robin Williams Roles

Written by Jesse Gelinas August 12, 2014

Robin Williams“Death is nature’s way of saying ‘your table is ready.'”

We are all hit pretty hard when one of our favourite celebrities pass. But I know a lot of us are especially pained by the recent loss of Robin Williams. He was more than just a funnyman; he was a terrific actor and a great person who was there with many of us as we grew up watching his movies. He was a uniting force bringing all ages together with his comedy and his heart. Sadly, his time has passed. But he lives on, immortalized in his numerous classic roles that helped define millions of childhoods, and will hopefully live on to inspire millions more.

So, to honour this icon, I give you my Top 5 Robin Williams roles. This list could be much longer, so for the sake of brevity we’ll stick with roles that cover the late, great Robin Williams’ best and most memorable performances. We’ll start with the myriad films that could have easily found a place on this list.

Honourable Mentions: Peter Banning (“Hook”), Andrew Martin (“Bicentennial Man”), Sy Parrish (“One Hour Photo”), T.S. Garp (“The World Accordig to Garp”), Hunter Adams (“Patch Adams”), Walter Finch (“Insomnia”), Alan Parrish (“Jumanji”), John Keating (“Dead Poets Society”)

And now, in my opinion, the best…

5. Daniel Hillard (“Mrs. Doubtfire,” 1993)

Robin Williams in "Mrs. Doubtfire"

“Hellooooo!”

Who among us hasn’t watched this movie a thousand times? Whether it was in the theater, on VHS, or any number of times on TV, love it or hate it, we’ve all sat down and indulged. It’s not a fantastic film, but it’s a touching, heartfelt exploration of a broken family, and the lengths a father will go to see his children. Williams plays an old British woman better than most old British women. The film has become a bit of a joke in recent years, but it remains a real staple in the Robin Williams repertoire.

4. Armand Goldman (“The Birdcage,” 1996)

Robin Williams in "The Birdcage"

“There’s one place in the world I call home, and it’s because you’re there.”

I can’t say enough about this movie. A remake of the original French adaptation of the stage-play, “The Birdcage” contains (in my opinion) two of the greatest comedic performances of all time. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane play off each other so well, as one of the most lovably dysfunctional gay couples ever put to film. This is another one of those touching comedies about a nontraditional family. But Williams and Lane help raise this clever comedy to a new level and that makes it a classic. It may not be the Robin Williams we all grew up with, but it’s fantastic nevertheless.

3. Mork (“Mork & Mindy,” 1978-1982)

Robin Williams as Mork from Ork

“Shazbot!”

This is the role that made Robin Williams a household name. Mork from Ork, the zany alien who had no idea how anything on Earth worked. It came out like gangbusters but soon faced a steady decline in ratings and reception. Still, Robin Williams was on the air for four years making people laugh. Mork’s manic, stream of consciousness style would become Williams’ trademark, and two decades after cancellation, people still remember “nanu nanu.” “Mork & Mindy” may have overstayed its welcome, but it’ll be remembered as the show that launched an unrivaled career in comedy.

2. Sean Maguire (“Good Will Hunting,” 1997)

Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting"

“You’ll have bad times. But it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

Now we’re getting serious. There’s an old joke that when you see Robin Williams with a beard, you know you’re in for a dramatic turn, likely to make you cry. “Good Will Hunting” is a testament to this. Always a bridesmaid, Williams had been up for three Oscars before being cast as the witty but troubled therapist who breaks down Matt Damon’s defenses, while managing to teach him about responsibility, love, and women who fart in bed. It’s a role Williams seems to have been born for, and it won him the biggest award of his career (Best Supporting Actor, 1998). Ask anyone about Robin Williams’ best acting and they’ll (almost without fail) point you here. And yes, this performance will bring even the strongest among us to tears.

1. The Genie (“Aladdin,” 1992)

There’s few things as timeless as a great Disney cartoon. “Aladdin” stands as one of those films that helped raise a generation of kids, and reintroduce countless adults to their inner child. It’s a nearly perfect film, mixing romance, magic, intrigue, comedy, and great music. The Genie remains the most widely loved and talked about part of the film. Robin Williams’ turn as the flamboyant, blue wish-granter is probably his most accessible and universally beloved role. He’s got the best jokes and, let’s face it, the most catchy songs (see video above). The Genie manages to perfectly balance Williams’ trademark zaniness with touching moments of pure emotion. Williams breathed life into this animated character, turning him into a classic icon for countless childhoods. It remains his most timeless role in his most timeless film.

Robin Williams as the Genie

So long, you lovely, funny man. We’ll miss you.

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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