Thanks For The Memories: Robin Williams’ Most Memorable Roles

Above: A few of Robin Williams' most memorable roles
Above: A few of Robin Williams' most memorable roles

The entertainment world was shaken late Monday with the news of Robin Williams’ death. A stunning talent that brought laughter and tears, comedic genius and underrated dramatic turns to the screen, the 63-year-old actor delivered more memorable performances than we can fairly detail here.

From his hilarious stand-up specials and voice work in films like FernGully, Aladdin and Happy Feet to early turns that get forgotten like The World According to Garp and his breakthrough role as Mork on Mork & Mindy, Williams always delivered and touch generations of moviegoers.

Here’s a look at ten of Williams’ best cinematic performances that we’ll never forget.

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Williams took home a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of unorthodox radio DJ Adrien Cronauer in this Barry Levinson-directed classic. Funny with a side of frank reality, this was the kind of role Williams excelled in for a long time—making us laugh while making us think at the same time.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

As English professor John Keats, Williams inspired his students, including Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke, to seize the day and love poetry. The “Oh Captain! My Captain!” scene creates a dust storm in the living room every. single. time.

Awakenings (1990)

Based on the memoirs of Dr. Oliver Sacks, Williams stars as the fictionalized version of the neurologist as he works with catatonic patients at a hospital in The Bronx, holding his own alongside Robert De Niro, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance.

Hook (1991)

As a grown up Peter Pan, Williams travels to Neverland, teaming up with The Lost Boys and their new leader, Ruffio (RU-FEE-O!) to rescue his children from his old enemy, Captain Hook. While it didn’t do as well as expected at the box office, it remains a great update to an old classic.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

So what do you do when you’re getting divorced and want to spend more time with your kids? Transform yourself into the matronly housekeeper your ex-wife hires to watch over your munchkins, that’s what. This one gets bonus points for the “drive-by fruiting” scene.

The Birdcage (1996)

A riff on the French-Italian classix La Cage aux Foiles, Williams teams up with Nathan Lane to deliver masterful performances in this underrated comedy. Co-starring Gene Hackman and Diane Wiest, as well as a terrific turn from Hank Azaria,this is one to cue up when you’re going through Mork’s forgotten classics.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

After years of comedic performances, Williams earned an Academy Award (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) for his portrayal of Sean Maguire, a therapist from South Boston who connects with Matt Damon’s Will Hunting in this mesmirizing film. Incidentally, the living room also gets super-dusty during the “It’s not your fault, Will” scene near the end of this one.

Patch Adams (1998)

Based on the real life of Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, this one didn’t get many positive reviews from critics, but it was a sweet film that reinforced Williams’ star power and turned back to his family-friendly Doubtfire days.

Death to Smoochy (2002)

Nevermind what the box office said: this was one of Williams’ best efforts and a tremendously funny film, albeit in an entirely different way than his previous efforts. There is something amazing about a shady children’s show star that gets popped by the feds and hatches a bunch of schemes to get back at the mook that replaces him. Check it out if you haven’t seen it and thank us later.

Insomnia (2002)

Pre-Batman Christopher Nolan helmed this big budget thriller that took Williams far from his standard role. Opposite Al Pacino and recent (and future) Oscar winner Hilary Swank, Williams shines as a crime writer in an Alaskan town where a young girl has been murdered. If you like Nolan’s style behind the camera, this is definitely one you have to see.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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