In Depth

Robin Williams’s ten best films

From Mrs. Doubtfire to Good Will Hunting, Williams has starred in many well-loved movies

It has been almost four years since Robin Williams - one of the world's best-loved actors - took his own life, on 11 August 2014. 

The 63-year-old was found hanged at his home in Paradise Cay, California.

He had suffered from diffuse Lewy body dementia and depression.

His daughter Zelda, who was 25 at the time, said she would "never, ever understand" how her father "could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay", while Barack Obama said Williams had touched "every element of the human spirit" in his career.

Here are ten of his best films.

Good Morning, Vietnam

Williams plays radio funny-man Adrian Cronauer, who is sent to Vietnam to bring a little comedy back into the lives of the soldiers. The New York Times says it does “something that's very rare in movies, being about a character who really is as funny as he's supposed to be to most of the people sharing the fiction with him”.

Dead Poets Society

As English teacher John Keating, Williams inspires his students to look at poetry from a different perspective. Sarfraz Manzoor of The Guardian says: “When I watch Dead Poets Society I am reminded that time is precious; that, in the words of Bob Dylan, he not busy being born is busy dying. Dead Poets Society teaches us to resolve to lead lives of passion and conviction, mindful of the fact that in the story of our lives the script is ours to write, but the ending has long been decided.”

Mrs. Doubtfire

One of Williams’s most iconic performances, Mrs. Doubtfire follows an actor who disguises himself as a female housekeeper to spend time with his children and estranged wife. The New York Times praises Williams’s improvisation in the movie, writing: “Mr. Williams's genius is in these details, and it is given free rein during much of Mrs. Doubtfire, as in the sequence that has him improvising with toy dinosaurs at a television studio and coming up with a Raptor Rap.”

Jumanji

Recently reimagined in 2017, the 1995 original follows two orphans who get sucked into a magical board game. They meet Alan Parrish, played by Williams, who has been stuck in the game for 26 years. Critics didn't rave about the film at the time but it has proven to be a family favourite, even today.

The Fisher King

Jeff Bridges plays an abrasive radio DJ who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a homeless man, played by Williams. Director Terry Gilliam said of Williams's performance in The Fisher King: “It is the whole breadth of Robin, which no other part I think out there does. From the hysterically funny to the manic to the utterly sweet to the sensitive and tormented, it’s all there.”

Insomnia

A veteran police detective (Al Pacino) is sent to a small Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teenage girl and is forced into a psychological game of cat-and-mouse by the primary suspect (Williams). The New York Post called it “A four-course gourmet alternative to summer popcorn flicks, serving up the meatiest performances Al Pacino and Robin Williams have given in many years.”

Moscow on the Hudson

Released in 1984, Moscow on the Hudson dramatised the plight of a Soviet circus musician who defects to the United States while he’s in New York for a performance. "Essentially a vehicle for Williams to show off his manic shtick (and display the considerable acting skills that would later propel him into Oscar territory," says Film4.

Awakenings

This is the true story of British neurologist Olivier Sacks (Williams), whose pioneering pharmacological studies help achieve a breakthrough with a catatonic patient (Robert De Niro). The Washington Post called it a “cause for rejoicing, a literate and compassionate film in this season of chintz and barbarism”.

Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon plays Will Hunting, a janitor at MIT, who has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist, played by Williams, to find direction in his life. After Best Actor Oscar nominations for Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poet's Society and The Fisher King, Williams finally won Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting in 1998. Williams “brings off sharpness and tenderness” and delivers two speeches that are “so juicy they look set to become actors' audition pieces”, said The Daily Telegraph

Aladdin

This Disney classic saw Williams unchained from the constraints of live action. He brought the character of the Genie to life, and made him one of the most well-loved children's movie characters.

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