Some actors have good skills on the screen, and they hone in on their weaknesses to improve them, combining these aspects of their career with their strengths to evolve and become great. Others are simply born with comedic and dramatic gifts that can’t be taught.
Robin Williams is the definition of the latter. Williams used a raw, tangible fire on screen and stage that was uniquely his, and he wasn’t afraid to try new characters or take on supporting roles to let others shine even brighter. When Williams committed suicide in the summer of 2014, it felt like the world lost a lot of its light. We want to bring that aura back into your life by ranking the 10 best Robin Williams movies. From animated hits to gender-nonconforming satires, these Robin Williams movies were truly the best of all time!
While people often think of the Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black reboot of the mid-2010s, the Robin Williams version of Jumanji is still a cult classic that any family will glean amusement and heartfelt nostalgia from. Williams plays a man who is trapped in the titular board game and can only be permanently relinquished if the young children who own the game, Peter and Judy, overcome the wildlife challenges within.
While Robin Williams usually was most comfortable in a family-friendly setting in his films, he was just as brilliant when he tried something a little more literary and dense. The Fisher King is a heavy acting spectacle from Williams, discussing themes such as suicide, mental health disorders, friendship, nihilism, and more. Jeff Bridges co-stars as the disc jockey who Williams’ character, the homeless and suicidal Parry Sagan, tries to redeem.
One of Robin Williams’ earliest successes, The World According to Garp is a character study of a man with an uneasy relationship with sexual activity going all the way back to his unique conception by his mother. Standout performances other than Williams’ included those of John Lithgow and Glenn Close, Garp’s mother, whose life represents the film’s analysis of feminism and success in the field of literature. The movie is very episodic and told through random plot points, a creative choice made by the directors of the film.
It’s hard to make war funny, but that’s exactly what Robin Williams does in this satire of the horrors of the Vietnam War. Williams plays a radio DJ who tells jokes on the airwaves to calm the nerves of the people fighting overseas. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film, one that showed off his improvisational talents and pure, reckless abandon on screen.
One of the most popular films of Williams’ career, Mrs. Doubtfire is the touching and hilarious story of the lengths a divorced man will go to when he wants to see his children. Williams’ famous portrayal of a female housekeeper is iconic, but it’s the purpose behind his character’s desires that makes the movie heartwarming. To become a better dad, Daniel Hillard must get in touch with his feminine side. The irony helps to make the movie instantly enjoyable and re-watchable.
One of the best LGBTQ+ films of the 1990s, The Birdcage tells the story of the relationship between Armand, a gay man, his drag queen partner, Albert, and the homophobic, conservative in-laws who get in the way of the two main characters’ lives. Williams’ performance as a queer man is an especially revolutionary one because it helped to give the average American a broader perspective on issues in the gay community. It also helped debunk stereotypes that surrounded gay lifestyles. Nathan Lane also gives an outstanding performance also in the role of Albert.
One of the most treasured Disney movies of all time, Aladdin is the spell-binding story of a street urchin and the bond he develops with a magical genie, played by Williams, who tries to aid him in his quest for love. The movie remains a hit with families of all ages today, and it showed that Williams’ talents ran even deeper than we originally thought. His charisma and energy were even more vibrant as a voice actor than in live action!
Robin Williams plays English teacher John Keating in this legendary, award-winning picture that helped define the late 1980s in film. Dead Poets Society is one of the most oft-quoted movies of all time, but the beauty of the movie lies in more than just the iconic lines uttered by Williams and his students. The movie is an entertaining and important display of the passion of educators, the influence they can have on student lives, and the value of literature on society at large.
Robin Williams and Matt Damon have an impeccable and palpable chemistry in this film about a mentally worn-out genius college student who undergoes therapy to unlock his potential in life. Praised for its realistic and thought-provoking approach to youth trauma, the movie is a hallmark moment in the careers of Williams, Damon, and everyone else involved in the cast and crew.
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