Robin Williams is one of the most beloved comedians and actors in the world. He was loved the world over for his energy, observational style, and genuine warmth towards others. The prolific performer made dozens of films before his death in 2014, though you might be hard pressed to choose the best Robin Williams movies ever.
After attending Julliard in New York City, he returned to California in the 1970s where he developed a standup routine and landed roles in a few television shows. He got his big break playing an alien visiting Earth on the hit “Mork and Mindy,” though he eventually found his way into making movies. His first role was the lead in the charming adaptation of “Popeye,” and Williams was spot on.
While he’s primarily remembered as a genius of improv and physical comedy, Williams also gave us several poignant, dramatic roles that left major impressions. He was even able to pull off darker characters, though the award-winning performer will always be a comedy legend to most.
After making 72 films over his long career, it can be a difficult task to choose the top films. To draft this list of the best Robin Williams movies ever, StudyFinds went to 10 expert websites to consult their opinions. Don’t see your favorite Robins Williams movie here? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
The List: Best Robin Williams Movies, According to Experts
This one topped four expert lists in our research. It follows Matt Damon’s Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., who turns out to have a gift for mathematics, but needs a warm-hearted psychologist (one of Williams’s finest performances) to help him learn how to live the life he wants.
Insider writes: “Williams finally won his much-deserved Oscar on his fourth nomination in 1998, taking home best supporting actor for playing the therapist who helps out math genius Will Hunting (Matt Damon). The famous ‘it’s not your fault’ scene is proof alone of Williams’ dramatic acting abilities, and his performance is the heart and soul of the movie. A deserving number one spot.”
“‘Good Will Hunting’ is best remembered for making Matt Damon and Ben Affleck household names. But if there was justice in the world, it would be as remembered for Robin Williams’ Academy Award-winning performance as Sean Maguire,” writes /Film.
“Williams won his first and only Oscar playing the kindly psychiatrist who tries to get to the heart of the hurt and rage that’s troubling Matt Damon’s titular character,” states Vulture. “It’s a strange part for Williams: A very quiet character who is very much not the center of attention. But that’s also kind of the point. He’s holding back for most of the movie. So at first, he has to do a lot of responding, and a lot of reacting, and then he lets loose with one of the more touching cinematic monologues you’ll come across — one whose resonance was deeply felt by many yesterday. And Williams’s tragic passing will add an extra element of sadness to a film that’s already haunted by the voice of the late Elliot Smith.”
Williams plays an entertaining DJ in the U.S. Army during the height of the Vietnam War in this successful dramedy. The actor won his first Golden Globe Award for the role, and he was nominated for an Oscar.
“Williams had been having a solid film career until the success of ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ shot him into the stratosphere,” says Gold Derby. “Based on the life of disc jockey Adrian Cronauer … the film gave Williams the opportunity to marry his stand-up material within a serious narrative structure, creating an effective hybrid of wild comedy amidst the horrors of war.”
“This is often seen as Robin Williams’s breakout role, in part because it’s the first film that got him nominated for an Oscar, and also because it was a runaway hit,” writes Vulture. “The part of radio DJ Adrian Cronauer, whose irreverent, madcap style enlivens and shakes things up at the height of the Vietnam War became a showcase for the actor’s improvisatory style. It also was an early example of what would become a template for some of Williams’s trademark performances — the man who brings laughter amid great tragedy.”
“’Good Morning, Vietnam’ utilizes all of the actor’s greatest skills — his mastery of mimicry, his boundless improvisational energy, his deep humanity — to create a tour-de-force showcase for him,” gushes Looper. “Williams is dazzling in the role, which Roger Ebert called ‘far and away the best work [he] has ever done in a movie.’ That’s because, he added, ‘his own tactics are turned against him.’ For an actor who often used his own comedic brilliance as a shield, it’s a stunningly revealing performance.”
“Genie from ‘Aladdin’ is hands down one of Williams’ most iconic characters – not to mention one of Disney’s most unforgettable characters – and accurately portrays the actor’s colorful, animated self,” writes Collider. “Directors, John Musker and Ron Clements had written the role of Genie for Williams but when Disney needed some convincing, animator, Eric Goldberg, created an animation reel of Genie to one of Williams’ stand-up routines,” adds The Atlantic.
“Williams will always be the definitive Genie,” states Insider. “He was so good that the filmmakers ended up crafting the entire character around Williams’ improvisations, wit, and impressions. Thus, a truly iconic character was born.”
“The plausible comment that Williams was like the Genie in real life, is no doubt a reflection of how much the performer was made for the part in Disney’s ‘Aladdin,’” writes Screen Rant. “The animated feature also won two Oscars and five Grammy Awards, while Williams received a Special Achievement Award at the Golden Globes. … Known to have improvised a lot of his role, Williams gave viewers the magical, funny friend that everyone needs.”
Playing a homeless man after he’s experienced tragedy, Williams gives one of his most memorable performances. Williams tackles Arthurian knights, heartache, and more with a blend of humor, compassion, and wonder.
“An odd but affecting mixture of drama, comedy and fantasy, ‘The Fisher King’ manages to balance moving performances from Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges with director Terry Gilliam’s typically askew universe,” writes Rotten Tomatoes.
“Robin Williams won a Golden Globe and received an Oscar nomination for his performance in ‘The Fisher King’ as Parry, a homeless man suffering from delusions,” states Screen Rant. “It was received positively by critics, garnering an 84% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences also responded well to the movie’s combination of deep drama and comedy.”
“Like Robin Williams, Terry Gilliam was (and remains) fascinated by magic,” says /Film. “‘The Fisher King’ blends horror and wonder in ways few films can manage. … Gilliam trained his eye on the erratic, unreal pulse of human existence … and brought out the best in Bridges, Williams, and the audience, proving the real world is magic too.”
Williams shines as inspirational, if a bit unconventional, English teacher John Keating. With wit, comedy, and heart, he challenges his students to open their minds to ways of living beyond their conservative boarding school’s traditions.
“What’s left to say about this marvelously powerful film,” asks Vulture. “As the inspirational teacher at a stuffy 1950s prep school who teaches his students to ‘seize the day’ and that poetry still has a lot of life lessons to impart, Williams is again in earnest mode, though he certainly has his freestyling comic moments.”
“In this now-classic movie, Williams earned his second Oscar nomination for playing everybody’s favorite on-screen teacher John Keating,” says Insider. “Keating inspires a bunch of high school boys to dream bigger and better through his passionate teaching methods.”
“As far as inspirational movies go, ‘Dead Poets Society’ is pretty much the gold standard, and that’s in no small part due to Williams’ performance as the rousing teacher at its center,” writes Looper. “John Keating was the high bar by which we measured our own favorite educators, the ones who encouraged us to ‘seize the day’ and make our lives extraordinary.”
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