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Top 10 Robin Williams Performances

Updated on November 10, 2014

In light of the sad passing of one of the greatest actor comedians of this generation, I bring focus to the bright moments of Robin Williams' career. In times like these I tend to focus on the positives of a persons life. I do not like to mourn the death, but rather celebrate the life of a great man.

Williams has been active since the late 70s and bas built a large following of fans though his comedy and films. He has won an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.

For this list, I take a look at the career noteworthy performances of the actor through his life that garnered much praise from critics and how memorable they have become as time has passed. I'm also accounting awards Williams was nominated for in those films.

10. Vladimir Ivanov, Moscow on the Hudson

This role allowed Williams to display his great knack of speaking in accents.

Williams plays a sensitive, Soviet saxophone player who defects to New York City. He mastered his Russian accent and displayed great ability of the sax. This is one of Williams' early dramatic roles as he takes on a character who is going through culture shock after coming to a new country. He plays the part through endearment while also expressing eccentric properties throughout.

While the film was only moderately successful at the box office, the role gave Williams his first Golden Globe nomination.

9. Sy Parrish, One Hour Photo

This role was a complete departure from Williams' classic skill set. Diverging from comedy and drama, to suspense and thrillers.

Williams plays a photo technician who develops an unhealthy obsession with a young family. He was able to step completely out of character to the point that he was almost unrecognizable. His demeanor and voice make us sympathize with the character and proved that he is more than capable of performing in suspenseful dramas.

The film garnered many positive reviews and Williams won a Saturn Award for Best Actor.

8. Dr. Malcolm Sayers, Awakenings

This is arguably one of the most unappreciated roles of Williams career.

He plays a doctor who discovers a miracle drug that temporarily helps catatonic patients. He is able restrain himself from his normal skill set to play the role based on the real life story. His body language expresses the character's shyness and introversion rather than his dialogue. His uncluttered work is what anchors the film from the craziness that surrounds him.

Williams portrayal of the doctor won him another Golden Globe nomination for best actor as well as other nominations from different organizations.

7. Parry, The Fisher King

This a role that Williams was born to play.

He plays a kind hearted but unbalanced homeless man with a tragic past in this critically praised film. Williams showed that he can go all out in this role while being able to reach the brink of insanity, but still was able to shine during the films quiet moments. Playing alongside Jeff Bridges, the two excel in this Terry Gilliam story of heartbreak and redemption.

His effort got him his third Oscar nomination as well as his third Golden Globe win. He was also nominated for an American Comedy Award and a Saturn Award for his effort.

6. Armand Goldman, The Birdcage

Much to the contrary of its premise, this film does have Williams displaying his brand of screwball comedy.

Williams plays a gay drag club owner who has to cover up his life when his son marries into a super conservative family. Playing opposite Nathan Lane, Williams plays the straight arrow by blending kindness with his comedy. For the most part his character is calm in the film, but does embrace himself in a scene that is sure to bring laughter(a la, the dance rehearsal scene.)

Along with the rest of the cast, Williams won the SAG Award for outstanding performance by a cast and was also nominated for two MTV Movie Awards including best comedic performance and best on-screen duo.

5. Genie, Aladdin

Thanks to his knack for conscious comedy and ability to improve, Williams and cartoons are the perfect match.

Williams plays the Genie who helps Aladdin become a prince so he can marry his love. The medium allows him to transition from doing impressions, singing musical number, and improvise dialogue. Which is why most of the Genie's lines were created on the spot. While you probably didn't understand all of the jokes when you were a kid, its because of Williams that you still kove this movie today.

Because of Williams, the Golden Globes created a special award to honor his performance. He also won a Saturn Award for best actor and a MTV Movie Award for best comedic performance.

4. Daniel Hillard / Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, Mrs. Doubtfire

Williams comedy and insanity did nothing to stop his performance through a fat suit in this role.

He plays a recently divorced man who disguises himself as an elderly British nanny in order to spend more time with his three children. This role display everything we love about Robin Williams from his impressions and accents to his seriousness. He showed that he can easily switch between a kind hearted father to a strict but fair British nanny.

The role won Williams another Golden Globe as well as numerous awards for best actor in a comedy role.

3. John Keating, Dead Poets Society

Williams took this role to light of a story based on writer Tom Schulman's life at a prep school.

He plays an unconventional English teacher who inspires his students through poetry at a conservative and aristocratic boarding school. This role cemented Williams status as a dramatic actor and is one of the high points of his career. His ability control himself and play against type a the shining force in this film.

While the film initial saw mixed reviews from critics, Williams role standouts in film history. His effort won him another Oscar nomination as well as a BAFTA nomination for best actor.

2. Adrian Conquer, Good Morning, Vietnam

This film balances the elements that make Williams a great actor and comedian.

He plays an Army disc jockey during the Vietnam war who proves hugely popular with the troops, but infuriates his superiors with what they call his "irreverent tendencies". This was one of the first films where Williams was able to adlib his own dialogue. He expresses the role by bringing comedy to the situations but also displays true emotion through the seriousness of war. His energy and emotions are on full display in this role and is a staple for all comedic acts who followed.

His performance won him his first Oscar nomination and his first Golden Globe win.

1. Sean Maguire, Good Will Hunting

This movie may not have any of Williams' trademark hijinks but does display his greatest work as a dramatic actor.

Williams plays the supporting role of the counselor to Matt Damon's troubled Will Hunting. He may not show his manic comedy that made him famous, but his improv funny dialogue did make the cameraman laugh and lose control of the camera during filming. This is easily the most sincere, gentle and human role of Williams' entire career.

His effort garnered him another SAG Award and his only Academy Award win for best actor in a supporting role.

Honorable Mentions

Mork, Mork & Mindy

Alan Parrish, Jumanji

Jack Powell, Jack

Professor Phillip Brainerd, Flubber

Patch Adams, Patch Adams

Andrew Martin, Bicentennial Man

Fender, Robots

Simon Roberts, the Crazy Ones


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    • Rod Marsden profile image

      Rod Marsden 

      4 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      With Robin Williams movies you either loved them with a passion or hated them probably with as much passion. I never got Mork and Mindy. I grew up on My Favorite Martian and Mork and Mindy seemed to me to be a pale imitation made on the cheap. Even so, it launched a great career. The movies of Robin Williams I love include The World According to Garp, Moscow on the Hudson, The Bird Cage, Good Will Hunting, Fern Gully The Last Rain Forest (his voice was used for the loony bat), Popeye, and of course Good Morning Vietnam! I think of The Fisher King as something best forgotten. Other truly great films include Dead Poets Society which I loved but friends hated, Mrs Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Awakenings and Bicentennial Man. R.I.P Robin Williams. You made us laugh, you made us cry. You probably had trouble topping your own performances but more often than not you did.

    • kotobukijake profile image


      4 years ago

      It truly is a great loss to see Robin Williams go, especially under such tragic circumstances. He was an iconic figure in my own movie-viewing experience, and several of his roles will remain fondly in my memory. I admit I still need to see Moscow on the Hudson and The Birdcage, but all the other roles on your main list were quite deserving of note (not sure about some of your honorable mentions, though). I also really need to see The World According to Garp, as well as a few of Williams' more recent roles, but I would say that Insomnia's Walter Finch would easily have made my top ten, and my personal top ten would probably have to include Hook's Peter Banning/ Peter Pan. Popeye (from Popeye), Batty Koda (from FernGully: The Last Rainforest), Rainbow Randolph (from Death to Smoochy), Pappass (from House of D) and Teddy Roosevelt (from the Night at the Museum series) are all also worthy of mention, beating at least one of the ones on your own HM list. Also, let's not forget Williams' hilarious rendition of "Blame Canada" at the 2000 Oscars--truly a great Oscar moment. This has indeed been a rough year for celebrities so far--Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Garner, and now Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall in as many days. All great actors, all with notable bodies of work to be enjoyed for years to come, but all leaving us with the feeling that we will lose out in the years to come. To all these great actors, thank you, and RIP.


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