NOTE: There are spoilers throughout this article, so discretion is advised.
With the passing of Robin Williams on August 11 at age 63, the world lost more than just a great actor and a legendary comic talent. In his more than 30 years on the big screen, Williams' films made billions and earned him critical plaudits throughout the entertainment industry. He earned four Academy Award nominations throughout his career, with one statuette coming in 1998 for his memorable supporting turn in Good Will Hunting. The list of directors Williams provided memorable work for included Oscar winners Steven Spielberg & Francis Ford Coppola, Oscar nominees Barry Levinson & Peter Weir, and Chris Columbus - who worked with him on three films including the 1993 blockbuster Mrs. Doubtfire.
Even in films where Williams' performance wasn't exactly enough to save the film as a whole, there have been scenes in which his brilliance shined - whether it was during an improvised comic moment or a deeply moving passage where people were in tears and not because they were laughing. This is an Examiner's ten greatest scenes throughout Williams' career, from the noted blockbusters to even a film or two that slipped through the cracks of popularity through the years.
Good Morning Vietnam (1987) - Adrian Cronauer's first broadcast
Who knows if the real-life DJ Adrian Cronauer would have done the banter Williams demonstrated in this seriocomic biopic? For this movie about the Air Force soldier who broadcasts over Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War, Levinson gave the actor free rein to improvise much of his on-air dialogue - as this first broadcast scene demonstrates. Williams earned a Golden Globe and his first Oscar nomination for his efforts.
Dead Poets Society (1989) - Seize the day
This is one of Williams' most quoted scenes, and yet it comes from an unlikely project featuring the actor in a role no one would expect him to pull off. Weir's quietly-powerful drama starred Williams as John Keating, an unorthodox English teacher in 1950s whose love of poetry inspires students in a very conservative university. For many English students growing up during its film's release, Williams may have given them a whole new appreciation of Walt Whitman, and also the acceptance of a great mantra: "Carpe diem."
Hook (1991) - "Use your imagination"
What if Peter Pan grew up? Spielberg posed this question in his maligned fantasy adventure about lawyer Peter Banning (Williams) who ends up going to Neverland to rescue his children from the evil Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). While critics and audiences felt disappointed at the story, Williams had a moment that had both comic and dramatic sensibilities - when he and the Lost Boys have a feast, and there seems to be nothing to eat until...
Aladdin (1992) - "Friend Like Me"
This Disney animated classic was another opportunity for Williams to riff and improvise in the guise of the Genie, who gives the title character guidance and the audience many a memorable laugh. Yet his best moment comes with the help of the musical duo of composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, with the song "Friend Like Me" being one of the film's true stand-out moments - and perhaps Williams' greatest big-screen musical performance.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) - The interview scene
Underneath the comic hilarity displayed in almost every trailer and TV spot for this comedy, there was a dark undercurrent in the otherwise light entertainment given. The film starred Williams as a divorced father trying to find a way to spend time with his children, and ultimately disguises himself as a British nanny to pull it off. Yet one of its funniest scenes features Williams not in drag, demonstrating his rapid-fire ability to go from one voice to another (no mind to the edits here).
Jack (1996) - Jack's graduation speech
On paper, the idea of Williams being directed by a legendary Oscar-winning filmmaker in Francis Ford Coppola seemed to show great possibility. On celluloid, this dramedy about a man who ages four times his age was met with critical and commercial indifference. Yet one of the movie's more touching scenes is when Williams' title character graduates from high school - even at age 18, he has the body and look of an elderly man. And yet he amazes with his emotional dignity in this speech.
The Birdcage (1996) - Directing dance
Williams headlined Mike Nichols' adaptation of the famed 1978 French farce La Cage Aux Folles, featuring a top-notch cast including Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Nathan Lane and Calista Flockhart. Yet for most of the film, Williams kept his comic tendencies dialed down, letting Lane as his partner in life and love handle much of the outrageous bits himself. There was one scene, however, where Williams' timing would not be denied - a brief but memorable tribute to the great choreographers of all time, with a memorable punchline.
Good Will Hunting (1997) - The park scene
While the scene in which Williams' emotionally scarred therapist Sean Maguire tells the title character everything that happened in his life was not his fault is memorable, there is another scene that may have sealed the actor's fate on Oscar night 1998 when he won the Best Supporting Actor award. Maguire is a lost soul himself, struggling to move on after the death of his wife, especially after Will (Matt Damon) brings it up in one of their first sessions. Maguire's talk in the park with Will is an example of Williams at his restrained best, letting the emotion slowly reveal a man's pain over losing his love.
Patch Adams (1998) - You treat a person
This uplifting biopic chronicled the early days of Hunter "Patch" Adams, a medical student whose use of humor and kindness becomes an alternative method of helping patients - much to the dismay of the college's conservative dean. He is called out and expelled for his efforts, and the following scene shows Adams' request to the state medical board to let him continue his efforts. While critics dismissed this film viciously (with even the late Gene Siskel proclaiming it the worst film of 1998), audiences either ignored or dismissed the criticisms themselves - and made it a box office hit.
What Dreams May Come (2000) - Eulogizing the son
This adaptation of legendary science-fiction writer Richard Matheson's novel about a man who goes from Heaven to Hell to reunite with the woman he loves may have come off to some as way too sappy and sentimental to be appreciated. The film received mixed reactions from critics and audiences, though the spellbinding visual effects earned a well-deserved Oscar. This scene demonstrates Williams again at his most emotionally restrained, describing his character's son dead in a crash - and yet somehow, it is possible the words heard now may carry a new meaning to describe the legendary performer himself.