Anyone over the age of forty has grown up and moved into middle age with the brilliant and often wildly energetic characterizations of the great Robin Williams. Yet however manic his performances, they always contained the gentle and well-intentioned warmth of a kind gentleman and the wide eyed wonder of a sweet little boy. That good-natured universality in so many of his films endeared him to older and younger audiences as well.
The former student of Juilliard with endless characters erupting from him in rapid-fire hilarity first delighted us as a suspenders wearing spaceman on the late 1970's to early 1980's television sitcom "Mork & Mindy." His numerous appearances with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" cracked us up and wore us out at bedtime. His big screen work earned him three Best Actor Oscar nominations ("Good Morning, Vietnam," "Dead Poets Society," "The Fisher King") before winning him the statue with a dramatic supporting turn in 1997's "Good Will Hunting."
Much more than just a comedian, Williams was a consummate actor with stunning dramatic performances that set him apart from his contemporaries. Those serious roles make up many of his essential movies. Some of them comprise a selection of must-see titles that you may not know or have forgotten.
"The Best of Times" (1986) - As Jack "Aquarius" Dundee, Williams has "gotta, gotta, gotta satisfy!" But first, he must overcome his 12 year moniker of "The Man who Dropped the Ball" in a big high school football game. He and quarterback pal Kurt Russell organize a rematch to the consternation of their wives in this funny if predictable trying-to-recapture-their-youth comedy written by Ron Shelton ("Bull Durham"). The Monday Night Football reconciliation dinner alone makes this a must-see.
"Nine Months" (1995) - though his role is little more than an extended cameo, he steals the movie from stars Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore with one of his most outrageously funny performances. He plays their delivery shy Russian obstetrician with a nearly unintelligible accent filled with malapropisms.
"Bicentennial Man" (1999) - this beautiful and heartbreaking dramatic sci-fi-fantasy sees Williams as an android who longs to be human and feel emotions. His dreams come true only to be shattered as he outlives all of the people he loves. It's an unexpected and deeply touching performance.
"One Hour Photo" (2002) - an astoundingly unnerving performance propels this gripping thriller. He's a lonely film developer at a Wal-mart styled store who psychotically immerses himself into a family's lives. His final scene will devastate you.