10) One Hour Photo (2002)
Robin Williams steps out of his box to play photo technician Sy Parrish, a solitary and lonely man whose only joy is his work. Sy takes pride in his work, making sure each picture he develops turns out perfectly. His favorite customers are the Yorkins, whose family he becomes obsessed with through their photos. Sy is fired from his job when he is caught stealing and while developing photos on his last day of work, he discovers that Mr. Yorkin is cheating on his wife. Mr. Yorkin has everything, according to Sy’s standards but he doesn’t appreciate any of it and Sy sets out to teach him a lesson. Williams successfully depicts this man’s crazy obsession in this creepy psychological thriller.
9) Insomnia (2002)
In this psychological thriller, LAPD detectives Will Dormer (Al Pacino) and Hap Eckhart fly to Alaska to help out on a murder investigation of a 17-year-old girl. When they lure the murderer (Williams) back to the crime scene, the thick fog causes Dormer to mistake his partner for the killer and shoot him to death. With an Internal Affairs investigation under way, Dormer can’t admit that he killed his partner and pins the death on the murderer. Plagued with insomnia and the guilt over killing Eckhart, Dormer continues to hunt the girl’s murderer until he gets a call from the man himself. An exciting plot unwinds as the detective tries to cover up his own murder while catching the real killer of the 17-year-old victim. Williams holds his own against Pacino in Christopher Nolan’s film that successfully demonstrates the guilt and anguish that follow a murder.
8) Dead Poets Society (1989)
This Peter Weir drama is set at Welton Academy in Vermont, an extremely prestigious and conservative all-boys school that focuses on “tradition, honor, discipline and excellence.” English teacher John Keating has extremely unorthodox ways of teaching, asking his students to call him “O Captain! My Captain!”, letting them stand on his desk and teaching outside. He inspires his students with his lessons on the idea of carpe diem and having your own opinions and way of thinking, rather than the way the school forces them to think. A group of boys create their own Dead Poets Society after discovering that Keating was in a group of the same name when he attended Welton Academy. Keating encourages all of his students to follow their dreams and seize the day. But when Neil Perry dreams of being an actor against his father’s plan for him, he is unable to handle his set future and commits suicide. Although Keating is blamed for Neil’s death and fired from his job, his students make it evident that he made a difference in their lives. Williams’s performance of a teacher who encourages his students to make their lives extraordinary contributes to the film’s four Academy Award nominations (winning Best Original Screenplay) and four Golden Globe nominations.
7) Awakenings (1990)
This touching drama is based on the true story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks. In the summer of 1969, he discovered the positive effects of the drug L-Dopa on catatonic patients who survived the 1917-28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. Robin Williams plays his role, working in a mental hospital when a few catatonic patients catch his attention as they show signs of activity, such as catching a thrown ball, hearing music, responding to someone saying their name and feeling human touch. Interested in these stimuli, he works with patient Leonard Lowe (Robert De Niro) and others with doses of the drug and “awakens” them from their catatonic state. Leonard is given the chance to find himself again after 26 years and teaches us about the joy, gift, freedom and wonderment of life. However, the drug’s success is only temporary and after tics start to arise in the patients they return to catatonia. Although the doctors are not able to keep the patients awake, they are able to show the doctors and nurses in the hospital how to appreciate the little things in life, whether it’s eating a steak, applying makeup or even going to the bathroom all by themselves. Williams’s heartwarming character is the doctor that gives it his all and never gives up. This Penny Marshall film was nominated for three Academy Awards and Robin Williams was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.
6) Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Set in Saigon in 1965 during the Vietnam War, Barry Levinson’s war-comedy film revolves around a radio DJ (Robin Williams) whose comedy entertains the troops and enrages his superiors. DJ Adrian Cronauer becomes a favorite with the troops through his unique comedy. In a time that is not so happy, Cronauer is able to lift spirits and provide inspiration. Williams’ performance through his mostly-improvised radio broadcasts provides a plethora of entertaining voices that keeps you giggling and won him a Golden Globe Award as well as a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
5) Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Chris Columbus’ comedy stars Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams), a great father who is not the most responsible or mature husband. When his wife Miranda files for divorce and takes custody of his children, Daniel gets desperate. He applies to be a housekeeper and nanny for his children, not as himself but as an elderly British nanny named Euphegenia Doubtfire. Through this disguise, Daniel is able to remain close to his three children. Daniel proves to be an extremely loving father who is willing to do anything for his children … even apply lipstick and wear panty hoes. Williams’ passionate persona won the film Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Actor as well as the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
4) Jumanji (1995)
Directed by Joe Johnston, this film introduces us to a strange and magical game that engages its players in its contents so much so that it instills fear and danger. Alan (Robin Williams) and his friend Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) began playing the game years ago but Alan’s turn causes him to disappear into the game. Now 26 years later, Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Shepherd begin playing the game, bringing Alan and Sarah back into it as well. Giant mosquitoes attack, monkeys destroy the kitchen, vines take over the house, a deadly man-eater appears to hunt the players, jungle animals stampede, an earthquake shakes things up and so much more. The only way to stop the madness is to continue it in order to finish the game.
3) Aladdin (1992)
Disney’s Aladdin takes place in the city of Agrabah, where the evil Jafar will do anything he can to become sultan. Meanwhile, Aladdin is a fun-loving street rat who falls in love with Princess Jasmine. Jafar brings Aladdin to the Cave of Wonders, where he rubs a magical lamp to discover a Genie (Robin Williams). The Genie gives Aladdin three wishes but also provides the movie with a lot of color. Williams skillfully provides the many voices and character traits of the Genie. Along with the Genie, Williams also voiced the Merchant. In the original write-up of the film, the Merchant seen at the beginning of the film was supposed to return to sing a reprise and reveal himself as the Genie. As Williams’ first voice-over, this animated film opened the door for him to participate in several more to come. The film walked away with awards from the Grammys, the Oscars, the Golden Globes and more.
2) Hook (1991)
What happens when the boy who never ages grows up? Well, Steven Spielberg’s Hook, which features Robin Williams as Peter Pan, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook and Julia Roberts as Tinker Bell. Peter Pan has grown up to be Peter Banning, a successful corporate lawyer who has forgotten his childhood. When Captain Hook kidnaps his children, Peter must return to Neverland to save them. Rekindling his relationships with the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell, Peter Pan learns how to become a kid again in order to remember the magic of Neverland. He is finally able to defeat Captain Hook and return home with his children, leaving as a more loving and dedicated father who understands the importance of staying young at heart. Williams was the perfect choice for an adult learning how to be a kid again and his performance is genuine throughout. The story that was nominated for five Academy Awards teaches us that “to live would be an awfully great adventure.”
1) Good Will Hunting (1997)
Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a 20-year-old janitor at MIT who spends his life ignoring his genius potential. After his umpteenth arrest, Will agrees to study mathematics with professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) and attend therapy sessions. After scaring numerous therapists away, Sean Mcguire’s unique methods allow him to gain Will’s trust. Will opens up and the two discuss his relationship with his friends (including Chuckie, played by Ben Affleck), his girlfriend and inability to commit, and himself. Williams’ genuine character lets Will know that it’s alright to let go of a tragic past when it wasn’t his fault and allows us all to think about the important things in life and the choices we make to keep them. Gus Van Sant directed this drama to nine Academy Award nominations with two wins as well as four Golden Globe nominations with a win for Best Screenplay.