Earlier this week, I woke up to news that one of my favourite funny men, Robin Williams, had died.
By Samantha Emann
Like so many people of my generation, Williams played an important role in my younger years. As a star of so many fantastic children’s films in the 1990s, it is impossible to understate the impact that the actor had on my generation. As I grew older, I also came to appreciate him in his more dramatic roles.
This is a list of my five favourite Robin Williams performances. A (brief) spoiler alert: I haven’t seen Dead Poets Society or Good Morning, Vietnam. I know, I know – the shock, the outrage, how could I? Have no fear: I will watch them, and soon.
5. Live on Broadway
I am going to start my list off with one of Williams’ stand-up routines as I think it showcased his unique talents and is still something I re- watch often. His stand-up special called Live on Broadway still makes me laugh and his “invention of golf ” bit is by far one of my favourite comedy bits of all time. He always seemed best suited to comedy and had the timing and range to pull it off. I, for one, never got tired of his barrage of accents though some may write them off as a gimmick. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.
I re-watched Jumanji on Tuesday night, and found it remarkable how well this children’s adventure-comedy holds up. Released in 1995, Robin Williams plays the grown-up version of Alan, a boy who was trapped inside the world of a nightmarish board game and believed dead in the real world. When two kids find and begin to play the game 20-some-odd years later, the results are disastrous but — for the viewer — utterly hilarious, as well. This is a great one for anyone to watch, but I especially recommend it for families. As an arachnophobic person I still get the creeps watching those animatronic spiders.
Lookie, lookie, I’ve got Hookie! This one is another movie made for younger audiences, but full of enough star power and over-the-top hijinks to make it equally enjoyable for adults, too. Williams stars as Peter Pan, and the chemistry his Pan has with Dustin Hoffman’s Hook is the main reason this film works so well. Of course, Williams gets a solid assist from the various Lost Boys, but it is largely his charisma that makes the film go over as well as it does. And I think we all had a little crush on Ruphio. Yeah, or just me.
Perhaps more than any other film on this list, Aladdin is a textbook example of what made Williams so hilarious: his rapid-fire delivery was perfect and he managed to pull at your heartstrings at the same time. He did this especially well when he applied it to the role of the Genie. In every sense of the word, for me Aladdin is a classic, and that is in no small part due to the work of Williams, who breathed life into every word of the movie’s best character.
1. Good Will Hunting
Robin Williams has several strong dramatic turns, but of the ones I have seen, Good Will Hunting was his best. Williams plays a psychiatrist who is asked to help work with Will (portrayed by Matt Damon), a troubled young man with a genius- level intellect who finds himself on the wrong side of the law.
The chemistry between Damon and Williams is at least part of the reason the film succeeds. However, it is the dramatic impact of a pair of Robin Williams monologues – not to mention his closing words to the film – that really set this role head and shoulders above the others on this list. And obviously Williams’ trade- mark comedic quirks also shine through and just add more depth to his performance.
Did I list one of your favourites? Do you feel like this list is missing one? Should I finally get around to seeing Dead Poets Society or Good Morning, Vietnam? In honour of Robin Williams I invite everyone to post in the comments their favourite Robin Williams quote or comedy bit that you will always remember him by.
May his humour, talent and personality live on in his legacy.
Good bye, Robin.