I was shocked when I found out that legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams had passed away on August 11th at only 63-years-old. The manner of his death, suicide by hanging, was all the more shocking and tragic because it’s ultimately senseless. It’s a shame that he couldn’t get past whatever he was feeling at the moment he decided to end his life, but that doesn’t really matter now. What matter’s now is that movie fans have lost one of the best performers, and most importantly that three individuals lost a father and a wife lost a husband and best friend.
This isn’t the way I wanted to begin my new Smith’s Sentiment feature of “top five films” countdown here on Cinema Vortex. But, here we are, counting down MY top five Robin Williams movies. This isn’t based on anything like acting talent displayed or box office success or anything like that. This is simply a list of the five movies he starred in that I enjoyed the most. We’ll start with five and work our way down to what I feel is his best movie.
5.) Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
I’ve seen this movie dozens and dozens of times, and it never gets old and never feels outdated. I feel this is one of the best dramedy’s ever made. What makes it work so very well is the comedy is used exceptionally well in between the more dramatic/serious moments. This is one of those movies that almost make you angry. Watching it, you can clearly see how much Robin’s character Daniel Hilliard loves his three children and appears to be a great father. But then there’s Sally Field’s Miranda Hilliard character that just comes across as completely unlikable. How could she Daniel, get it where he can’t see his kids, and then start dating that douche Stu (Pierce Brosnan). Even as a kid, I felt bad for the kid characters in the movie. As an aside, I always had a crush on Lisa Jakub (Lydia Hilliard). Mrs. Doubtfire is a timeless classic with a terrific comedy (and serious at times) performance from Robin Williams that really showed off his range, to a degree, in one film.
4.) Insomnia (2002)
What do you get when you put Al Pacino and Robin Williams into a thriller together? You get Insomnia, one of the best films of either man’s legendary careers. Robin Williams co-stars as Walter Finch, a former crime novel writer who is also a pedophile. He kills the high school girl he was fooling with in a “fit of rage.” Al Pacino is police detective Will Dormer. Dormer is being investigated by Internal Affairs, and his partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) is going to testify against him. While chasing Finch, Dormer accidentally shoots Eckhart and realizes that no one would believe it was an accident. Finch sees the murder and offers Dormer a deal: frame his victims abusive boyfriend so that Finch walk free, and he won’t say anything about the killing of Eckhart. If for some reason you haven’t seen this great film yet, you definitely need to do so ASAP. Both Williams and Pacino are superb throughout this entire film.
3.) What Dreams May Come (1998)
Believe it or not, I know folks who think this movie is boring, stupid, and even downright horrible. And I can never help but say, “WHAT?!” I’ve always found it to be an exceptionally great movie; a good story and a great performance by Robin Williams. The film is based on the 1978 novel of the same name, which I have not read. Chris Nielsen (Williams) and Annie Nielsen (Annabella Sciorra) lose their children in a car crash. As a result, Annie has a mental breakdown. One the year anniversary of the couple deciding not to get divorced, Chris is killed after being struck by a car. Ultimately, Annie commits suicide and that pushes Chris on a journey through the afterlife to rescue her from her self-created Hell. That’s about as loose of a summary as I can do. It really is a good, touching story though and Robin Williams (and Cuba Gooding Jr.) is fantastic throughout. This was the first non-comedy that I saw from Williams, and I thought he knocked it out of the park back then. Still do.
2.) One Hour Photo (2002)
I’d personally rank this as Williams best acting performance (noting that I haven’t seen every single one of his movies). There’s nothing funny about this thriller. Robin’s portrayal of Sy Parrish was most excellent. This is a character that should have been an outright creep that you wanted to see get it, and yet Williams made him sympathetic. Sy is a lonely photo technician who isn’t treated all that well at work and has no friends or family. But he does a great job to make sure his customers get high quality photos. Through years of developing photos for the Yorkin family, and ultimately obsesses over them and fantasizing that he was part of their family. Things go south pretty fast once he finds out that Will Yorkin is cheating on his wife. There’s no doubting that Sy is a creepy character, but you can’t help but feel for him largely because of just how good of a job Robin Williams did bringing the character to life. As far as I’m concerned, this is an absolute must watch.
1.) Death to Smoochy (2002)
This isn’t just my favorite Robin Williams movie, it’s also right at the top of my all-time favorite movies list. I found it hysterical the first time I watched it, and despite seeing it a ton of times, it has never ceased to be any less funny. Robin’s portrayal of fictional kids show host Rainbow Randolph was absolutely brilliant in this “dark comedy.” After being fired from his kids show on KidNet due to a sting operation, Rainbow Randolph goes to a dark place as he plans to kill his replacement, the squeaky clean Smoochy the Rhino (Edward Norton) or at first get him fired. The film has a wonderful cast, but Williams really shines in it delivering some great and memorable lines and being in all of the best scenes in the film. The cookie scene, the safari phone call, and the scene that the image above is from are all fantastic. If you have not seen this movie, go buy the DVD immediately. It is a superb movie.
These are a few of my other favorite Robin Williams movies that just didn’t make the top five, but are still movies that I have seen many times and enjoy a great deal.
- Hook (1991)
Patch Adams (1998)
Man of the Year (2006)
I also really enjoyed his part in the Night at the Smithsonian movies as Teddy Roosevault (if the real Teddy were like the Williams portrayal, he would’ve been an admirable guy). I’m looking forward to seeing Night at the Smithsonian: Secret of the Tomb that is supposed to release later this year. Looking forward to Merry Friggin’ Christmas, which stars Robin Williams and is scheduled to hit theaters in November.
As you can see from my actual top five, 2002 was really a banner year for Robin Williams with three amazing movies. He had a career that spanned decades that was filled with great movies, but his 2002 releases was really him at the top of his game and maybe surprising to a lot of folks who view him as a “funny man,” two of his best from that year were non-comedy’s that really further showcased what a terrific actor he was.
What are your favorite Robin Williams movies? Let me know in the comments below.