The great comedian Robin Williams died at 63 apparently by his own hand. Winner of one Oscar for his supporting role in 'Good Will Hunting,' we remember the roles that he created with his big heart. Williams did not only excel at comedy, from the heavily criticized 'Popeye' to his major successes like 'Mrs. Doubtfire' and 'Good Morning Vietnam.' His serious performances --like the mentally affected antihero in 'The Fisher King,' to his suffering husband in 'What Dreams May Come' and his scary psychopath in 'One Hour Photo'-- revealed the unparalleled talent of this thespian.
1. The Fisher King
As Parry, an apparent homeless man who's completely lost it by believing he is some sort of Don Quixote in contemporary New York, Williams delivers the most emotional performance of his career. A man who once was engaged and confronted suicide, his Parry mixes emotions like a modern Blanche Dubois. It's Williams at the peak of his talent.
2. Dead Poets Society
Oh Captain My Captain! Who doesn't remember that line? Better yet, who didn't wish we had a teacher like that in real life? As English teacher John Keating, Williams inspired us to love poetry but most importantly, to seize the day! Carpe diem!
3. One Hour Photo
Who knew Robin Williams had it in him? As as a lonely employee of a photo lab, the actor drove us into the disturbing mind of a serial stalker and a restrained psychopath, without falling into any excess. It's a brilliant thespian work in a bold casting move by first time movie director Mark Romanek.
4. What Dreams May Come
This is a gem of a movie not many watched in theaters but that eventually won its place in home video. After he dies in a car accident (we're not spoiling anything, really), Chris Neilson finds himself in the most amazing place he ever imagined. But his wife is suffering and he witness from heaven what his death meant to the family he left at home.
5. Good Morning Vietnam
He didn't win an Oscar for his most memorable portrayal in the Silver Screen. Under the helm of Barry Levinson, Williams played a real-life based DJ who tried to provoke enthusiasm and make things less terrible for the Army in Vietnam. He's hilarious and moving. Certainly much better than in Oscar-winning turn as supporting actor in 'Good Will Hunting.'
6. The Birdcage
It's not easy to portray such a well-known character as great as Ugo Tognazzi did on the french version of the film. But Williams played the right mix between refinement, masculinity and just a sparkle of femininity finding a hilarious balance to the flamboyant Albert portrayed by Nathan Lane. With Gene Hackman completing the cast, these three actors made this gay film, go mainstream.
7. Mrs. Doubtfire
Recently, a sequel to this laugh riot was announced for next year. Unfortunately the project won't see the light of day now, but we should be content for having this family movie that is indeed as funny as you remember. Williams is both hilarious and very moving as an old nanny, call it Mary Poppins 2.0 if you will, who disguises himself to be close to his own children after he loses custody by divorcing his 'evil' wife (Sally Fields).
What would be of 'Aladdin' without the Genie? Scratch that... Would the Genie be as fantastic as it is, and the main character and sole reason why we remember Disney's animated version with such a warm heart? Robin Williams gave voice to the hilarious Genie (an actual transformer) in ways we've never heard before. It's all his credit, as the genie was illustrated after he gave the voice to the blue character.
One thing is when a movie sucks, and another thing when the actors are bad on the film. In the case of Robert Altman's homage to his favorite cartoon, both Robin Williams in the main role, and Shelley Duvall as Olive, shine as one the best cases of fantastic casting in a terrible script. But Williams is Popeye and no one can deny he has the voice, the body, the expressions, and everything we used to love about the Spinach eating dumb hero.
While Robert De Niro had the role that earned most praise (a patient recovering from encephalitis), it was Williams' restrained and emotional performance as a comprehensive doctor the one who really brought unity to the movie and the one that lingers with you after years of having watching it. Williams didn't always make good choices in his career... we won't talk about his other doctor 'Patch Adams,' but in 'Awakenings' he was a truly awoken revelation.
Written by Ernesto Sánchez.