A Tribute to Robin Williams from the JoBlo.com crew
The tragic news of legendary actor/comedian Robin William's death has rocked many of us to our core. One of the most prolific and influential voices onscreen and onstage, Williams has left behind a legacy of work that will be revisited again and again for many generations to come. From his earliest beginnings as a stand-up comedian it was readily apparent that he was a star only beginning to shine. His transition to film and subsequent outstanding performances in so many great films only served to prove that his talent knew no bounds. Be it comedic or dramatic, Williams handled his roles with a deft touch, moving us to joy, tears, or inspiration.
There are so many films that stand as a testament to his wonderful voice and skill, impossible to call any one better than the other as they have such a distinct meaning to so many people (see his family's tributes here). With that in mind, we have decided to share our own favorite Robin Williams films and what they've meant to us. Like all of you, the JoBlo.com staff is deeply shook by Mr. Williams' death and we would like to share our memories and encourage you to share yours below. In addition, you can see the reactions of Williams' friends an peers here. If there's one thing he's earned thoughout his long and varied career, it's the honor of a fitting tribute. There will be many. This is ours.
Mathew Plale: The quintessential Robin Williams performance for me is that in GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, which showcases—perhaps better than any of his works—both his spectrum of talents and the spirit that we love. Here is a character and actor who connected to humanity with comedy and brought it to those that needed it. It’s a turn that is at times wildly funny and at times tragic; it is often chaotic and yet always controlled. Williams was a titan of his field that contributed one hell of a verse to this powerful play.
Niki Stephens: My heart has been heavy since hearing of the passing of Robin Williams. He was a kind soul and a comedic genius that the world just doesn't make two of. What's brilliant about any performance from Williams was best explained by fellow comedian Marc Maron: "He stuck with you whenever he hit your brain and built a home in it you could always go back to."
Chris Bumbray: The news of Robin Williams passing away hit me like a ton of bricks. Having been born in '81, he's literally been a star since before I was born. Throughout my childhood, I considered him the funniest man alive, with his voice acting in ALADDIN and his drag comedy MRS. DOUBTFIRE being highlights. But, there was more to Williams than just being a clown. In his serious parts there was a depth one wouldn't expect. While it's easy to look at the way he died and draw parallels to some of his darker work, like ONE HOUR PHOTO, and INSOMNIA, for me, the Robin I'll always remember is the inspiring prep school teacher in DEAD POETS SOCIETY. It's the first thing I threw on after hearing of his passing, and the way I'll always remember him. He brings a touch of melancholy to the part, as the broken hearted teacher who is ruined by the fact that inspiring passion in his students goes against the grain of the school tradition, which is to churn out bland cogs, ready to fulfill their preordained slots in society. In the movie, Williams tells his student, "carpe diem." Seize the day. In the wake of his passing, it's tough not to take that to heart.
Eric Walkuski: I could go slightly unconventional with my pick for favorite Robin Williams film - surely a couple of his more off-beat roles occur to me when I think of his career overall: ONE HOUR PHOTO, where the actor's inherent sweetness translated into something indefinably creepy; INSOMNIA, in which he played a soft-spoken murderer; a truly chilling turn. But I think my favorite movie to watch Robin Williams' in is THE BIRDCAGE. It's a subtle performance - surprising to see Williams being subtle in a comedy - but it contains a handful of gleeful bursts of that scenery-chewing he did so well. Williams could have gone with the wild, over-the-top Albert, but leaves that to Nathan Lane in lieu of a more quippy, understated Armand. The role is filled with great tenderness, and Armand's love for his far more eccentric partner is never in doubt, even though he frequently struggles to decide what to do with him. It's very sad to see Robin Williams go, but this performance - and his many, many others - will always be there for us to enjoy again and again.
J.A. Hamilton: The first movie I ever watched on TV was POPEYE. I couldn't tell you what it was about, or recite a line of dialogue, all I know is that Robin Williams was POPEYE and I loved it. What I can tell you is that I grew up watching Williams--from CADILLAC MAN to ALADDIN, there was no limit to this man's comedic range and/or ability to win over the crowd. It's heartbreaking how sometimes, it's not until we lose such a great pioneer of the craft, that we truly realize how much of an impact they had on our lives. It feels like an odd thing to say about someone I never got the chance to meet, but Mr. Williams seemed like the kind of warm soul you not only want to know, but feel you did regardless. As a kid who grew up not knowing his real father, I still get tears in my eyes when Rufio tells him he wishes he had a father like him. RIP my friend, you're sorely missed.
Graham McMorrow: My favorite Robin Williams movie is also the first movie of his I ever watched. It was a rental copy of HOOK and I ate up every moment of it. It’s one of his most underappreciated movies, Spielberg’s as well; but as a kid I was mesmerized. My parents had a rule in our house; whoever did the most chores during the week got to pick the movie we rented on the weekend. Well it didn’t take long for them to shell out the money to buy me a VHS copy of HOOK to call my own as I just kept cleaning the house like a mad in order to rent it again and again. The John Williams score still gives me chills whenever I watch it; or that moment where Williams soars through the clouds in green tights for the first time, or when he proclaims “Let's get ready to show them the white light we're made of, boys!” Thank you Mr. Williams for being one of my happy thoughts.
Jason Adams: It's almost impossible to pick a favorite, but I'm going to go with a more recent underrated gem: Bobcat Goldthwait's black comedy WORLD'S GREATEST DAD. In it, Williams plays a struggling writer turned poetry teacher who frames his son's accidental death by auto-erotic asphyxiation to look like a suicide, inadvertently turning it in to a catalyst to get all the love, success and personal recognition he's ever wanted. It's dark, dark material but truly the perfect combination of Williams' knack for both comedy and drama and he is utterly fantastic in it. And it's just impossible not to like him—even when he's playing a guy taking advantage of his son's death. The movie has a great, liberating ending, and it features this line: "I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone." Wherever you are now, Mr. Williams, I hope you know you're not alone. Your life will always bring us joy and laughter and great memories. RIP
Zara Brumana: The last time that I was so wrecked by news of a celebrity's death was in 2009, when I found out that John Hughes died. If Hughes was the big screen embodiment of my dad, Robin Williams was my crazy uncle. Boisterous with so much heart you could hear it beating through the movie screen, Williams could turn that manic energy into moments more tender and heart-wrenching than any other "serious" actor. THE FISHER KING remains my favorite movie of all time and undoubtedly my most treasured Robin Williams performance. I cry every single time I watch him profess his love to Lydia. Robin was the keeper of the grail, healing the hearts of many with laughter. If only we could have found a way to quench his thirst.
John Law: He had much showier roles later on, but THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP (1982) was the first real glimpse of what he could do as an actor. He's brilliantly cast against type here as the straight man amongst eccentrics. He's the most ordinary character in the film, but because it was Robin Williams - still trying to shake the shackles of Mork at the time - he's fascinating to watch so out of his element. Some funny stuff here, but this really is a devastating movie offering a peak of what was to come.
Sean Wist: I've enjoyed so much of what Robin Williams was capable of. In regards to film, from his wacky antics that I could enjoy with my family (MRS. DOUBTFIRE, ALADDIN) to the more restrained performances that I appreciated for me (THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, GOOD WILL HUNTING), he was a voice that carried a lot of weight. DEAD POETS SOCIETY is the one that spoke to me at an age when I was growing into the man I am today. "The human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for." Those words he spoke allowed me to approach my passions in such a way that I've never looked back. I will never take for granted my passions in life nor what Robin Williams was able to deliver, both in front of and behind the camera. My heart goes out to him and his family, of which I feel I owe something that can never be repaid.
Theodore Bond: Williams was often so good in his dramatic roles that he could bring tears of a completely different type to my eyes. With that in mind, I picked the film JACK. In JACK, Williams plays the title character, a fifth grader who has a rare disease which causes him to age at four times the usual rate, giving him the appearance of a 40-year-old. While JACK may not be considered Williams’s best movie, I thought it was a film which revealed his range as an actor in a wonderful way. During the first half of the movie we are exposed to the wacky, slapstick-style version of Robin Williams that we've grown to anticipate. For instance, in the scene where Jack buys porn magazines for his fourth grade friends, we revel in the sheer hilarity of it all and also relish the goofy Williams we know and love. Soon after this however the movie takes a complete turn, and the audience is presented with a rather somber and reflective aspect of the character, as Jack discovers that he has to face his own mortality. Jack recognizes that he will live a much shorter life than that of his close friends, not even knowing if he will live long enough to make it through high school. Such introspective concepts interwoven with Williams’s signature silliness surprised me. It turned out to be some pretty heavy stuff for me, especially considering at the time I was about the same age as Jack. Upon initially viewing JACK, I had just expected some lighthearted fun but I received so much more. Ultimately I believe that is the vital distinction with Williams - he was such an incredible actor that no matter what type of role he embraced he did so whole-heartedly, and always delivered a performance that would leave us amazed.
Jesse Giroux: "There's three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer." Like my father, Robin Williams was funny, warm, a little crazy, and very hairy, and you got all of that from his Parry in THE FISHER KING. After my dad died when I was 7, my mom would watch the movie all the time with me and my siblings, and I think it helped her deal with the loss of her husband. Only a few actors and their films have had an impact on my life like Robin Williams in THE FISHER KING, and I still can't believe he's gone.
Alex Maidy: WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, a unique film in every way, this represents one of Robin Williams most purely dramatic performances. Ethereal and dark with a strong undercurrent of hope, this adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel remains one of the most distinct visual experiences ever put on screen. That is exactly who Robin Williams was: unique. This movie follows the path of movies the comedian and actor made that defied convention and showed that he was more than a manic, stand-up funny guy but a gut-wrenchingly accomplished actor who could bring a humanity and everyman quality to the most unrealistic film worlds. The theme of death that is central to WHAT DREAMS MAY COME is painful in the wake of Williams' tragic passing, but the idea of reincarnation and destiny also gives me hope.
Kevin Blanchard: I'm old enough to have been there for nearly all of Robin's almost 40 years of terrific work. Looking back on it all, as many are doing now, my mind is filled with memories of so many great movies and inspired performances. Robin could play anything, be anyone. He was a master at being funny or serious, scary or endearing, wise or foolish. Sometimes, he could be all those at once. So great is his body of work that it's almost a travesty to single out one as better than another. So instead of picking one movie as his very best, I'll give praise to the Robin Williams film I most recently watched, just a few hours before his passing. That film is DEAD POETS SOCIETY. It's an good way to celebrate Robin's life and career, as it features one of the best all-around demonstrations of his talent. In that movie Robin is the kind of teacher, mentor, friend and inspiration most of us could only dream of having. Sadly, it's also a story that ends with a tragic loss. I'm going to miss Robin dearly, but I'm so thankful to have had him around. I know I will cherish him and all his many great performances all the more now. RIP, Robin.
Ryan Riddle: As much as I love Robin Williams in his darker films where he gets to show off his subtle acting talents, I'll always associate him with Genie in ALADDIN. I was probably only three or four years old when the movie came out on VHS and as I grew older and got into watching more and more movies, I would still revisit it on a regular basis. His insanely energetic performance is hilarious and it showed me, even to this day, that no matter how scary or helpless things seemed, darkness would never prevail and there was always going to be a happy ending. It's an absolutely tragic loss. Thankfully, we have so much he's left us with to remember him by, most of which is laughter and wonder. Thank you, Mr. Williams.
JimmyO: There is one film that I will never forget. It was a movie that went well over my young mind, yet it inspired me in every way possible. As I grew older, the themes of betrayal, love, lust, family and death became clear to me. THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP gave Robin Williams the opportunity to make us laugh and bring us to tears. This beautiful George Roy Hill directed film gave Mr. Williams one of my favorite characters ever brought to the silver screen. This strangely named fellow ‘Garp’ was thoughtful, funny, brutish, hurtful and loving to those around him… in other words, a perfect and real performance in a stunning and inspired film. One of my favorite quotes from GARP seems completely fitting as I write this to share with all those feeling his loss, “I will grieve alone for the rest of my life, but right now I want to be around people who loved her.” We know exactly how you feel T.S. Garp! Thank you Mr. Williams for the joy you brought us all!
Jake Dee: My favorite Robin Williams movie - the one I find myself watching every single summer - is CLUB PARADISE, the long forgotten 1986 comedy directed by, too, the late Harold Ramis. I love this movie. Grew up watching it. Just popped it in a few weeks ago in fact. Had to! And chief among the reasons is Robin Williams' wonderfully whimsical yet laid back turn as Island Jack Moniker, retired fireman cum Caribbean resort owner. What a cool mofo! Dude's got the fine-ass Twiggy on his hip, the slicker than oil Jimmy Cliff as his running-mate, the two mixing it up on the Islands amid thick ganja smoke and mellifluous reggae as they try to help stabilize a fledgling nightclub. Williams brings instant likeability and familiarity to the character, armed and charmed, rifling lethally barbed one-liners at everyone from stuffy dignitaries (Peter O'Toole) and moronic buddies (Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy) to uptight tourists and crooked politicians. And even with his off-the-wall brio and trademark mania tempered at times, Williams completely steals the show from characters written far more colorfully. Even as the so called straight man of the movie, Robin flew high above the rest. His talent soared so. Find peace Robin, you will be missed!
Ryan Doom: People die every day. We all realize that. Somehow though, certain deaths punch us collectively in the gut. The death of Robin Williams is a hellva bummer, a true tragedy that could have been avoided. It’s a reminder never to take anything for granted and that we really don't know shit about celebrities. Growing up with Williams’ unique brand of comedy, sometimes I got the joke, sometimes I didn't have a damn clue, but the result always ended up entertaining. For me, the two movies that have always stood out came during his 2002 run with INSOMNIA and ONE HOUR PHOTO. Both were so dark and brooding, pushing his career into a ballsy new place. I rewatched Insomnia not too long ago, and it already played haunted, lonely, ghostly. Hard to imagine how it’ll play now. As the bad guy Walter, Williams made what could have been a stereotypical killer into something tragic, despiteful, and memorable. I can't think of another actor with a more varied career beyond a guy like Tom Hanks. And if that's the case…well that's good company. Whatever troubled him, hopefully he found peace.
Mike Catalano: “These are not the best of times and nothing comes easy anymore.” That is the opening line from 1986’s THE BEST OF TIMES, spoken by Robin Williams. This lesser known movie of his is one of my all-time favorites. It stars Mr. Williams as a football player. That alone should be enough to make anybody watch. However, once you pop on this flick, you may also end up discovering a certain kind of magic. Maybe it’s the fact that Robin plays kind of a nerd, complete with black-rimmed specs, which somewhat forces him to somewhat restrain his regular manic behavior and deliver a nuanced comedic performance? Maybe it’s how passionately and insanely he goes about convincing his town to replay a high school football game that he lost fourteen years ago by dropping a pass? Maybe it’s the chemistry he has with none other than Kurt Russell, who plays his washed up former quarterback? Actually, it’s all of those things and more. I remember watching this movie as a kid with my dad and how it gave me my first glimpse of the genius that was Robin Williams. I hate that he’s gone. It’s so important to talk to someone if you are feeling down about life. If you don’t have an ear that will listen, find one. If you can’t do that then, f*ck it, email me and I’ll hear you out!
Paul Shirey: Robin Williams has always been a man of esteemed respect in my eyes. I grew up with his films for decades and while I love so many of the greats he was in, none have affected me as much as DEAD POETS SOCIETY. In so many ways it is a film that boils down to the quintessential truth of our humanity; that it is fleeting and sacred, leaving us precious moments to "seize" our day before it's gone. "Carpe Diem" is a saying that gets tossed around loosely anymore, but it is a phrase that is ingrained in my soul, thanks not only to a terrific film, but from a terrific teacher; Robin Williams as Mr. Charles Keating. Williams embodied the role of the teacher we always hope to find in our journey of life; one that inspires us while instructing us. DEAD POETS SOCIETY teaches us all how to live. Lean in close and listen for the lesson. "Make your lives extraordinary." Thank you, Mr. Williams, for sending that message. It has shaped my life.
Robin Williams still has a few more films left to offer us, including MERRY FRIGGIN' CHRISTMAS with Joel McHale, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB, BOULEVARD with Bob Odenkirk, and ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING with Simon Pegg. We look forward to the last of his work and will continue to cherish the massive legacy he's left us.
Feel free to share YOUR most memorable Robin Williams film below...