Over the course of his long and illustrious career, Robin Williams has played many incredible roles, each of them carved into our childhood memories forever. From a grown up Peter Pan in the magical Hook, to the inspiring teacher of Dead Poets Society, we can all think of one Robin Williams role that has stayed with us our whole lives.
But if you’re a bit younger and not sure what to watch first, or simply up for a marathon, here is a list of Robin Williams’ best movie roles that will help you get started…
15. Flubber (1997)
Even Robin Williams can’t always save a movie from bad ratings, but the poor script and reception doesn’t take anything away from Robin’s devoted and funny performance.
Dr. Phillip Brainard finds himself taunted by his own creation, a strange gooey, bouncy substance that rapidly ruins his life and career. In Flubber, Robin lets out all that unpent and bubbly energy we know him for, and it’s joyful to watch regardless of the film’s flaws.
14. The World According to Garp (1982)
In this comedy-drama packed with absurd and heartwarming moments, Robin plays a writer and lover of wrestling. T.S. Garp also happens to be the son of a famous feminist and tries to cope with his mother’s strange community whilst trying to fulfill his own ambitions.
Robin is perfect and touching in this role that allows him to exceptionally display both his dramatic and comedic range.
13. Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
In this hilarious comedy, Robin plays a kindhearted Russian named Vladimir Ivanoff, a musician who decides to defect and live in New York, a place that is wildly different from his home country in more than one ways. Helped by a lovely Bloomingdale employee, Vladimir must face a few obstacles before he can get his very own American dream.
Being the king of impersonations, Robin has a field day playing the lovable, quirky Vladimir, to the point that it’s sometimes easy to forget he is acting.
12. One Hour Photo (2002)
In this tense thriller, Robin strays far from his usual acting territory, playing the owner of a photo-developing shop who gets unhealthily invested in a client’s personal life after discovering that he cheated on his perfect wife.
Although we like him best when he plays likeable characters, Robin is captivating and gloriously creepy in this role that sees him try his hand at something refreshingly antagonistic.
11. Happy Feet (2006)
In this joyous animated movie, a penguin with the tap dancing skills of Fred Astaire is exiled from his clan and tries to rediscover himself away from everything he’s ever known.
Robin plays both the Amigos’ leader Ramon and the eccentric Lovelace, an arrogant guru who can answer any question about life against a pebble. As always, Robin does a great job playing fun oddballs, and although he isn’t on screen, his charisma and comedic genius are more palpable than ever.
10. Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
In this comedy-drama, Robin plays a disc jockey who heads to Vietnam and starts working for the Armed Forces Radio Services, a job he does with humor and satire, regardless of the many uppity eyebrows he raises.
Robin’s comedic performance here is as close as it gets to his notorious stand up shows and is just as enjoyable, while the character’s clever commentary on the horrors of war makes him even more iconic.
9. The Fisher King (1991)
In this heart-wrenching dramedy, a radio jockey played by Jeff Bridges unwillingly pushes a caller to commit atrocious murders, a traumatizing event that leads him to feel incredibly depressed. When his path meets that of Parry, a strange eccentric man whose wife was killed in this massacre, he sees their budding friendship as the opportunity for redemption.
Right at home in a role that is altogether hilarious and heartbreaking, Robin never disappoints and unsurprisingly steals the show.
8. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
In this cult classic, Robin plays a desperate divorced father who goes as far as dressing up as an elderly nanny to spend time with his children and regain his ex-wife’s trust.
Lending his talent to a very different kind of role, Robin shows once again that he is the king of family comedies by making us feel every emotion in the book in just two hours. The late comedian pulls off this famous role so well, it’s hard to imagine any other actor being able to juggle both a funny and poignant role.
7. Jumanji (1995)
The recent Jumanji saga might be the talk of the town among movie-goers, but the 1995 film is undoubtedly a cult classic that will live on forever. Who can forget Alan Parrish, the little boy who gets stuck in the exotic world of a board game and comes out of it twenty years later?
Although the adventure film wasn’t extremely well received at the time of its release, Robin still saved it by giving us one of the most memorable and fun roles of his career. I mean, we’d totally pick Robin Williams over Dwayne Johnson as the lead role, wouldn’t you?
6. Insomnia (2002)
Like in One Hour Photo, Robin Williams switches his ‘nice guy’ persona for the terrifying role of Walter Finch, a suspect who will stop at nothing to taunt a detective working on the case of a 17-year-old girl’s murder.
Clever in a twisted way, Walter Finch will give you nightmares for days on end, thus proving that there is truly nothing Robin couldn’t do.
5. Hook (1991)
It’s impossible to forget Robin Williams playing a grown up, cynical Peter Pan. Putting a wonderful spin on the iconic Disney character, Robin’s version of Peter no longer knows how to have fun as he left and forgot all about Neverland.
Embracing the scrooge-ish personality of Peter Banning, Robin shows us that even the most down to earth adults can still believe in magic if they try. Bangarang!
4. The Birdcage (1996)
Always down for a challenge, The Birdcage gave Robin the opportunity to take on the role of a gay father who has to downplay his ‘flamboyance’ to appeal to the very conservative family of his son’s girlfriend.
As Armand, Robin manages to give a funny, moving performance that pairs wonderfully well with Nathan Lane’s own hilarious work.
3. Aladdin (1992)
We can’t mention Robin Williams’ best roles without mentioning the Genie. His rapid-fire jokes and commentary made him an ideal candidate for voice acting in 1992. In fact, Robin improvised much of the dialogue for this role.
The witty, resourceful blue being who helps Aladdin woo the princess of Agrabah in spite of his humble background is legendary. Although Will Smith’s role as the Genie in the 2019 remake was decent, no one else can play him with such comedic intensity. Embracing the Disney spirit without compromising his natural goofiness, Robin has crafted a character that still gives children the giggles to this day and probably will for generations to come.
2. Good Will Hunting (1997)
Although it’s shocking that Robin didn’t win more than one Academy Award for this top movie role, it’s not surprising in the least that he received one for the supporting role as Dr. Sean Maguire.
Robin plays the wise and melancholic psychiatrist who helps math genius Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, go through a tough time in his life. With this understated but fantastic performance, Robin shows us a more subtle side of his acting chops, making it clear he is a genius in more than one way.
1. Dead Poets Society (1989)
A drama that will break your heart in two, but is officially marked as Robin Williams’ best movie. The young students of an elite all-male high school are encouraged to rebel against the status quo by John Keating, a free-spirited English teacher who wants his pupils to fulfill their potential no matter what their conservative families think of their aspirations.
Here, Robin plays the lovable, wildly inspiring teacher we all wish we had in high school. We dare you to watch this film’s ending without jumping on a table with tears streaming down your face.
Here you have it – Robin Williams’ best movie roles over the years. Very few actors can say they have worked successfully among so many different genres, and although Robin is no longer with us, it’s undeniable his legacy is bound to live on for decades to come.
Let us know in the comments if you agree with this ranking and don’t hesitate to leave your own suggestions as well!