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The 12 Robin Williams Roles We'll Never Forget

Aug 12 2014 - 7:00am

It's a sad day for anyone who loved comedy: Robin Williams has died [1] at age 63, and we mourn the loss of one of the most beloved actors of this generation. Though Williams was a seasoned comedian who gave life to characters who are seared in our brains, his dramatic side was also a force to be reckoned with, and he had the awards to prove it. To honor the man and his life, we're looking back at the most unforgettable roles of Robin Williams [2]'s career.

— Additional reporting by Maggie Pehanick

Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)

One of the silliest roles you could imagine served only to introduce and endear Robin Williams [3] to the world. His TV role brought us his unique brand of humor — one that could make a catchphrase like "Nanoo nanoo" iconic.

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

One of Williams's earliest film roles was a seamless mix of comedy and drama, setting the tone for his career. As real-life wartime radio DJ Adrian Cronauer, Williams proved he could balance the two genres, displaying the humanity he would bring to all his work. The role got him an Oscar nomination and won him the Golden Globe.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Williams breaks your heart as an impassioned, empathetic teacher who means the world to his students and changes their lives. Many other actors have tried to replicate his performance, but no one comes close to Williams's winning charisma as Professor John Keating.

Hook (1991)

Only Williams's childlike demeanor could make a full-grown Peter Pan believable. He gave us a new spin on the character, ensnaring our hearts as a grown-up boy, and once again, making magic on the big screen.

Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin wouldn't have been the same without Williams voicing Genie, a character with a personality just as big as Williams's own. Enslaved to Aladdin, Genie granted wishes, made wisecracks, and gave us the tune "Friend Like Me," one of the all-time great Disney songs.

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

To those who grew up in the '90s, Williams will always be known for his role as the kind but strict Mrs. Doubtfire. Williams portrayed a father so bereft at losing custody of his children that he dons drag and becomes their new nanny just to see them. A sequel starring Williams had been announced [4] earlier this year, but the original will live on in comedy history forever.

Jumanji (1995)

No one else could pull off funny and terrified like Williams, as evidenced by Jumanji. He played a man trapped for decades in the jungles of a mysterious board game, and when he's released, all the dangers of the jungle, including herds of animals, come with him. It's scary but undeniably magical.

Jack (1996)

Just like in Hook, Williams channeled his inner child to play a character whose accelerated growth has made him a man. It's funny, but it's not all laughs, since Jack's condition isn't exactly sustainable. Yet again, Williams brought the right amount of drama to the lighthearted material.

The Birdcage (1996)

In the '90s, not every straight actor could pull off a portrayal of a gay man, but Williams managed to make his character more than just a caricature. It's an effervescent performance that fits right in with his other work.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

This '90s zeitgeist of a movie is often remembered as the breakout film for Matt Damon [5] and Ben Affleck [6], but part of the reason it's so powerful is Williams's performance as a tough but sympathetic psychologist. Fittingly, Williams won an Oscar for the role.

Source: Miramax [7]

Patch Adams (1998)

In a role tailor-made for the actor, Williams plays a real-life doctor whose philosophy was that laughter was the best medicine, even in the most dire of situations. Williams prompted as many tears as guffaws in this drama.

The Crazy Ones (2013-2014)

One of Williams's most recent projects was the madcap workplace comedy The Crazy Ones, where he played an ad man as devoted to his work as he was to his grown daughter. Williams was, as usual, equal parts funny, tender, and passionate.


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