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Robin Williams: A Retrospective Tribute

Cinephile Wael Khairy takes a walk down memory lane, highlighting some of Robin Williams' most iconic roles.

Instead of mourning the death of one of Hollywood’s legends, let’s celebrate his life by remembering what an incredible actor Robin Williams was. Although, he was best remembered for his comedic chops, if you look back at his incredible diverse career, you’ll find that he was one of the most versatile actors to ever grace the screen. This retrospective list is not a “best of” list, but rather, a showcase of the legend’s flexibility.

Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam

His classmates voted him the “least likely to succeed,” and he made sure to shut them up with his breakthrough Oscar nominated turn in Good Morning, Vietnam. Williams ended up winning five Grammys, two Emmys, and an Academy Award throughout his career. The first Grammy award was for the soundtrack for Good Morning, Vietnam, which won Best Comedy Recording. 

Robin Williams as Genie in Aladdin

Robin Williams was an incredible actor both on and off screen; his voice acting in Disney’s Aladdin breathes life into one of the most iconic animated characters out there. However, what is truly remarkable about this performance is that Williams improvised most of his lines, so much so that the Academy Awards rejected Disney’s bid for Aladdin in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, because most of the good stuff wasn’t scripted.  

Robin Williams as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting
Often regarded as the actor’s best performance to date, Williams delivered a scene-stealing performance as Sean Maguire in the modern classic, Good Will Hunting. Williams proved he can pull of a dramatic role just as easily as he could a comedic one in the turn that landed him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. One scene starts out with him being all casual and friendly; he briefly snaps, losing himself in anger, before a sad gaze eclipses his face. In this marvelous acting case study of a scene, Williams displays an array of emotions within minutes.

Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire in Mrs. Doubtfire

Probably his most recognized role, Mrs. Doubtfire was also one of the actor’s biggest hits taking in over $400 million worldwide. This is one of the best, if not the best makeup performance in all of cinema. Williams is an extremely talented vocalist, but here his performance is led by exceptional physical acting. To test out the believability of his character, Williams went into a bookstore to make a purchase. The Hollywood star was not recognised by anyone in the bookstore. 

Robin Williams as Dr. Cozy Carlisle in Dead Poet’s Society
The film is credited by many, as the film that pulled millions into poetry, but it would never have worked without the inspirational performance by Robin Williams. Williams commands the classroom (and screen) with bursting energy, turning the often heavy-handed subject of poetry into a fun endeavour. In this scene, he does impressions of actor’s playing roles in Shakespeare films.

Robin Williams as Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo

Probably his most chilling performance yet, Williams is bound to creep you out as a lonely photo-lab operator in a supermarket. This is perhaps the most underrated performance in the late actor’s career. To add to the eeriness of his presence, Williams shaved off his arm, chest and hand hair.

Robin Williams as Dr. Know in AI: Artificial Intelligence

We all know Robin Williams has a towering presence when he’s on-screen, but did you know that he voiced the all-knowing Einstein-like programme, Dr. Know, in Steven Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence? In a pivotal scene, Williams cites a poem, and he does it in such a harmonic way, the flow of his delivery makes me believe he could’ve made a career off recording audio books.

Robin Williams in Every Family Film in the 90s

From Toys, Hook, Flubber to Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Jumanji and Jack, Robin Williams was the eccentric hero of an entire generation. His streak of offbeat performances in the 1990s proved that besides being a hilarious comedian and a sublime actor, above all, Robin Williams was a marvelous entertainer. 


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