There was no one quite like Robin Williams, gone five years this weekend.
Fans were introduced to him in 1978 when he strapped on his rainbow-striped suspenders to play the lovable alien Mork opposite Pam Dawber in TV’s “Mork & Mindy.” But he quickly became beloved for a film career in which he played everything from Teddy Roosevelt (in “Night at the Museum”) to Disney’s hilarious Genie (the animated “Aladdin”).
In remembrance of the legendary actor and improvisational comedian (who died on Aug. 11, 2014), we picked out five of his best films. But, really, you can’t go wrong with any of his movies, except maybe “Patch Adams.”
If you want to seize the day: ‘Dead Poets Society’
Robin Williams, back row center, in 1989's "Dead Poets Society." (Photo: Francois Duhamel, Touchstone Pic)
A heady mix of inspiration and heartbreak, there’s nothing quite like watching “Dead Poets Society” when you want to check off all the emotional boxes. Williams plays an embattled English teacher at an elite boys’ boarding school, who is trying to open the minds of his pupils with the works of Walt Whitman and more dead poets. Endlessly quotable, the best scene remains when, after Williams’ character is fired, his students all stand on their desks declaring “Oh captain, my captain!” to their friend and mentor.
If you like wartime humor: ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’
At once a contemplative portrait of real-life Armed Forces Radio Service DJ Adrian Cronauer, and a thigh-slapping send-up of the Vietnam War, “Good Morning, Vietnam” is one of the best examples of Williams melding his comedic work with something slightly sharper.
If you love Boston and math: ‘Good Will Hunting’
Robin Williams counseled Matt Damon in 1997's "Good Will Hunting." (Photo: Courtesy of Miramax)
After getting Oscar nominations for “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society,” and “The Fisher King,” Williams finally walked away with the trophy for his performance in Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s big break. As Will Hunting’s (Damon) therapist, Williams showed a softer side of his dramatic work and gave a film by two scrappy upstarts the gravitas it needed to succeed.
If you want a family-friendly good time: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’
Robin Williams captivated all ages with his turn as a nanny in 1993's "Mrs. Doubtfire."
Williams excelled at comedy that could delight children and parents alike. Unfortunately, his best entry into this particular sub-genre, the original “Aladdin,” is unavailable to stream, rent or buy digitally. But “Mrs. Doubtfire” is a perfectly respectable substitute. The classic story of a divorced man who dresses up as an English nanny in order to spend more time with his kids (natch) is one of Williams’ most heartfelt performances.
If you like something a little weird: ‘The Fisher King’
Williams stars in this modern-day (well, modern-day back in 1991) riff on Arthurian legends, in the film by notoriously offbeat director Terry Gilliam. Alongside Jeff Bridges’ depressed former DJ, Williams plays a homeless man reeling from the death of his wife, obsessed with finding the Holy Grail and hallucinating visions of a red knight.
Contributing: Kim Willis
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