One of the things that I think is important when someone passes is to honor the life they lived. For performers, that means celebrating their career and the body of work they’ve left for us to enjoy. As sad as I am about Robin Williams‘ death (and I am, once again, in tears as I type this), I think he’d prefer tributes of a less salty variety. Get your mind out of the gutters, folks. So, today’s list is full of my favorite roles he played. As usual, if I haven’t seen it yet, it’s not going to be here. I haven’t seen Awakenings, Good Morning, Vietnam, or The Fisher King yet. I nearly watched The Fisher King last night, but chose my customary coping mechanism of Disney movies instead. Needless to say, I’m going to be catching up on the work he’s done that I haven’t seen. For now, here’s my arbitrarily arranged list.
11. Simon Roberts in “The Crazy Ones“
I feel like I’m one of the few people who actually watched “The Crazy Ones.” Admittedly, I haven’t seen all of the episodes yet, but I enjoyed the ones I did see. While I can fully admit that I understand why the show didn’t make it past one season, I think people never really appreciated how well he and Sarah Michelle Gellar worked together. I loved their dynamic of workaholic daughter dealing with eccentric father. They played off each other extremely well and it was, as always, a delight to see him whenever he was on screen.
10. Batty Koda in FernGully: The Last Rainforest
Before he stole hearts and scenes as Genie, he gave voice to the escaped experimental bat, Batty Koda. Filling the dialogue with his usual brand of wit and impressions made Batty such a fun character. Also, he rapped, and, seriously, who doesn’t love rapping bats? I bet if Batman rapped, even more people would love him. Damn it. Now, I’d be willing to bet that there’s a rapping Batman somewhere on the internet now that I’ve said something about it. Anyway! Batty Koda. Lovable, crazy Batty Koda. He wouldn’t have been as fun if he’d been voiced by anyone else.
9. King of the Moon in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was one of those movies that I grew up with but didn’t completely understand until I got older. As precocious as I was (and boy was I ever, just ask my parents), there were still some jokes that went over my head. Quite a few of them came from the King of the Moon during the heroes’ surreal trip to the lunar surface. I loved the contrast between the more cerebral head (see what I did there?) and the lusts of the king’s body. They were two distinct characters and despite having only a short amount of time on screen, they became two of the most memorable characters in the film.
8. Rainbow Randolph in Death to Smoochy
Death to Smoochy is a strange movie. Strange in a good way, of course, but not everyone was a fan. A movie about the cutthroat business of children’s entertainment, Williams’ performance as Rainbow Ralph was hysterical. Having lost his job due to the titular Smoochy (Edward Norton), Rainbow Ralph schemes to take it back from his rhino foe. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is Rainbow Ralph becoming completely unglued as Smoochy finds away around one of his more artistic attempts at sabotage. It involves penis-shaped cookies and it’s awesome.
7. Patch Adams in Patch Adams
I remember seeing this in theaters when it came out. The story of a man who uses humor to help him in the medical profession, it was a movie that made me laugh and cry. Williams just had this amazing ability to hit the funny bone and tug on the heart strings a the same time. His performance in this definitely did both and it made me wish that more doctors were like him.
6. Mork in “Mork & Mindy“
Some of the best stories about aliens are more an examination of humanity than they are stories about the alien. I think that was the point with Mork in “Mork & Mindy.” As much as the show was about Mork’s antics and his relationship with Mindy, it was mostly about seeing our world in a different light. At the end of each episode, Mork would talk with his home planet about the things he’d learned. That format is mimicked, deliberately or not, in the letters to Princess Celestia in “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
5. Armand Goldman in The Birdcage
I think it’s safe to say that The Birdcage is the first movie I remember seeing that was about members of the gay community. Sure, there are gay characters in movies I’d seen prior to that, but the coded stuff and allusions just went over my head. The Birdcage was obvious, hysterical, and heart-warming. It’s hard not to love Williams’ performance as a man who would do whatever it took to make his son happy, even if it meant hiding who he was and who he loved. My dad references the ending to this movie with surprising frequency. There may even be attempts at dancing. I’d rather not talk about that. So! Williams was awesome in the movie and I loved seeing him and Nathan Lane together just being fabulous.
4. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting
This was the first movie I remember seeing that allowed Williams to really stretch his dramatic muscles. My parents and I saw this in theaters and I remember Williams’ performance as an unconventional therapist driving me to tears. He was just so good and so passionate. He also cussed. That blew my mind. I wasn’t used to hearing Robin Williams dropping f-bombs. I am told that this was not an uncommon thing, but it still had me seeing my childhood hero in a different light. In a good way.
3. Genie in Aladdin
You guys knew this was coming. I’ve got “Friend Like Me” stuck in my head. I know that’s happened to a lot of people. His vocal work as Genie is iconic. In fact, when I think of Aladdin, I don’t think of the street rat and the princess he wooed. No, I think of the big blue genie who just wanted freedom to just pursue his own dreams. I think everyone wanted a friend like him.
2. John Keating in Dead Poets Society
I don’t remember the first time I saw this movie, but I do remember how much it affected me. It’s a movie about challenging the status quo and trying to become the best person you can be. It’s about subverting conventions and living life. It’s beautiful and heart-breaking. John Keating was one of the three teachers who made me want to be a teacher. It was him, my high school Latin teacher (Sherry Jankowski), and my high school History teacher (John Musgrove). While I may not have ultimately chosen that profession, they’ve still been huge influences and I’m grateful for that.
1. Peter Pan/Banning in Hook
I have always loved this movie. There’s just something about it that resonated with me. I think everyone once secretly hoped to find some pixie dust, think happy thoughts, and go off to the Neverland of this film. I loved seeing Williams interacting with the Lost Boys. I loved seeing him go from the stodgy Peter Banning who’d forgotten the joy of a life well-lived to Peter Pan, childhood icon and courageous leader. This will be the way I’ll always remember him. Crowing and flying off into the distance.