Robin Williams was an amazing performer. He started in stand-up comedy, where his high energy, crazy characters and perfect timing helped propel him to stardom. As an actor, he could play loud, boisterous characters or inhabit a role that required a quiet gravitas. In either situation, he shined as a performer. When Robin Williams took his own life in August of 2014, he left a huge hole in the hearts of his fans and an emptiness in the entertainment industry that will never be replaced.
Movie: Popeye (1980)
Budget: $20 Million
Gross: $50 Million
- Most of Robin Williams' muttered Popeye voice was inaudible and had to be re-dubbed in post production.
- When Pappy throws Popeye the can of spinach near the end of the film, Ray Walston hit Robin Williams in the head and Williams needed stitches.
About: Popeye is looking for his long-lost father. When he arrives in the port of Sweethaven, the town is under the control of the bully Bluto. Popeye helps the town free itself from corruption, makes new friends and finds his pappy.
Why Top 10: The movie may have won the Worst Picture award at the Hastings Bad Cinema Society's 3rd Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, but I have always loved Robin Williams performance. It was his first lead role, so I give him a little slack. It is no easy task to take a cartoon character that has been part of pop culture since 1929 and bring it to live action. Robin Williams did a wonderful job.
9. John Keating
Movie: Dead Poets Society (1989)
Budget: $16 Million
Gross: $236 Million
- Original director, Jeff Kanew, had cast Liam Neeson in the lead role, but Robin Williams was brought on when Peter Weir took over as director.
- Professor Keating’s old senior yearbook picture is Robin Williams’ actual senior high school picture from Redwood High School in Larkspur, California.
About: Students at an elite boarding school struggle with their insecurities and personal obstacles, while trying to find their own identities. A new English professor not only helps the kids learn the English language, but also understand what Carpe diem really means.
Why Top 10: This film came out shortly before I was in high school, but I did not watch it until I was a junior. Thank goodness we had that wonderful high tech VCR in my house. This was the first dramatic Robin Williams role that truly inspired me. The line "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." is in the American Film Institutes most famous lines, but it was Robin Williams delivery of the line that makes it so powerful.
8. Armand Goldman
Movie: The Birdcage (1996)
Budget: $31 Million
Gross: $185 million
- Robin Williams was cast as Albert, but asked for the role of Armand, because he had already done over-the-top flamboyant characters before.
- Robin Williams' actually slipped and fell during the "shrimp" scene. This was not planned, which is why Hank Azaria, Dan Futterman and him are all trying not to laugh.
About: Armand Goldman owns the Birdcage. The popular drag nightclub’s main star is his long time partner Albert Goldman. Their son Val comes home with news of his engagement to Barbara Keeley. She is the daughter of Kevin Keeley, a conservative US Senator and vice president of the Committee for Moral Order. Kevin and his wife come to South Beach Florida to meet their daughter’s future in-laws.
Why Top 10: Robin Williams could have easily stuck with the overly flamboyant character and had people rolling with laughter. Instead, he went with the more subtle approach. He still got some great laughs, but also let audiences see the love he had for his life partner and son.
7. Peter Banning
Movie: Hook (1991)
Budget: $70 Million
Gross: $301 Million
- Williams and Hoffman constantly joked with each other on set. When Hoffman was not happy with his performance and asked to re-shot a scene, Williams responded "Try acting", a reference to Hoffman and Laurence Olivier infamous exchange on the set of Marathon Man.
- The hairy Robin Williams shaved his upper body and arms for the role.
About: Peter Pan left Neverland, grew up and forgot who he was. He is now married to Wendy’s granddaughter and has children of his own. Hook has stolen his children and Peter is back in Neverland as an adult. In order to save his children, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys will have to teach him how to be the Pan once more and fight Captain Hook.
Why Top 10: Robin Williams is no stranger to playing a man child. Peter Banning start out as a stuffy, rule abiding adult who needed to find his inner child inorder to save his children. Williams was able to play this transition to perfection and always keep his paternal love for his children in the background. (Minus the one time he needed to forget for story purposes.)
6. Adrian Cronauer
Movie: Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
Budget: $13 Million
Gross: $124 Million
- Robin Williams ad-libbed all of his Adrian Cronauer's broadcasts.
- The original treatment by Cronauer, was rewritten to fit Williams' style of comedy.
About: Cronauer is assigned as a Disc Jockey for the Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam. His antics become popular with the soldiers, but get him in trouble with the higher ups, who are looking for something more inline with military standards. As the movie progresses the difference between what’s put on the air and what’s happening on the ground are highlighted.
Why Top 10: Hollywood loves World War II and Vietnam movies. It is very easy to be forgotten or thought of as just another war film. Thanks to Robin Williams amazing performance and shouting of “GOOD MORNING VIETNAM!!!”, this film will always stand out amongst the crowd.
5. Sean Maguire
Movie: Good Will Hunting (1997)
Budget: $10 Million
Gross: $226 Million
- This performance would win Robin Williams his first Oscar.
- Robin Williams ad-libbed the lines about his wife’s farting antics when talking about her death to Will Hunting. It is said this is why Matt Damon was laughing so hard and possibly the camera operator, because the camera shakes during the scene.
About: A young janitor at MIT named Will Hunting is discovered to be a math genius. Math Professor Gerald Lambeau attempts to help him unlock his true math potential and put him on a successful career path. Sean Maguire is assigned as his therapist to guide him through his troubled past.
Why Top 10: Robin Williams has played lots of doctors during his career. This performance stood out, because of the humanity that shined through. As he attempts to help a young man overcome his demons, we see the inner struggles he is going through at the same time. That and his chemistry with Matt Damon put this role securely on the list.
Movie: Aladdin (1992)
Budget: $28 Million
Gross: $502 Million
- Robin Williams was paid union scale for his role as the Genie, on the condition that his voice was not used for merchandising and that the Genie character did not take up more than 25% of promotional advertisement space. These conditions were ignored by Disney and he withdrew his support for the film and studio.
- Robin Williams recorded around 16 hours of dialogue, because he improvised so much.
About: A street rat’s fortune changes when he discovers a magic lamp. With the help of a Genie, Aladdin sets out to win the love of a princess and stop the evil Jafar from taking over the kingdom.
Why Top 10: Robin Williams' performance in Aladdin set a new standard for voice over acting in animated films. Aladdin would mark the beginning of marketing animated films with a movie star's name. Williams was able to bring as much life into the character with just his voice, as he does using his whole body.
3. Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire
Movie: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Budget: $25 Million
Gross: $423 Million
- Robin Williams tested the believability of his character by purchasing items at an adult bookstore while in his Mrs. Doubtfire costume. Nobody recognized him!
- To be certain to catch all of Robin Williams amazing improvisation, Chris Columbus would shoot with two to three cameras.
About: When Daniel Hillard and his wife separate for a divorce, he devises a plan to see his children more than the court ordered once a week. He dresses up as an old widow named Mrs. Doubtfire and gets hired on as the family’s housekeeper/nanny. He must keep his identity secret, even as he sees his ex dating a very attractive and successful new man.
Why Top 10: Transitioning quickly between multiple characters is a major part of Robin Williams' comedy. However, Mrs. Doubtfire required him to switch between two fully developed personalities continuously. They were more than quick bits to make us laugh, but separate characters that audience members fell in love with.
Show: Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
Salary: $35,000.00 Per Episode
- Williams improvisation was so successful on the show that scripts had spots left blank for William to do his improvisation. The scripts would simply read, "Robin goes off here".
- Mork made his first appearance on Happy Days in the season 5, episode 22, titled My Favorite Orkan.
About: Mork from the planet Ork arrives to our planet in an egg shaped spaceship. He has been sent to study the people of Earth. He meets Mindy McConnell and their relationship grows from a great friendship into a loving married couple with a child.
Why Top 10: I have always felt Mork was pure Robin Williams. He went completely wild in his antics and we never lost the illusion that we were watching an alien, instead of an actor trying to make us laugh.
1. Robin Williams
Show: Stand Up Routine (Early 70s-2014)
- Williams briefly studied acting at Julliard, but was told he was wasting his talent and should go out and do stand-up comedy.
- Robin Williams won a Grammy for his live 2002 stand-up comedy show on Broadway.
About: Before Robin Williams was cast in a professional acting role, he was a comic. Despite being a movie and television star, he continued to do stand-up. It is important to remember the man we saw on stage was a character. Yes it was a piece of his personality, but not the man.
Why Top 10: Granted, I laugh loud and a lot when I watch comedies. However, Robin Williams' stand-up comedy routines are one of the few that make me laugh so hard that I cry. I have had to pause his routines to give myself a chance to breathe.
Your Favorite Robin William Characters
Please use the comment section below to tell others about your favorite characters portrayed by this talented performer. With so many memorable roles, I am sure others have different personal favorites.
Remember, these are characters and not his movies.
Summer LeBlanc from USA on May 14, 2015:
love your top 10- I miss Robin so much- but we are all fortunate that we have him on screen as a living legend forever
Jawed Ahmad from India on December 31, 2014:
Very informative and great pick up by great actor and comedian! Thanks for sharing!
Geekdom (author) on August 22, 2014:
Gemsong, Thanks for sharing!
Geekdom (author) on August 22, 2014:
Goatfury, Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.
Madalain Ackley from Richmond, Virginia on August 21, 2014:
Thanks for the lovely top ten for this talented actor. He will be sorely missed. We did a marathon of his stand up routines and it never gets old. Like you, we had to hit the pause button just catch our breath and consider adult diapers just to survive. Even after decade, the material is still hilarious and we still use favorite lines in the everyday.
Example: Why police pass us with light flashing-
"Red white and blue. Red white and blue. How patriotic. Wait cops! Eat everything in the ashtray! Eat everything in the ashtray!"
Andrew Smith from Richmond, VA on August 20, 2014:
He was just amazing as Mrs Doubtfire. Good list!