Like many others, Robin Williams started his career as a stand-up comedian. He was able to keep a crowd’s attention with his jokes and stories, but what set this man apart from others was the use of his voice. Williams’ ability to conjure up unique voices on the spot had audiences laughing, but it also landed him his first lead role in Popeye. From then on, he successfully made a name for himself in the entertainment industry. Millions of fans rightfully remember Williams as one of the funniest actors in Hollywood. However, his true talent came out when he was asked to play a serious character or deal with a difficult concept.
Williams is one of the few actors who could completely embody a role on the screen and make fans believe his every emotion. From switching to a caring and smooth tone to a vicious or defeated expression, Williams made his characters naturally come to life. Just his presence could bring a different energy to a scene or film. Take a look at how Williams contributed to these 10 emotional movies.
10World’s Greatest Dad
Dark humor suits Williams well in World’s Greatest Dad. In the film, Williams plays Lance, an English teacher who longs to be a successful writer. He has an underachieving and sex-obsessed teenage son who dies early in the film due to autoerotic asphyxiation. Troubled by his son’s death, Lance stages his body and writes a fake suicide note to spare his son some humiliation in the afterlife. When people begin to praise “his son’s” letter, Lance writes journal entries through his son’s perspective, and “he” finally gets the recognition he has always wanted. This film will have you questioning your own laughter as well as the mental state of an otherwise regular father.
Divorce is always difficult on children when both parents want to be so involved in their lives, yet they do not see eye-to-eye. In Mrs. Doubtfire, a newly divorced Daniel (Williams) sees that his former wife is searching for a nanny for their three children, he concocts a plan to stay in his children’s lives regularly while maintaining a safe distance from Miranda. He disguises himself as an older woman, and with his fake British accent, he lands the job. He and the children learn a lot about one another during their time together.
Unfortunately, his guise is eventually foiled during a dinner outing, and Miranda is less than pleased to have been fooled. Daniel, however, pleads with her that he only did it to be with his children. This film is comedic, but the overall message is heartwarming and true.
In August Rush, Evan’s life did not start out as traditional and simple as most other children’s upbringings. His mother was made to believe he did not survive his birth, and his father did not know he even existed. Evan, however, had a gut feeling that he would be rejoined with his parents one day. At age 11, he ran away from the boys’ orphanage and landed himself on the streets of New York City.
From there, he met a variety of colorful characters including a manipulative musician named Wizard (Robin Williams). Through his musical talents and coincidentally meeting the right people, Evan is able to showcase his composing skills and bring his family together again.
7The Fisher King
People cope with traumatic events in many different ways. Some people block out memories, others attend therapy, and some people even become hyperfixated on the event. For Henry (Robin Williams), he has a psychotic break after seeing his wife’s head explode during a mass shooting. Henry develops a persona, “Parry,” which drives him into a state of homelessness and delusion.
A man named Jack tries to help Parry find love and move past the death of his wife, but that is easier said than done. The Fisher King is rooted in how the loss of a loved one dominoes into the loss of oneself. However, once Parry accepts his reality and is willing to move on, there is hope for his future.
6What Dreams May Come
The length a man will go for a woman he loves is put to the test in the dramatic movie, What Dreams May Come. Chris (Williams) loses his two children in a car accident, and then just a few years later, he himself dies in a car crash. Wracked with guilt and grief, Chris’ wife takes her own life. The former three ascended to Heaven, but due to her self-inflicted death, Annie descends to Hell.
Knowing that his wife is suffering, Chris goes on a mission to retrieve Annie despite others telling him it is impossible. Williams is able to evoke many emotions through his portrayal of a loyal and dedicated husband and father. Though the plot deals with the supernatural, the feelings are incredibly realistic.
5Good Morning, Vietnam
Loosely based on the experiences of the real Adrian Cronauer, Good Morning, Vietnam reminds civilians of the various jobs soldiers have, and that all of them are important. Williams portrays the radio DJ, Cronauer, in Saigon during the Vietnam War. His duty is to broadcast a show that highlights important information as well as keep morale up for the others.
Like all good hosts, Cronauer chooses to do things his own way. He releases censored information, he plays rock and roll music, and he angers his superiors. Cronauer finds himself in some rough situations, but his charm and attitude about telling the truth go a long way in the eyes of those who matter.
Williams plays Dr. Sayer, a man who had a breakthrough with his catatonic patients through the use of a drug. He found that when he distributed L-DOPA to his patients, they were able to awaken, talk, and fully function. It was a miracle, or so Dr. Sayer thought.
The effects were not permanent, and each patient resorted back to their previous state. Dr. Sayer admitted that their awakenings made him realize that he had been living in his own sort of catatonic state, and he needed to live a life worth living. The fear of losing one’s mental faculties is something that hangs over the heads of millions in this world, and Awakenings reminds people not to take their life for granted.
Loosely based on the life of the real Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams, Williams plays the titular role of a doctor who believes humor and genuine connection is just as important as standard medical practices. Though Dr. Adams wrestles with his own suicidal thoughts at times, he realizes that his method of healing people is too unique to abandon. His unorthodox ways of doing things earns him ridicule in the field, but Dr. Adams’ sole focus is that of making his patients either better or comfortable for the inevitable.
Williams barely seems like a character in Patch Adams; his lesson about needing to laugh during scary and dark times was something he lived by in real life. It is simply beautiful that he got to play a character that shared that same philosophy.
2Good Will Hunting
Moving past the death of a loved one is never easy, much less so when one deflects their own feelings and emotions to help others. In Good Will Hunting, Williams plays a very patient therapist, Dr. Sean Maguire, who deals with a rather unruly genius, Will Hunting. Sean eventually earns the trust of Will, but as the young man begins to unravel his own past, he challenges Sean to take a look at his life choices.
Sean realizes that since the death of his wife, he has not been able to move on and enjoy life. Now, with the help of a mathematical prodigy, he is able to reflect on his own feelings. The two men are able to be open and honest with one another, and they become better for it.
1Dead Poets Society
Williams’ ability to get people to challenge themselves both in real life or within is a script is incredible. In Dead Poets Society, Williams plays an unorthodox English teacher, John Keating, who challenges his students to question the school system as well as their own thoughts. He encourages them to pursue what makes them feel most alive, yet that advice leads to the death of a student. Neil, a student of Keating’s, took his own life after being humiliated and scolded by his father for proudly being in a play. Keating lost his job, but the lessons he taught those boys lived on forever.
Williams’ own passion that he brought to his character to help bring the students out of the humdrum lives they were being forced to live is something anyone would be lucky to experience.