“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone”
The news is out.
The memories are amazing.
Personal demons. Depression. It’s all so terribly sad.
I’m on IMDb as I write, reading over Williams’ filmography and trying to work out exactly how many Robin Williams performances I have and haven’t seen. Having watched Insomnia a couple of days ago, I was already in the mood to start the exploration into his body of work but waking up this morning and learning of his passing has only compounded that desire further.
In reverse-chronological order, please find below the list of all Robin Williams’ films that I definitely have seen. Followed by a list of films to watch if you want to do something nice for him today/tonight/this week.
Let’s do this.
Surprisingly watchable non-Pixar animated film. Having a kid brother, I’ve seen ROBOTS at least fifteen times – and it still doesn’t bore me.
I picked this up recently after realising it was the only Christopher Nolan film I hadn’t seen. If you’re familiar with Nolan’s work you can see that his efforts here, while good, are still developing. Also a decent point of note: Insomnia marks the second time (after MEMENTO) that Nolan hired Wally Pfister as his director of photography. Against the backdrop of the crisp green and whites of Alaska, you can see how and why these two men have stayed partners for so long.
I went for Nolan, was unsurprisingly impressed with Pacino (a man whose entire acting palette can be defined by the weight of the world he is carrying – but it’s still awesome), and then mesmerised by Williams. There’s a play by the name of ‘Our Country’s Good’, I was in it once, and a character in it named Ketch. Ketch is supposedly a killer, but no one thinks it possible – least of all him – but the quietness and the intensity eventually gives him away, both in words and in violence. This felt like that.
Worth seeing if you haven’t already.
A. I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001).
Written by Kubrick, directed by Spielberg, this film should be a mess. And it is really. However, I can neither remember much about it nor for the life of me which part Robin Williams played. IMDb says it was ‘The voice of Dr. Know’. Nope, I got nothing. A re-watch is required.
GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997).
Robin Williams won his first and only Oscar for his turn as Matt Damon’s father-figure / psychologist. I don’t think I’ve seen this since the 90s. I’m going to fix that.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure this was terrible.
I remember being wowed by the CGI in this film; I wonder if it still stands up? Probably not. But still. Interesting fact: JUMANJI is actually based upon a 1981 children’s picture book of the same name. I don’t remember much of Robin Williams (I’m beginning to realise how young I was when I saw most of his work) but I guess that means it demands a re-visit.
NINE MONTHS (1995).
This Hugh Grant ‘comedy vehicle’ is about a commitment-phobe guy whose girlfriend, Julianne Moore, finds out she’s pregnant. Geez, the 90s. Robin Williams appears in what is ostensibly a cameo performance as the latter’s obstetrician. There’s a funny moment involving an accidental of the gestation period of a cow, but that’s about it.
MRS DOUBTFIRE (1993).
Robin Williams stars as an actor who, after going through quite a messy divorce and only being awarded time to see his kids once a week, disguises himself as a woman (an older Scottish nanny, to be precise) so that he can stay in contact. This film is magnificent. First off: it’s classic Robin Williams. Second, from a cultural standpoint, this film was huge.
This was the the early 90s. Everyone’s parents were breaking up. It was just a thing that happened. But MRS DOUBTFIRE was first time, I think, when a film not only addressed the effects of what long-term separation of two parents might do to children but also looked at that separation from the father’s perspective. The emotional impact of ‘You can only see your children at weekends’ puts Williams’ character through turmoil which in turn, drives him through this transformation. A worthy re-watch.
The number one box office smash of 1992 (beating Home Alone 2, Batman Returns, and The Boydguard, to name but three) and it’s so easy to see why: this is both Walt Disney Pictures and Robin Williams at the top of their game.
If you’ve not seen this already, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? If you have, I doubt very much you’ve only seen it once. Still laugh out loud hilarious in places, Disney’s ALADDIN is pitch perfect.
The synopsis is wonderful: Peter Pan (Williams) has grown up to be a cut-throat merger and acquisitions lawyer, and is married to Wendy’s granddaughter. Captain Hook (Hoffman) kidnaps his children, and Peter returns to Never Land with Tinkerbell (Roberts). With the help of her and the Lost Boys, he must remember how to be Peter Pan again in order to save his children by battling with Captain Hook once again.
Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook? Sold.
Bob Hoskins as Smee? Sold.
Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell? Sold.
Maggie Smith as Granny Wendy? Sold.
Robin Williams as Peter…? SOLD.
THE FISHER KING (1991).
Christ, I haven’t seen this since the 90s. I will fix that this week. I love Gilliam and this deserves a revisit. Williams’ third Oscar nomination too.
DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989).
This film means more to me than any other; and there isn’t much else I can say.
THE ADVENTURE OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1988).
My Dad took me to the cinema to see this mental, mental acid trip of a film. Terry Gilliam left to run riot with a cast of thousands and sets that seemed to travel through space and time itself. I LOVED it when I saw it and Robin Williams it bat-crazy as ‘my-head-is-detachable-at-will’ King of the Moon. This film is such a huge chunk of my childhood, I might watch it first.
GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (1987).
We have arrived at ground zero, ladies and gentlemen. This is the performance that announced Mr Williams’ departure from TV and that, from now on, Hollywood is where it’s at. Endlessly quotable but of course known best for that title (you couldn’t walk two metres in the playground without hearing another kid yell it) Robin Willams, as ever-so-slightly-based-on-a-real-armed-services-radio-DJ-but-not-really, Adrian Cronauer, is just brilliant.
Unsurprisingly, Williams picked up an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role – and that’s not to be sniffed at for what was fundamentally his breakthrough gig.
A truly great film.
I’m pretty sure that covers off all the Robin Williams films I have seen. Going through his filmography on IMDb reminded me that I’m still yet to see ONE HOUR PHOTO or THE BIRD CAGE which I’m sure some of you will balk at.
The sad thing is, Robin Williams is gone now.
But to celebrate his life, and the effect on mine that he had, I’m going to work my way through the following list of films as soon as I can:
- Dead Poets Society
- Good Will Hunting
- The Birdcage
- One Hour Photo
- Mrs Doubtfire
- The Fisher King
- Good Morning Vietnam
Did I miss any?
You’re not alone any more. I don’t think you ever were. But then again, I don’t think you ever knew. All over the world tonight people are going to enjoy you again. It’s sad that it takes a loss to remember the joy. But it is what it is.
Nanu Nanu, Mork.
Robin Williams. 1951-2014.