Top 5 Robin Williams movies you may not have seen

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The tragic passing of Robin Williams has left many sad and dismayed, particularly as his acting talent and his ability to imitate nearly any voice or mimic any sound has charmed audiences for 40 years.

Performances like those of the genie in Aladdin or the unforgettable Mrs. Doubtfire became iconic for kids just as Dead Poets Society had been for a previous generation. Predictably, everyone is happy to cite the well-known classics Williams was involved in.

Perhaps we should consider celebrating him by watching some of his lesser-known films:

  1. AWAKENINGS (1990). In this film, Williams plays a doctor that tries to help people who survived a 1920s epidemic of Catatonia (which has left them in a coma for decades). Williams’ performance as the hero, and also somewhat as the antagonist through his conflicts with his first patient (Robert De Niro) helped earn the movie a Best Picture nomination. It is worth noting that Vin Diesel, then unknown, was an extra playing an orderly.
  1. THE FISHER KING (1991) In another forgotten classic, Robin Williams co-stars with Jack Lucas, an arrogant talk show host who prompts an unstable caller to his show to commit a mass-shooting. Years later, Lucas’ character, in the height of depression, learns that Parry (Robin Williams) is suffering in a catatonic state as a result of his wife’s murder at the hands of the same mass gunman. Lucas then makes it his mission to try and heal Parry and help him find love again. This was an excellent story of escape from depression and redemption, sadly forgotten in Williams’ list of roles, for which he earned a Golden Globe  for Best Actor.
  1. FLUBBER (1997) In this remake of an old 60s classic, The Absent Minded Professor, Williams executes the role perfectly. As a university professor trying to save a small college, he attempts to discover alternative forms of energy. But he is so absent minded that he drops the ball with his fiancée several times and is in danger of messing everything up. Critics were terribly harsh on this movie, for at times it employs that type of humor that is almost painful to watch, as in Meet the Parents. Nevertheless, it doubled its budget, which is better than some movies which get great reviews.
  1. ONE HOUR PHOTO (2002) One would be surprised to find Robin Williams in a horror-drama, but he managed to pull it off, as “Sy” the “One Hour Photo” guy, who gets too attached to his customers from looking at their lives in film. What was particularly moving about this role was the fact that you could simultaneously sympathize with Sy and be creeped out by him.  We all know people like him.
  1. JAKOB THE LIAR (1999) It is surprising this movie was so quickly forgotten, for Williams plays Jakob, a Polish shopkeeper in a Nazi-enclosed ghetto. Jakob is summoned to the Commandant’s office one day for something he didn’t do. Meanwhile, the Commandant forgets about him, and Jakob hears the radio report of the advance of the Red Army, which he reports back in the ghetto to the others interred there, claiming he has a secret radio. What changes Jakob’s life is when a little girl comes into the ghetto, escaping a train, and Jakob must be inventive and amusing to cheer up the poor orphan’s spirits. Williams pulled it off, keeping alive the human spirit in the wake of tragedy, as few others could. The movie, however, crashed at the box office, and many felt that La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful), which was a comedy bearing a similar theme, was better. This remains one of Williams’ most unsung roles.

Click here to read more on Robin Williams’ death.