It would be hard to find a person living in the United States who could not name multiple movies which include the late actor Robin Williams. The 63-year-old thespian was discovered dead in his home on August 11, 2014, and movie watchers around the world immediately entered a state of shock. Something about the emotional depth Robin Williams brought to his roles made him stand out, even among the few Hollywood A-list celebrities fortunate enough to have received the prestigious Oscar.
A tragedy demands an explanation, and foreboding words and phrases have already begun to circulate: “suicide,” “depression,” etc. It seems ironic and unfair that a person who brought happiness to so many ultimately lost the ability to find it himself. Depression is a horrible, horrible illness. And especially in this case, the world is profoundly less happy with the loss of this wonderfully gifted actor and comedian.
The following three films are a sampling of a much larger collection of performances where Robin Williams inspired and uplifted his audience.
Dead Poets Society (1989)
This movie was previously included among movies featured in the article, “Five Movies That Inspire Students and Teachers.” Robin Williams inspires present and future teachers as English teacher John Keating, who is able to create a bond of admiration and respect with his students by delivering his instruction around the Latin motto, “Carpe Diem,” or “Seize the day.” His students struggle in a variety of ways trying to incorporate this motto into their lives, but ultimately, it is the respect and admiration Keating earns from his students which makes this a truly inspirational film.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Robin Williams is psychologist Sean McGuire, who not only has the knowledge and skill of an excellent psychologist, but draws on his own experiences as well to help a seemingly unreachable Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon) overcome his inner demons. This is the role which earned Williams his only Oscar, and is most definitely a film worth watching. As in Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams gives a very believable performance as a professional whose ability ensures he stands out from the rest in his field. This is a great example of art imitating life.
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Robin Williams is Dr. Chris Nielsen, a tragic figure who loses both children in a horrific automobile accident, then has to deal with his wife’s resulting mental breakdown and save his marriage, only to die tragically himself. He experiences Heaven and is reunited with his children, only to learn that his wife committed suicide following his death, and is trapped in Hell. This is a fanciful yet emotionally deep film where Robin Williams confronts the depths of depression and wins the day, all while giving another brilliant performance. If only life imitated art in this instance.
There are a multitude of movies and television appearances where Robin Williams brought inspiration to others, but these are a few roles where Williams transcended the comedy for which he is best known to demonstrate his mastery of the acting profession. I can think of so many more wonderful performances to share, which you are more than welcome to add to the comment section.