Entertainment & Arts

Robin Williams: His best on-screen roles

Robin Williams, who has died at the age of 63, mastered the full spectrum of roles - from zany, big-hearted humour to tear-jerking emotion, exuberant children's performances, stand-up comedy and darker dramatic parts.

Picking out his best performances is difficult, but here is a small selection of his best-loved roles.


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"Nanu nanu!" Williams's breakthrough came in this rather bizarre spin-off from Happy Days, a TV comedy about an alien who lands on Earth and settles in Boulder, Colorado.

There was boundless humour in Mork's attempts to fit in with human life, while unwittingly highlighting the absurdities of our society and etiquette.

The series, which lasted from 1978 to '82, was perfect for Williams's madcap, ever-energetic presence.


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Williams had established himself as a big name by 1987, when he starred as a wise-cracking, versatile-voiced disc jockey who was enlisted by Armed Forces Radio to lift the morale of US troops in Vietnam.

"It's a breakthrough for Mr Williams, who, for the first time in movies, gets a chance to exercise his restless, full-frontal comic intelligence," the New York Times critic wrote at the time.

The role also earned Williams his first of four Oscar nominations for best actor.


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Williams's second Oscar nomination came two years later for playing John Keating, a charismatic, inspirational and exuberant English teacher at an elite US school.

But this was more than just madcap - Mr Keating asked his students to address him as "O captain! My captain!" (from the Walt Whitman poem) and instructed them to take control of their destinies and "seize the day".

Mr Keating, the Los Angeles Times reported, was "played with a fine lyric-comic frenzy" by the actor who, it added, "blazes like a poetry-spewing comet".


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In 1993, Williams put on a latex mask, a dress and a Scottish accent to play Mrs Doubtfire. The character was a father who dressed as a nanny in order to spend more time with his children.

"Williams, looking like the kind of old biddy who sets wolves a-howling, is such a strong presence, no amount of Latex can obliterate his personality," wrote USA Today.

The family comedy earned him a Golden Globe, an American Comedy Award, a Kids' Choice Award and an MTV Movie Award. A sequel had been in the works.


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Williams was on inspirational form again in his only Oscar-winning role - older, wiser, less madcap and proving his serious acting abilities beyond any doubt.

In the 1997 film, he played a straight-talking psychologist to Matt Damon's lead role as an smart alec mathematics prodigy.

Williams, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, "turns what might have been a star walk-through into a soulfully rich performance" and makes his character "bristle with feelings that reveal his vulnerability".

When you have finished with those, try The Fisher King, Patch Adams, Insomnia, Aladdin, One Hour Photo, Jumanji, Awakenings, Moscow on the Hudson and The Birdcage, among others.

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