Robin Williams’ Best Non

Chicago-born actor and comedian Robin Williams first rose to fame for his abilities in both improv and stand-up comedy, first catching viewers with a title role in the 1978 sitcom Mork and Mindy. A Happy Days spin-off, eventually spanning a total of four years, starring Mork shed light on Williams’ comedic timing and stage presence. However, it didn’t take long for Williams to prove her ability to handle non-comedic roles.

After Mork’s departure in the ’80s, Williams took over the 1987 war comedy Good Morning, Vietnam, as well as the coming-of-age drama, Dead Poets Society. These films would become some of the comedian’s most beloved, while also enhancing his acting prowess.

Updated December 22, 2022: If you’re a fan of the beloved artist, you’ll be happy to know that this article has been updated with additional content and dramatic film performances.

Throughout his career, Robin Williams has delighted audiences with comedic and dramatic roles. We’ve ranked some of the late actor’s greatest non-comic efforts to grace the screen.

7/7 Boulevard (2014)

Starz Digital

One of the last films released during his lifetime, 2014’s Boulevard isn’t always a film of hope. As a tougher exit for Williams, the comedian plays a closeted gay man in this drama directed by Dito Montiel. Written by Douglas Soesbe, Boulevard follows bank associate Nolan Mack after a chance encounter with a prostitute, Leo, whom he later falls in love with.

Wrapped up in romance, sixty-something Mack refuses the sexual advances of Leo, played by Roberto Aguire, in favor of conversation and a human connection, which is not often reciprocated. Between a new promotion, his father’s deteriorating health, and a passionless marriage, Williams plays the disgruntled Mack with care and attention.

While the material isn’t always the simplest, Williams never loses her commitment to the tender role and elevates Boulevard to new heights with her tender, hard-working portrayal.

6/7 Insomnia (2002)

Warner Bros.

Pursued and hidden for the first half of the film, Williams plays a nuanced role in Insomnia, a thriller directed by Christopher Nolan in 2002. Playing Walter Finch – the prime suspect in a murder case and outwitting Al Pacino – Williams plays the role of an unaffected killer with courage and dexterity. Set in Nightmute, Alaska, at a time of year when the sun doesn’t set, Pacino and Williams play character studies of guilt and regression in men whose lives are dominated by a murder they deem accidental.

What makes this performance by Williams so remarkable is how the comedian handled the role of a calculated, deluded villain with enthusiasm and subtlety. With glimmers of a typical Williams role under the surface, Finch is a character whose layers are peeled off as the film progresses. Nevertheless, Williams handles the complexity of her role with masterful precision.

5/7 What Dreams May Come (1998)


Williams portrays a man on a divine mission in the poignant image What Dreams May Come, telling the heartbreaking story of pediatrician Chris Nieslen, who tragically dies in a car crash and ends up on Earth to support his grieving wife; when she shockingly commits suicide, Chris is furious that she is doomed to hell and sets out to reclaim her soul. The thought-provoking fantasy drama is based on Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name and showcases the actor’s stunning emotional prowess and deep gift for evoking empathy in viewers, masterfully tugging at their heartstrings.

Visually stunning yet heartbreaking What Dreams May Come depicts a breathtaking image of paradise that Chris has created in his mind and imagination, drawing inspiration from a landscape painted by his artist wife. Williams’ character decides to defy the concerns of his spirit guide to descend into hell and save his beloved love, leaving his peaceful paradise behind. Williams truly excelled in the role and served up a worthy follow-up to her Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting.

4/7 Society of Dead Poets (1989)

Touchstone Pictures Warner Bros.

Like Williams’ starring role as John Keating, Dead Poets Society is a film that seeks to educate. Directed by Peter Weir and written by Tom Schulman, this 1989 coming-of-age drama sees Williams at his most touching and sentimental. While Keating is a beacon of virtue and hope – something many saw as Williams himself – Dead Poets Society is a film that deals with the exact opposite. A study of despair and societal tradition as a means of character assassination, Keating becomes a teacher for a generation of young adults in search of direction and a sense of self.

Introducing his class to classic poets such as Lord Byron, Robert Frost and Walt Whitman, Keating hopes to paint a world of opportunity for his students with the same stanzas of poetry that made him who he is. William’s speech about making his life extraordinary still rings true today as a reminder to be yourself in a world constantly trying to change you, and no one was better suited for such a monumental role than Williams. .

3/7 Hunt for Goodwill (1998)

Miramax Movies

In 1998, Williams won her first and only Oscar after four nominations throughout her career. He won for his supporting role as Sean, a therapist in the film Good Will Hunting directed by Gus Van Sant and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Following Dead Poets Society, Williams once again shows his ability to mentor as a grief therapist, with a good deal of emotional baggage himself. Tasked with holding seances with Damon’s Will Hunting, Sean intends to counsel the young math-savvy boy.

What makes this role so special for Williams is how the character captures every aspect of his acting talent. As friendly and welcoming as it is flawed and human, Good Will Hunting showcases the duality that Williams was good at portraying. Williams is particularly captivating alongside Damon, who plays a troubled young man struggling to navigate his world. The encounters between Sean and Will become the basis for the development of both characters as they learn to accept the cards dealt to them.

2/7 Revivals (1990)

Pictures of Colombia

Williams appeared alongside movie superstar Robert De Niro in the gripping biographical drama Awakenings, portraying neurologist Dr Malcolm Sayer, whose work involving catatonic patients at a New York hospital contributed to a major medical breakthrough with the drug L-Dopa. The clinical doctor Williams portrays is based on the medical achievements of Oliver Sacks, who praised the late actor’s performance and said the way his mind worked was a “form of genius”. De Niro is a patient who comes out of his catatonic state and develops a deep bond with Sayer, working perfectly alongside Williams.

Awakenings was a critical and commercial success and garnered three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, with Williams also being nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe for his gripping portrayal. The New Republican praised Williams’ role, writing that he “gives his best ‘direct’ performance, stripped of all his wonderful manic vaudeville.” The man he plays here is not a performer, which he even was in Dead Poets Society, but simply a man. »

1/7 One Hour Picture (2002)

Fox projector pictures

Arriving the same year as Insomnia, this thriller written and directed by Mark Romanek further illustrates Williams’ talent as the villain. In One Hour Photo, Williams plays Seymour Parrish, a family-obsessed stalker and photo technician who frequents his photo services at the fictional SavMart. A character not unlike Walter Finch, Parrish is a deluded man in love with living his life through someone else’s eyes.

Collecting photos of the family he’s obsessed with – the Yorkins – Parrish constructs an elaborate fantasy where he’s more than their photo technician, and rather a member of the family himself. What follows is a series of groundbreaking moves by Parrish, desperate to belong in a world that seems to have left him behind.

What makes this performance by Williams so amazing is how drastic the role is for the actor. Almost devoid of many of the traits seen in Williams’ roles before, Parrish is a true exhibitionist whose lifestyle leaves little room for the genuine warmth and human connection often seen in Williams’ characters, comedic or otherwise. Both darkly tragic and dangerously amoral, Parrish is perhaps William’s biggest departure from comedy.

Robin Williams’ Best Non-Comic Roles, Ranked | Pretty Reel