Remembering Robin

Robin Williams
Robin Williams

He starred in more than 80 films, was a popular figure on our television screens, and delivered so many instantly recognisable lines. Our film reviewer Nadine Hancock remembers screen legend Robin Williams and mourns his death.

My first memory of Robin Williams, is of him standing in the doorway of the Cunningham's house talking to Fonzie. This lovable alien character became a hit with audiences, so in an unlikely spinoff to Happy Days, Mork met Mindy and stayed on our television screens for four seasons.

Williams died this week aged 63 under tragic circumstances, sending the world into shock. Facebook feeds were flooded with tributes while his colleagues took to Twitter offering their condolences. Family and friends reminisced and talked about how much Williams meant to them and started to list their favourite films.

What stood out for me from these conversations, was that his roles in family films and animated characters were beloved by many; Hook, Jumanji, Patch Adams, Ferngully, Happy Feet and of course, Aladdin. A friend of mine was saddened that her genie had passed away.

Those roles that meant so much as we were growing up had stuck with us into adulthood, and now the man that brought those characters to life has gone.

In his honour, I wanted to share with you, dear movie lovers, the top five Robin Williams films that mean something to me and illustrate the eclectic, talented man we had the privilege of watching throughout his tremendous career.

5. Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

Thanks to this film, Aerosmith's Dude Looks like a Lady will forever be associated with a man dressed as a Scottish nanny dancing while vacuuming the house (

Full of humour, childish behaviour and honest, touching moments, Mrs Doubtfire allowed Williams to show off all of his strengths; his comedic timing, a voice of a thousand impressions and the ability to cut to the heart of his audience.

It's a great family flick that will be enjoyed by all for years to come.

4. Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

This is the first film that I remember mum and dad laughing hysterically at. They watched it over and over and recommended it to their friends. Of course, being 8 years old at the time, a lot of the humour went straight over my head and I didn't quite understand the significance of what message Good Morning Vietnam was trying to say. However, the memory of how my parents reacted to Williams' performance will forever be part of the reason why I love to watch movies. Now as an adult, I can appreciate the film for its glory and what it did for Williams' film career.

"Goooooooood morning Vietnam! It's 0600 hours. What does the O stand for? O my God, it's early!"

3. One Hour Photo (2002)

I'm going to be honest, this film freaked me out. Williams stars as Sy, a photo lab technician who becomes obsessed with a family through their photographs and the short moments he spends talking to them as customers.

Almost unrecognisable, Williams is far removed from many characters he has played before. The first time I saw this film, I was slightly unnerved by how chilling his performance was and how he managed to capture one man's obsession and envy of another human being.

Even now, when I watch it, it's hard to believe that the same person could be John Keating (Dead Poets Society) or Sean Maguire (Good Will Hunting). It is the perfect example of his brilliance, versatility and talent.

"And if these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it's this: I was here. I existed. I was young. I was happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture."

2. Good Will Hunting (1997)

In this well-deserved and long overdue Oscar win, Williams plays Sean Maguire, therapist to Matt Damon's troubled, yet genius, character of Will.

I made frequent visits to the cinema to see this film during its run in 1997 and Williams was the reason for this. His sincere and commanding performance outshone Damon in the lead role, helped along by challenging and intelligent dialogue that was compelling to hear.

After hearing of Williams' death, fans visited the park bench in a powerful scene ( between Williams and Matt Damon to pay their respects. This scene, along with several others, resonate with me. Even now after so many viewings, the discussions between Sean and Will, continue to make me think and question so many aspects of life, thanks to Williams' strong performance.

"Real loss is only possible when you love something more than you love yourself."

1. Dead Poets Society (1989)

I first watched Dead Poets at a youth group movie night. There was something special about those nights, enveloped by darkness bar the flicker of light coming from the television, surrounded by friends watching a great movie for the first time.

Since then I've introduced many people to the film, including my husband, and shared my love of it with friends.

It is the movie where we all learned the meaning of carpe diem, to seize the day and make no apologies for it. Where the iconic scene of students standing on desks to salute their teacher, quoting "Oh captain, my captain" raised goosebumps on our skin and left tracks of tears on our cheeks (

As English teacher John Keating, he inspires his class to not only love poetry and literature, but to believe in yourself and strive to be the best you can be. To not think, but to do.

As Williams said himself, John Keating is the English teacher we all wish we had had. One that motivates and encourages you to be passionate about life and to not waste one second of it.

"I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way."

These are but a few from the astounding and impressive body of work that Williams leaves behind.

He appeared as a floating head in the Terry Gilliam movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, performed alongside our own Sam Neill in Bicentennial Man and allowed us to find our inner child in Hook. He wasn't a stranger to the dramatic roles either featuring in the emotional drama Awakenings, the brutal and heartfelt The Fisher King, and the haunting love story, What Dreams May Come.

To mourn the death of this brilliant man seems nonsensical. I've never met him and would never assume to think I know him in any way. His work spoke to all generations and was a constant reminder of laughter, fun and heart. He will be missed but will continue to live on through his work.

Thank you, Mr Williams. Thank you.

The Southland Times