Growing Up With Robin Williams: How The Actor Shaped Our Childhoods

12 August 2014 by

Robin Williams Best Films Of Childhood

He was our teacher, our wish-giver, our personal alien, our mum and dad combined and most importantly our best friend. As the tragic news emerges that the actor has died aged 63, we look back at how Robin Williams shaped our childhoods...

1. Mork & Mindy (1978)

His breakthrough role as the colourfully-clad alien best friend made everyone want to be a Mindy. Who wouldn't want to live in a cool apartment with a kooky best friend, always there to cheer you up with some Nanoo Nanooing and his exceptional taste in lycra and braces (who you eventually fall in love with)? For some it might have been an early years first-time-around watch, but for those not born yet, '90s re-runs provided context of Williams' hilarity during the height of his powers.

2. Dead Poet's Society (1989)

One of our favourite Blockbuster rentals, in Dead Poets Mr Williams was the inspirational teacher we never had: the guy unafraid to let you jump on desks and challenge inequality and snobbery, whilst simultaneously teaching you your romantic wordsmiths. Inspired every English teacher in the Educating... series.

3. Hook (1991)

Very much capturing the comedian's own effervescent eternal youth as the 'grown-up' Peter Pan, he not only rediscovered the child inside, but also fought off one of the biggest frighteners of our young years - Dustin Hoffman's Captain Hook.

4. Aladdin (1992)

The first time many of us may have got to see one of Williams' canon on the big screen, his barrel-chested, booming-voiced Genie was the distillation of his repertoire of impressions and even managed to teach us a lesson or two, too. After that, we were all conjuring our own big blue side-kick and expecting all our wishes would come true. Just me?

5. Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

For Millenials, this is where Williams fully came into his hilarious, and often bittersweet, own playing the dad going through a divorce just desperate to spend time with his kids. How many of us wished that our dad would want to hang with us enough to dress up like a Scottish nanny? (And burn his boobies on the hob).

6. Jumanji (1995)

Embedded deep in another freaky childhood frightener, Peter Pan is gone in favour of Alan, a man trapped for decades in a supernatural board game. This was another multi-faceted role (see also Night at the Museum, Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire), allowing him to show off the many faces of Robin Williams. Including the face covered in hipster-homeless facial fuzz (our second favourite of his looks after ‘moustachioed Robin’).

7. The Birdcage (1996)

My own personal favourite saw Williams get his dancing shoes on as Versace-shirted Miami choreographer and club owner Armand Goldman, who agrees to put on a front with his drag queen partner (Nathan Lane) as an upstanding Mr and Mrs, when their son brings home his fiancée’s narrow-minded parents. Steals the show with his shimmying.

8. Good Will Hunting (1997)

Back in his hallowed inspirational tutelage role (this time as a college therapist), Williams had mellowed (and bearded up again) for this Oscar-baiting drama, where he leads Matt Damon’s young genius from the wrong side of the tracks to intellectual glory. A real tear-jerker for our teenage selves at the multiplex. Again, no sign of such professors once we got to uni, proving once and for all that Robin Williams was the undisputed best.


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