Skip to main content

7 Robin Williams movies that made your childhood

By Rande Iaboni, CNN
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
  • Robin Williams' career impacted generations
  • Fans who came of age in the '90s were treated to some of his best work
  • For many, he was the funniest adult around
  • Thanks to his playful humor, Williams grew up along with his young fans

(CNN) -- If there was any actor who could make the entire family laugh, it was Robin Williams.

His humor played perfectly to audiences of all ages, and for many of his younger admirers, Williams will be remembered as the funniest adult they knew growing up. It was nearly impossible to come of age in the '90s and not experience the magic of Williams' talent in movies like "Hook," "Jumanji" and "Mrs. Doubtfire."

For those who have forgotten, take a trip down memory lane and revisit these roles on which Williams left his mark:

Sean Maguire in 'Good Will Hunting' (1997)

Robin Williams' beloved movie characters
Morgan Fairchild remembers Robin Williams

What better way to start than with the film that won Robin Williams his first and only Academy Award? While "Good Will Hunting" is widely known as the film that started the careers of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Williams makes a powerful impression as counselor Sean Maguire.

Instead of the outrageously loud funnyman, here he showcases more a more subdued side of his acting chops. As Maguire, Williams perfectly encapsulated the type of man we look up to, a man who could change the way we think about life. Even when Williams wasn't making us laugh, he still made us smile.

"You can do anything you want, you are bound by nothing," his character says in the movie. A beautiful quote from a fantastic performance.

Jack Powell in 'Jack' (1996)

With a plot this outrageous it would take a miracle actor to pull it off. Luckily for director Francis Ford Coppola (yes you heard that right), he had the perfect man for the role of the main character, Jack.

The movie tells the story of a boy with a unique aging disorder that has aged him four times faster than normal. He enters school in the fifth grade with the appearance of a 40-year-old man, and hilarity ensues. Could there be a better fit for Robin Williams' flawless combo of adult and youthful humor?

Williams had an uncanny ability to make an audience laugh one minute and cry the next. While Jack's juvenile adventures through elementary school bring on the heavy laughs, he also breaks our hearts with his unrequited love for teacher Miss Marquez (Jennifer Lopez) and his tender relationship with his mother (Diane Lane).

The film is pretty reflective of Williams' career in general -- even though he resembled a 40-year-old man, child audiences grew up with him.

Peter Banning in 'Hook' (1991)

In this twist on the Disney classic, Williams plays an adult Peter Pan who must return to Neverland to rescue his children, who were kidnapped by Captain Hook. The only thing more fun than watching Williams grow up in the body of an adult, as with "Jack," is watching him reclaim his youthfulness. As Williams' Peter ventures to rescue his children, he inadvertently revisits his own childhood.

Of course, he had a little help from Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) and Wendy (Maggie Smith), proving once again that Williams could be the star without stealing another actor's spotlight.

And kudos to "Hook" for having the best food-fight scene of all time. Bang-a-rang Peter!

John Keating in 'Dead Poets Society' (1989)

One of Williams' most iconic roles, in "Dead Poets Society" Williams plays an English teacher who inspires his elite prep school students through the teaching of poetry.

At first glance, it might not sound like your typical Robin Williams film, but, as always, he managed to throw in his own unique touch to the role. His vocal transformations in this part are dynamite: Who better to portray the voices in great poetry and literature? Williams was legendary for being able to play dozens of characters in one sitting, jumping from one to the next without missing a beat.

With fans ranging from the older generations down to rebellious youths, never has the motto carpe diem resonated with so many. There's probably a person, right at this very moment, standing on top of a desk somewhere chanting "O'Captain, My Captain" in Williams' honor.

Alan Parrish in 'Jumanji' (1995)

Williams really had his work cut out for him with "Jumanji," as he had to portray a boy who'd just been released back to the real world after 26 years stuck inside a jungle-themed board game.

Upon his release, Williams' Alan Parrish is once again forced to play Jumanji alongside his former crush Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) and kid siblings Peter and Judy (a mini Kirsten Dunst!). As the game continues and the creatures of the jungle create mass destruction across the city, Williams takes the audience for a ride on the crazy train. While this could qualify as more of an action-adventure film as opposed to a comedy, there are always laughs when Williams is involved.

The film was so popular it even spawned a real-life board game that no '90s kid could live without. Just be careful when you play: "In the jungle you must wait, 'til the dice read five or eight."

Genie in 'Aladdin' (1992)

We all know the tale: a street urchin falls in love with a princess and attempts to woo her into marrying him. Oh, and there's a blue, wise-cracking, singing genie that grants the poor man three wishes to win the princess' heart.

Sure, Robin Williams doesn't have the title role in this animated classic, but he is without a doubt the most memorable part. In a film featuring a magic flying carpet, a nefarious screeching parrot and a smart-witted monkey sidekick, standing out can be a hard task. But not for Williams' scene-stealing Genie.

Aladdin and Jasmine may have sung "A Whole New World," but it was Williams' vocal abilities that had an opportunity to really shine here. Once his character is introduced, a large portion of "Aladdin" basically becomes a stand-up act for Williams, real improvisations included.

Daniel Hillard and Mrs. Doubtfire in 'Mrs. Doubtfire' (1993)

This film's plot could almost be a horror movie. After an ugly divorce, a man disguises himself as a female housekeeper named Mrs. Doubtfire in an attempt to sneak back into his home and spend more time with his children.

But thanks to Williams' irresistible energy, this is a hilarious family-charmer.

Brilliantly, Williams is able to make Mrs. Doubtfire her own individual character without ever letting the audience forget he is the one in the costume. While every other character is completely in the dark of her true identity, he gives the ultimate wink to viewers.

The fact that "Mrs. Doubtfire" is so often cited as a Williams favorite is a no-brainer given Williams' acting and comedic range. The film revolves around his impersonations, and he flawlessly flies through dozens throughout the film. Whether he was interviewing with a social worker for a job, receiving a makeover transformation from his lovable brother, or playing Euphegenia Doubtfire, this role helped Williams become an icon to every child of the '90s.

Thank you Robin Williams, not only for making us laugh, but for growing up with us.

Complete coverage on Robin Williams

Videos: The world according to Robin Williams

Robin Williams leaves behind four films to be released

Part of complete coverage on
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
Robin Williams, who first made America laugh and eventually touched "every element of the human spirit" in a remarkable range of performances, died at age 63.
See our complete coverage as we remember comedian and actor Robin Williams.
Watch and remember the career of Robin Williams by revisiting some of his best moments from stage, film, and television.
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 0202 GMT (1002 HKT)
Click through our gallery of Robin Williams and his memorable roles.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1226 GMT (2026 HKT)
Robin Williams was sober, but was struggling with depression, anxiety and the early stages of Parkinson's disease when he died, his widow said.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
Robin Williams was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease when he died. What is Parkinson's disease?
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Robin Williams gave a lot of advice and his words carry as much power now as they ever did.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
Of all the things to say about Robin Williams, the truest may be this: He made people smile.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2059 GMT (0459 HKT)
Robin Williams delighted fans with his off-the-wall, high-energy comedy that took unexpected turn after unexpected turn.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1850 GMT (0250 HKT)
A collection of some of the beloved comedians' more colorful stand-up moments throughout the years.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2200 GMT (0600 HKT)
Before Robin Williams, there was Jonathan Winters.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1603 GMT (0003 HKT)
Robin Williams touched more people emotionally than he will ever know.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2032 GMT (0432 HKT)
Robin Williams was not only known for bringing laughter to so many throughout his career but for bringing compassion to his philanthropic causes as well.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
Who was Robin Williams?
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2022 GMT (0422 HKT)
There didn't seem to be too much that Robin Williams couldn't do.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1613 GMT (0013 HKT)
There was never a dull moment when Robin Williams sat in the guest's chair. Here are some of the best.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
Robin Williams, who died Monday at age 63, was Peter Pan to some, Mrs. Doubtfire to others, and a beloved actor to many.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Here's a look back at some of the more than 100 movie characters that actor Robin Williams brought to life.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
If there was any actor who could make the entire family laugh, it was Robin Williams.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1813 GMT (0213 HKT)
As a medical student who used humor to help his patients, Robin Williams' role in "Patch Adams" was touching and memorable.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1936 GMT (0336 HKT)
By tradition, Drama is represented by two masks: the happy face of the comic muse Thalia and her sad counterpart, the tragic muse Melpomene.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Robin Williams and other comedians who were gone too soon.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Comedic actor Robin Williams died at his Northern California home. Here's a look at some moments from his acting.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Over the years, Robin Williams entertained nearly 90 thousand troops in 13 different countries with the USO.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
The more people share their experiences with depression, the more others suffering from the condition realize they're not alone, says Kat Kinsman.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1756 GMT (0156 HKT)
He could do 'em all! Check out some of Robin Williams' best impressions.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 0011 GMT (0811 HKT)
Video: A statement from Robin Williams' wife confirms: "This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend."