Graveyard Shift
1.2k voters

13 Times Robin Williams, The Nicest Guy Ever, Got Dark For A Role (And Nailed It)

Updated October 18, 2021 5.7k votes 1.2k voters 78k views13 items

List RulesVote up the performances in which going slightly sinister made Robin's roles even more memorable.

It comes as no surprise that Robin Williams has always been considered the nicest guy by his fans and costars. What may still shock casual fans, however, is that Williams played a wide range of roles during his nearly 40-year career. Not only could he improvise for hours or send viewers into spastic laughter, but he could also play serious, darker roles in films and on television.

Everyone knows about his Oscar-winning turn in Good Will Hunting as an example of his serious talent, but few recall his role in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia or as the lead in the complicated and serious The World According to Garp. Williams played a man obsessed with a family after developing their film, an author with a dark side, an everyman-turned-vigilante after the death of his family, and a host of other roles that turned his nice-guy image on its head. The darkest role isn't an easy choice, but there are several to pick from in his impressive career.

  • Seymour Parrish, better known as "Sy," works in the film-developing department of a big-box store. Over the years, he develops photos of the Yorkin family and creates an obsession with them. He even copies their photos for a shrine he keeps in his home.

    After developing a roll of film proving Will is having an affair, Parrish decides to notify Mrs. Yorkin and step up his obsession. He becomes an unemployed stalker forcing Will and his mistress to pose for pictures at knifepoint.

    1,051
    46
    Darker than expected?
  • In director Christopher Nolan's first big studio movie, Walter Finch is a local crime writer who decided to take his research up a notch by killing a local fan. When police detective Will Dormer, played by Al Pacino, is brought in from Los Angeles to help solve the murder, Finch decides to play a game of cat and mouse with him, having witnessed Dormer in a compromising situation.

    As insomnia from endless sunlight messes with Dormer's perception and actions, Finch continues to taunt the detective in an attempt to fool the police and go free. All the while, he's leading Dormer further into a trap. It's a subtle, unshowy performance from Williams, highlighting his character's quiet insidiousness and evil rather than going over the top and exclamatory.

    816
    26
    Darker than expected?
  • Photo: NBC

    In the ninth season of the long-running Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Williams portrays Merritt Rook, a sound technician who loses his family. After a lifetime of anti-authority behaviors like arson and burglary, Rook goes off the deep end when his wife and infant son die during childbirth.

    He harasses and tortures the physician he sees as responsible for the deaths until Dr. Slifkin takes his own life. Rook then moves on to a crime that leads the Special Victims Unit to his doorstep - manipulating someone into performing a strip search on their employee.

    561
    47
    Darker than expected?
  • In the future, everyone has implants that record their lives, and it's the job of "cutters" to create a movie of each person's life to play at their funerals. Alan Hakman is a cutter, and he's so good that he only takes high-profile clients whose actions in life were questionable, deleting horrible actions and showing only the good. 

    He refuses to turn over memories of the recently deceased Charles Bannister, who was engaged in the molestation of his daughter. Hakman also uses his access to memory implants to manipulate people or delve into their pasts.

    He also finds out he has an implant of his own - a violation for cutters.

    431
    27
    Darker than expected?