10 Small Performances By Robin Williams That Are Worth Watching

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Vote up the small Robin Williams performances that deserve more respect.

We're all familiar with the big roles of Robin Williams's long career. He brought life to the Genie in Aladdin, and he brought laughter to a war zone in Good Morning Vietnam. He made audiences cry in Good Will Hunting, embodied the ultimate English teacher in Dead Poets Society, went drag in Mrs. Doubtfire, and struck fear in our hearts in One Hour Photo. The man was a chameleon.

Despite his leading-man status, Williams wasn't unwilling to take on smaller parts that had him on screen for only a few minutes. (Of course, a "small" performance by Williams tends to feel larger than many a lead performance.) Throughout his career, he took many of these minor roles. Here's a collection of the most memorable ones - vote up your favorites!


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    He Frolicked His Way Through The 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' Music Video

    While it's not a movie, Robin Williams takes center stage in Bobby McFerrin's 1988 "Don't Worry, Be Happy" music video. Think of the title of the song, and then picture Robin Williams in your mind. Yep, it's a good fit. All Williams really does is laugh and smile and goof around, which is perfect.

    Williams appears alongside McFerrin and Bill Irwin, a master of physical comedy who is perhaps best known as Mr. Noodle on the Sesame Street show-within-a-show Elmo's World. For the most part, all they do is dance and play in front of the camera, and there's a wisp of a story playing out as McFerrin takes them through the lyrics.

    It's sheer, silly fun, and Williams seems to be genuinely enjoying himself.

  • Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) is one of many attempts to adapt Rudolf Raspe's rollicking fantasy picaresque for the big screen. One of the most expensive films ever made at the time, it's a wild ride full of outlandish adventure, wall-to-wall visual effects, and gorgeous costumes. Though nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Costume Design), it won none, and was a box-office failure. It's gone on to become a cult classic, but few these days have seen it.

    That's a shame, because it's a lot of fun, and Robin Williams is easily one of the film's highlights. He plays the King of the Moon, a giant being capable of removing his head so he can soar across the lunar landscape. He's completely mad, mercurially shifting from raucous humor to chilling menace.

    Interestingly, Williams went uncredited in the role, instead opting to be credited as "Ray D. Tutto" (rei di tutto), a play on the phrase, "King of Everything."

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  • 2013's The Butler tells, in fictionalized form, the story of Eugene Allen (here called Cecil Gaines, and played by Forest Whittaker), a White House butler who served under eight US presidents. Williams portrays one of those Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    Of course, this wasn't the first time Williams portrayed a US president. He played Theodore Roosevelt (or at least a magical waxwork version of him) in the Night at the Museum franchise. This time around, Williams offers a more straight-up dramatic interpretation of the chief executive he's playing.

    Williams's scenes focus on the moment in Eisenhower's presidency when he had to decide whether to deploy Federal troops to Little Rock, AR, to enforce the Supreme Court's decision that segregated schooling was unconstitutional. Williams described playing the character as "[a] tough job for me."

    It's certainly not the type of character many would imagine Williams playing (he quipped that people have told him he should play Truman). Nonetheless, Williams does Eisenhower honor, playing the man with a sort of quiet dignity. The film was released the year before Williams took his own life.

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  • Robin Williams's celebrated voiceover work began for many with his portrayal of the Genie in Aladdin. Williams worked so much rapid-fire improv into his performance that animators had to rework several scenes just to keep up with him. He's lent his voice to a number of characters over the years, but one many might not have seen - or may have since forgotten - came in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

    In the movie, a realistic android named David embarks on a quest to become a "real boy" by finding the location of the Blue Fairy. This takes him to the resort town of Rouge City, where he comes face to face with Dr. Know, a holographic program that functions much like an interactive search engine, but with a twist: His answers cost money, and he's programmed to be slippery enough to encourage more paid questions.

    David asks Dr. Know how to find his quarry, and the program directs the android to Manhattan. Williams's vocal talent is on full display for the few minutes he appears on-screen.

  • Noel, a Christmas drama directed by Chazz Palminteri, stars Paul Walker, Alan Arkin, Penélope Cruz, Daniel Sunjata, and Susan Sarandon in a story about five New Yorkers who come together on Christmas Eve in search of a miracle. Williams plays Charles "Charlie" Boyd/The Priest in one of his many uncredited roles.

    Charlie appears in a dark moment, saving Susan Sarandon's character Rose as she's about to jump off a pier into icy water. Explaining that he was a priest for 20 years but "kicked the habit," Charlie befriends Rose; they swap life stories at the pier and during a cab ride.

    Noel received little attention upon release, but it's worth revisiting if only to see the way that humor, melancholy, and quiet wisdom all combine in Williams's on-screen persona.

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  • Nine Months is a relatively forgettable rom-com from the mid-1990s about a couple who deals with relationship issues while working through an unexpected pregnancy. The film stars Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore as the lead couple; they do their best, but the film occasionally stalls on its own sentimentality. However, in a couple of key scenes, it gets a shot of adrenaline from Williams's performance as Dr. Kosevich, the obstetrician who delivers Moore's baby.

    The good doctor is Williams at his finest, playing a Russian immigrant and former member of the Communist Party whose command over the English language is somewhat tenuous. His decade of work in the former Soviet Union was with animals, and he's only been practicing with humans for about a month - which, to put it mildly, doesn't put the expecting couple at ease.

    In the end, Dr. Kosevich proves capable of delivering the baby, but the parents aren't exactly keen on having him circumcise their newborn son, leading to a mad dash to keep him out of the room. It's Robin Williams at his most flat-out hilarious.

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