The 15 Best Tim Robbins Movies You Need To Watch

8. Arlington Road (1999) dir. Mark Pellington


Oliver (Tim Robbins), along with his wife and son, move in next door to Professor Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) and his son, Grant. Michael, who has taught about terrorism and who lost his wife in an FBI raid on terrorists, begins to suspect his new neighbors. He finds out Oliver is not who he says he is. This leads to a cat and mouse chase with a twist ending.

A film that is still relevant today, due to the fears of home grown terrorism, this film is well written and very suspenseful. It will keep you guessing until the end. No spoilers here.

Tim Robbins is very much the quiet center of this film. He comes across as very sincere and a loving family man. Even in the most thrilling scenes, he keeps his cool and is very much a thinking person’s actor. This is also one of his greatest strengths. He is obviously comfortable in the role, and still makes you think something is not quite right about his character. Definitely a film to view and savor.


7. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) dir. Joel Coen

The Hudsucker Proxy

When the head of Hudsucker Industries commits suicide by jumping from the top floor window, Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman) finds out the company is going public. He chooses a new employee in the mailroom, Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), to run the company so shares will drop and Sidney can buy the company cheap.

However, Norville invents the hula hoop, which is a huge hit, and a reporter, Amy Archer figures what is going on and helps Norville foil the plot.

A screwball comedy throwback to the days of the 30s when this style was in vogue, this film was a failure at the box office but has acquired a cult status since its DVD release.

Tim Robbins hits all the right notes in this one, playing a young business school graduate who is forced to accept a job in a mailroom due to lack of experience. The company takes him as somewhat naïve and bungling, but he has a scientific mind and creates successful inventions. He also acts the part beautifully when after the hula hoop proves successful, he becomes as big a jerk as the board of directors and almost spoils his chances with Amy. This is definitely a bright, witty film in need of rediscovery.


6. Jacob’s Ladder (1990) dir. Adrian Lyne

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is seen fighting in Vietnam in 1971. Then we see him wake up on a subway train in 1975, dressed in a postal uniform. His mind keeps going in and out of focus about his son who died before the war and his ex-wife.

He remembers he is now a postal clerk living with Jezzie in Brooklyn. He also discovers some conflicting information about what happened in Vietnam. As the hallucinations get worse, he believes he sees his son, who will provide some of the answers.

This is a gripping psychological drama. The war scenes are well filmed, and the hallucination scenes are properly terrifying. It is definitely a cult film today and the inspiration for many other horror films made afterward.

Tim Robbins campaigned hard for this role, as he felt this would be a great stretch for him. He knew he could do comedy, but he felt this to be his first straight dramatic role, and he wanted to do the best job possible. He is appropriately scared about what is happening to him, and the information he does get doesn’t seem to settle his mind. This is definitely not a movie for the faint hearted but worth watching for the story and the acting.


5. The Secret Life of Words (2005) dir. Isabel Coixet

The Secret Life of Words

Hanna (Sarah Polley), who works in a factory in Northern Ireland and is a partially deaf Yugoslavian native, is forced by her union to take a vacation. She accepts a job of nursing Josef (Tim Robbins) who is on an old rig where there was a fire. He tried to help a man and was burned to blind for two weeks. Hanna doesn’t like to talk but as she nurses Josef, they get closer, and when he is airlifted to the hospital, she leaves him with clues how to find her.

This was a Spanish Irish co-production filmed in both places and an actual oil rig off the coast of Northern Ireland. It was very successful in Spain, and played in art houses in the US. It won four Goya awards (Spain’s Oscar).

Tim Robbins did an excellent job with a difficult role which for the most part was lying in bed, wearing uncomfortable contacts to simulate blindness. Still he plays the role jovially as the character is supposed to be a man with a mischievous sense of humor, usually about sex, but he also plays real tenderness with Hanna when he hears her backstory. An excellent film, but hard to find, this film will make you contemplate the big questions of life.


4. The Player (1992) dir. Robert Altman

The Player (1992)

Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is a film studio executive who listens to script pitches all day. He only approves 12 scripts a year out of 50,000 pitches. He is receiving death threat postcard, which are from, he assumes, a writer whose script he rejected. He believes he knows who it is and accidentally kills him, then takes up with his girlfriend.

A new person at the studio, Larry Levy is trying to ace him out. He gets two screenwriters to pitch Levy a script that he knows will bomb, but saves it in the end. Griffin starts getting blackmailed by postcard from someone who knows about the murder.

This was Altman’s first studio film in years and it was warmly received, winning the Golden Globe for Best Comedy/Musical. It had a huge cast with many well-known actors doing cameos in the film. It has many subplots running through the film that are very cleverly done.

Tim Robbins gave a wonderful performance as a studio executive, not over the top but nicely nuanced. His performance was recognized with a Golden Globe and Cannes Film Festival prize for Best Actor. This truly put him on the map as a leading man.


3. Short Cuts (1993) dir. Robert Altman

Short Cuts

This is an episodic film, taken from 9 short stories. There are 22 principle characters. Tim Robbins stars as Gene Shepard, a cop who is married to Sherri, but is having an affair with Betty Weathers. Later we see him abandoning his dog as he can’t stand his barking, but after his kids complain, he goes back and gets the dog. The stories are all intertwined and come together at the end.

Tim Robbins’ second Altman film in a row, this is played for both laughter and tears. Telling 9 different stories with 22 principle parts, one is amazed at how Altman juggles it all to make a seamless film. Spinning on a dime between humor and drama, this is a great film by a master director.

Tim Robbins plays the philandering cop in this film. The affair is very well done with a sex scene played from the neck up that is very well done. When he is playing the scenes with the dog, you get a real sense of the frustration in his life. You might want multiple viewings to get all the stories, but this is truly enjoyable to watch many times.


2. Mystic River (2003) dir. Clint Eastwood

Mystic River movie

We first see the three boys playing together in 1975, when they find some fresh cement and start writing their names in it. Two men in a car, who pretend to be cops, force Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins as an adult) into their car and drive off.

They beat and molest Dave for four days until he escapes. In present day, the three men all turned out differently. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-con who runs a store, Dave is a blue collar worker, and Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a detective who is searching for the murderer of Jimmy’s daughter. Is it Dave who has a bloody hand and a torn shirt?

This is a very tight mystery/thriller well written and well directed by Eastwood. He creates the appropriate sense of dread throughout the movie and gets excellent performances out of all the actors.

Tim Robbins is excellent, showing a man still haunted by his trauma as a young child and how it colors his life and actions today. Fearful, yet determined, he dies what he believes is right. He won the Oscar that year for Best Supporting Actor and Sean Penn won best actor, this is the first time since 1959 that two actors won both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same film. Definitely a must see film.


1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) dir. Frank Darabont

the shawshank redemption movie

Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) has been convicted of murdering his wife and her lover in 1947 and received two life sentences to the Shawshank State Prison in Maine. He meets Red Redding (Morgan Freeman) who is a contraband smuggler and they become friends.

Andy does not adapt well to prison life until the warden and guards use his services as an accountant and then force him into a money laundering operation. After twenty years, Andy escapes and turns the tables on the guards. When Red is paroled, he meets up with Andy in Mexico.

Brilliantly adapted from a Steven King short story, this film barely broke even at the box office, but it is one of the best-selling DVDs of all time and has been the #1 film on IMDB for the last 7 years.

Tim Robbins is perfectly cast in this film. As the Accountant unjustly imprisoned for murder, he plays all the different beats of the character flawlessly. You can see that despite everything that happens to him, he still lives in hope of freedom. You really root for this character, you want to protect and help him, which shows how well Tim plays your emotions. A must see film.

Author Bio: Michael Giffey lives in Denver, Colorado. His family and friends say he is full of “useless information”. you can follow him at @giffeymichael on Twitter or on Facebook.