When we did our list of the 100 Most Iconic Dogs in Film back in May, this list became inevitable. Yin and Yang. Heads and tails. Dog people, cat people.Though they’d likely pretend to not care a whit—because, you know, cats—what would movies be without the feline persuasion? There’d certainly be a lot fewer jump-scares in horror movies, for one thing. There’d also be a lot less cuteness, menace and elegance. Whether man-eating lion or adorable kitty, cats have occupied important roles in some of our favorite films. Here are 100 of the most iconic movie cats (big and small) of all time.
When he decides to launch his superhero career, a newly suited-up Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), finds a lack of people to save. So he begins by trying to find a lost cat in his neighborhood called, hilariously, “Mr. Bitey.” Dave finds the cat on a billboard and—with great effort—climbs up to rescue him. When the cat won’t come to him, he yells, “Fuck you, Mr. Bitey,” and then falls to the pavement below—putting him in a position to actually perform his first human rescue. So, he’d be nowhere without Mr. Bitey, right?
An adorable kitten is, unfortunately, the bane of Tommy (Kevin McKidd) in a gruesome twist. After his girlfriend Lizzie leaves him, the once drug-free Tommy turns to heroin and contracts AIDS. He tries to woo Lizzie back by giving her a kitten, but she refuses to take it. Tommy keeps the kitten, but sorely neglects it, leading to him dying of toxoplasmosis from cat feces. But it has a happy ending of sorts: As a friend tells Renton (Ewan McGregor) at Tommy’s funeral, after all that, “The kitten was fine.”
When on a mission inside the Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) sees a black cat walk past and shake itself. Then the same cat walks past and does the exact same thing, and he remarks, “Déja vu.” That’s when Trinity (Carrie Moss) realizes that something has been changed in the Matrix and they’re all in real trouble.
After an ATM instructs Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), “Feed me a stray cat,” he prepares to kill the nearest stray cat he sees. Luckily, the cat is one of the few victims who escapes from the yuppie psychopath. Whew!
In one of the most memorable opening credit sequences of all time (courtesy of famed artist Saul Bass), a black cat and his long-legged shadow prowls the alleys as the Oscar-nominated theme song by Elmer Bernstein blares. The brief cat fight is the purr-fect set-up for a film set at a sleazy New Orleans brothel. The cat reappears in the closing credits, walking over a newspaper that details the scandal we’ve just watched.
You can’t have a movie about a notoriously haunted mansion without a black cat stalking photogenically past it at regular intervals. This lurid tale, based on the novel by Richard Matheson, is no exception. The cat makes its way inside the infamous Belasco House and attacks psychic Florence (Pamela Franklin). She seems to have killed it in self defense, but then we see the same cat resuming its patrol outside.
A chance encounter with a kitten leads into one of the most famous film scenes of all time: Reporter Marcello (Marcello Mastroianni) is infatuated with visiting film star Sylvia (Anita Ekberg) and gets his chance to be alone with her after her fiancée ignores her. The two wander the deserted streets of Rome at night, where Sylvia scoops up a stray white kitten and places it on her head. Marcello goes to look for milk for the kitty and returns to find Sylvia frolicking in the Trevi Fountain, having put the kitten down first, naturally. He gives the kitten the milk and wades in to join Sylvia.
Ralph Bakshi directed this X-rated adaptation of the Robert Crumb comic about a hedonistic, talking cat. Fritz and his buddies do drugs, have group sex and run from the cops (who are literally pigs) in this controversial counterculture cartoon. Followed by The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat, which was made without Crumb or Bakshi.
After Sam (Patrick Swayze) is killed, he tries to warn wife Molly (Demi Moore) that she’s in danger. He realizes that their tabby, Floyd, can still sense him, so when his killer (Rick Aviles) breaks into their apartment, Sam screams at Floyd. The cat jumps at the killer, scaring him off, and saving the day.
Okay, this is a terrible film with terrible, terrible animation, suitable only for anyone under five. The orange, lasagne-loving cat is voiced by Bill Murray, a career decision he deeply regrets, as we learned in Zombieland. At least we’ll always have the comic strip and those millions of plush Garfields suction-cupped to car windows all over the world.
The concept of dogs and cats waging a high-tech war for the hearts of humans is a rather cute one, as are many of the real cats and dogs in this film. But good luck getting past the extra-crappy CGI of such characters as the Ninja Cats. The one bright spot: An archvillain named Mr. Tinkles, a Persian who must suffer the indignity of being bathed and wearing a bonnet. Mr. Tinkles (voiced by Sean Hayes) registers his outrage to his kitty underlings, exclaiming, “Does evil wear a bonnet?!” In this case, yes.
One of the most recognizable movie studio logos featured Leo the Lion roaring mightily. Actually, a lion named Leo has only been used by the studio since 1957: Before that, a series of other lions held down the job. Leo also appeared in several films, including King of Kings (1961) and a TV commercial for Dreyfus Investments in 1961. His distinctive roar) was trademarked by MGM.
We might feel very differently about Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) if she’d made good on her threat to eat her sister Prim’s cat. Yes, food is scarce in District 12, but Prim would never forgive her! Fortunately, the kitty and Katniss (who really should love cats with a name like that) both survive and even become friends by the end of this YA series. Buttercup was played by a black-and-white kitty in the first film and then, at the request of author Suzanne Collins, recast as a fluffy orange cat, as described in the books.
Melissa McCarthy said that her kitty costar was the “Marlon Brando of cats.” The vet bills for her ailing pet motivate her character, writer Lee Israel, to begin her celebrity author letter-forging scheme. In the film, Jersey is a girl, but was played by a male cat named Towne.
“The first time I take him, or her, to the vet, while we are at the counter he sneezed. And I looked at him and literally thought, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you pretending to be sick? Then Marielle [Heller] cuts and I looked at the camera and said to myself, ‘This cat is out-acting me!,” she told Deadline.
Sadly, Jersey, passes away in the film, a very moving scene that no doubt helped clinch McCarthy’s Oscar nomination. Life lesson: Don’t let a Richard E. Grant character catsit for you.
In this sequel to The Shining, a grown-up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) takes a job at a hospice, where he’s able to help make dying patients’ last moments less scary by sharing memories of their past. He’s aided by Azzie, the resident cat, who somehow knows when it’s someone’s time to go. Stephen King was inspired by real-life nursing home kitty Oscar, who made headlines for being able to predict the passing of terminally ill patients within hours. Oscar was also the subject of the 2010 book, Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat.
In Lucio Fulci’s (very loose) take on the Edgar Allan Poe tale, a wheelchair-bound professor with psychic abilities (Patrick Magee) gets revenge on his enemies by channeling evil spirits into his cat. So, every time the black cat appears, people die, starting with a man who crashes his car after finding the cat in his backseat. And here we can’t even get our cats to run to the store for more kibble!
Joseph Stefano (of Psycho fame) wrote this screenplay and David Lowell Rich (who’d go on to direct the B-movie classic Satan’s School for Girls) directs this story of two caretakers who plot to do in an elderly woman. Trouble is, she has a lot of cats. And one of the plotters (Michael Sarrazin) is deathly afraid of them. Could it be the cats are onto them? And capable of taking revenge?
A cat figures prominently in Ana Lily Amirpour’s stylish vampire film: He’s first seen with Arash (Arash Marandi) in the film’s opening credits. In a key scene, Arash’s father, Hossein (Marshall Manesh), who is going through heroin withdrawal, thinks that the cat is his dead wife. The cat almost seems to be acting to draw “The Girl” and Arash together. Amirpour told The Mary Sue that the cat, whose name is Masuka, was a dream to work with. “We had a very special little being, and it was that cat’s destiny in life to make this movie…. We did a camera test, and Masuka is just this cat that likes to go into unfamiliar places and is curious about everything.”
In François Truffaut’s comedy about filmmaking, a director (played by Truffaut himself) has no end of headaches making a movie, including getting a gray kitten to eat from a tray of food on cue. After several failed attempts, the cat is fired! Finally, a tabby kitten is brought in and it (eventually) hits its mark and eats from the tray. Hurrah!
The notorious film is considered the most dangerous ever made, because shooting with real wild animals resulted in 70 members of its cast and crew being injured. Its stars suffered life-threatening injuries, including fractures and scalpings. And much of the footage of the injuries was included in the final cut of the film! It was written and directed by Noel Marshall, starring his then wife Tippi Hedren, and her daughter Melanie Griffith. The plot: Things go very, very wrong when the family of Hank (Marshall) comes to visit him and his extensive menagerie, which includes 110 wild cats: lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars and jaguars. The film was released theatrically in Europe in 1981, but was only shown in the United States for the first time in 2015. It’s currently on YouTube.
This Paul Verhoeven film opens with Michele (Isabelle Huppert)’s cat Marty watching blankly as her human is sexually assaulted. Later, Michele gently admonishes him, saying, “You didn’t have to claw his eyes out, but you could have at least scratched him.” We later find out that the assailant first got in when Marty was slow to come inside. Marty isn’t seen in the latter half of the film: Reportedly, Verhoeven had planned to kill off the cat, but with so many other deaths in the film, decided against it.
?One of the most famous cat actors of all time, Orangey, makes his debut here, although billed as the title character, Rhubarb. When a cat inherits a baseball team, all the players (including Leonard Nimoy!) want to quit. The team’s publicist (Ray Milland) tells them he understands, “You couldn’t take the meows and the purrs and the catcalls from the stands.” He tries to convince them the cat is actually good luck. And the cat gets a fantastic first credit: “Introducing the newest addition to Hollywood’s great galaxy of stars—that dynamic, exciting, scintillating personality RHUBARB (by special arrangement with the S.P.C.A.).” He’d go on to star in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Comedy of Terrors and guest star on Batman and My Favorite Martian.
In Roger Corman’s morbid little black comedy, busboy Walter (Dick Miller) accidentally kills his landlady’s cat—and turns it into a sculpture that has everyone declaring him the Next Big Thing. From there, he’s on to killing people to fuel his artistic urges, much like Vincent Price in House of Wax.
A one-eyed cat named Fred becomes a plot point in this drama about who should have custody of a young math prodigy Mary: her equally brilliant uncle Frank (Chris Evans), who wants her to lead a normal life, or her controlling grandmother, Evelyn, who wants Mary to be whisked into the world of academia, like her mother was. The grandmother (who’s allergic to cats) wins custody and when Fred shows up at a shelter, Frank knows that she’s not abiding by any of his wishes in raising Mary. Happily, Fred is rescued, and Mary gets the best of both worlds—including her pet cat.
In this Edgar Allan Poe anthology, The Black Cat is the “sardonically humorous tale” (as the original trailer describes it) of a man (Peter Lorre) who walls up his unfaithful wife with her lover (Vincent Price). But walling up the wife’s cat with them—and the cat’s subsequent cries—leads to the discovery of his crime. Guess you could call it the Telltale Cat.
As part of her quest to find a Nazi-stopping spell, fledgling witch Miss Price (Angela Lansbury) and crew end up on the mythical Island of Naboombu. The king of the animals-only island, a short-tempered lion named Leonidas, has an amulet with an incantation she needs, so Mr. Brown (David Tomlinson) agrees to referee a soccer game to make the King happy. All goes well until King Leonidas notices his necklace is missing and chases down the humans. Luckily, Miss Price knows a handy spell for turning anyone (temporarily) into a rabbit. Back home, she has her own feline familiar, a black cat named Cosmic Creepers, who enjoys chasing whomever happens to be a rabbit at the moment.
Robert Altman’s version of the Raymond Chandler classic is a bit of a shaggy dog story, but it all begins with Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould)’s orange kitty, who awakens the P.I. at 3 a.m. to be fed. But Marlowe is out of cat food and the mishmash he makes is rightly rejected by the “cockamamie cat,” despite his telling it, “Think of all the tigers in India they’re killing because they don’t get enough to eat.” He goes out to get some real cat food, but buys the wrong brand and is unable to convince the finicky feline to eat it.
At the beginning of this sci-fi classic as François Delambre (Vincent Price) tries to solve the mystery of his brother Andre’s death, he insists that Andre would never experiment on animals, saying, “Helene and Andre believed in the sacredness of life.They wouldn’t harm anything. Not even a fly.” But we later learn that’s not true. Before trying his new teleporter himself, he tries it out with the family’s fluffy white cat. And that’s the last we ever see of poor Dandelo, although we continue to hear his mysterious mewing from beyond.
Eccentric brothers Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine) spend their mysterious fortune on such outlandish things as a man-eating lion so they can hold their own safari in rural Texas. Except when the lion arrives, it’s an elderly lioness who won’t even get out of her crate. “You bought a lion? A used lion?” great-nephew Walter (Haley Joel Osment) marvels. Once it’s agreed that it “wouldn’t be sporting” to shoot the lion in a cage, Walter volunteers to look after her since his itinerant mother never let him have a pet before. He names the lion Jasmine and once she chases off his great-uncles’ annoying relatives, she’s welcomed into the family. She ends up hanging out in the cornfield, which is the closest thing to a jungle she’s seen in years.
The “black tiger” of Dar (Marc Singer) in this fantasy film was an ordinary tiger dyed black. A persistent rumor that the tiger died because the paint was toxic appears to be unsubstantiated. However, the dying process required the tiger to be sedated, and one of the tigers used reportedly died under anesthesia. On Straight Dope, a reader shared this email from Boone’s Animal’s for Hollywood: “The dye we used was very similar to food dye and had no effect on them. Very similar to the rumor that the girl in Goldfinger died from the gold paint. Nope!” Director Don Coscarelli wanted to use black leopards, but the animal trainers told him that they were too skittish to work with.
In “The Cat From Hell” segment (based on a story by Stephen King and written for the screen by George Romero), a black cat gets revenge on an elderly man (William Hickey) whose pharmaceutical company has killed thousands of cats in lab experiments. After his sister, her friend, and the butler are killed by the cat, the old man brings in a hit man (David Johansen) to take it out. But the cat has the last laugh in a gruesome ode to Alien.
The “pink panther” of the title is really a rare pink diamond, but in this clever animated title sequence, we zoom inside the diamond to see an elegant cartoon panther with a cigarette holder and a monocle. He’s pursued by a cartoon inspector, naturally leaving pink paw prints as he goes, all set to Henry Mancini’s inimitable theme song. The film led to several sequels and the Pink Panther—who never speaks—got his own cartoon series.
Although the titular black cat isn’t in this striking horror classic long, it serves as a metaphor for undying evil—and made for some very striking publicity photos and posters. Two honeymooners in Hungary find themselves caught between the bitter rivalry between Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff) and Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi). Poelzig is strangely understanding when Werdegast panics upon seeing his pet cat and kills it. As Poelzig explains to his guests, “You must be indulgent with Dr. Werdegast’s weakness… He has an intense and all-consuming horror of cats.” Although Poelzig goes on to remind his enemy: “The Black Cat does not die…[it is] deathless as Evil.”
Yes, those are real tigers that Maximus (Russell Crowe) fights, but the actor was never close enough to them to do any real damage. But just in case, there was a vet with tranquilizer darts standing by on set. Those near-misses as the cats claw at Maximus are thanks to the tigers being digitally composited into the scene. The original script had Maximus fighting rhinos, not tigers, but you can’t train rhinos, as it turns out, and the CGI ones looked terrible.
This donut-loving cheetah (voiced by Nate Torrence) is the Zootopia Police Department’s extremely cheerful receptionist and the first to meet rookie cop Judy Hops. His friendliness to Judy cools after she uncovers an epidemic of predators reverting to their prey-killing natures and all the predators are demoted. (And let’s not forget Zootopia Mayor Lionheart, who is, of course, a lion.)
Waking up with a terrible hangover to discover you’ve lost a tooth or that there’s someone else’s baby in your hotel suite is one thing, but opening the bathroom door to find a pissed-off tiger is an entirely different level of “Oh shit!” Especially when our heroes discover it belongs to none other than Iron Mike Tyson. The surveillance video of their drunkenly abducting the tiger the night before doesn’t really help matters much.
In the final Roger Corman/Vincent Price film based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, the spirit of a man’s late wife haunts his gloomy mansion in the form of a black cat. The cat first appears on Ligeia’s tomb as the local clergyman tells Verden Fell (Price) he cannot bury his non-Christian wife on sacred ground. When a new woman appears in his life, the cat scratches her face before she can kiss him. The two marry, but Ligeia isn’t about to let her husband go.
Interior designers Maggie (Katharine Ross) and boyfriend Pete (Sam Elliott) receive a lucrative job offer in England. Before they can report to work, a road accident strands them at the mysterious estate of the very wealthy Jason Mountolive. When fellow guests start dying (including Roger Daltrey), they realize something sinister is afoot—and we realize that the white-capped Nurse Adams (Margaret Tyzack) and the white cat of the household are never in the same room at the same time.
In what is surely one of the most dementedly odd horror films of all time, a white Persian seems to be on the scene every time a young schoolgirl dies. Or is it the quaint old farmhouse itself that’s killing them all off, one by one? You can’t forget the scene where the cat’s portrait turns into the demonic cartoon cat of the film’s iconic poster and begins spurting blood. Bad kitty!
The mean-spirited cat of Argus Filch, Hogwarts’ equally unpleasant caretaker, was no favorite of the students. In the books, she’s described as having bulging yellow, lamp-like eyes, a scrawny, skeletal body and dust-colored fur, but in the film looks like an ordinary enough long-haired tabby. Other cats in the Potterverse include Crookshanks, Hermione Granger’s cat, who is half-Kneazle (a highly intelligent magical cat), as well as Hermione herself, who once turned herself into a kitty with a spell gone wrong. And last but not least, Professor Minerva McGonagall is an animagus who can turn herself into a silver tabby.
The real Bob plays himself in this uplifting biopic about a drug addict and busker whose encounter with a stray ginger cat helps turn his life around. Bob, clad in his usual red scarf, also attended the film’s London premiere. He couldn’t be bothered to act impressed when he meet Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, however.
Jean-Jacques Annaud (The Bear) directed this story about two orphaned tigers who are separated as cubs. The good news is that neither dies, although one ends up in a circus with a cruel trainer. When they’re finally reunited a year later, they’re sicced on each other as entertainment for the crowds—until they recognize each other and begin playing like cubs again. They are finally returned to the jungle in a long overdue happy ending.
Based on the real story of two man-eating lions in Kenya in 1898, who reportedly ate as many as 130 people. Remarkably, there is only one scene involving an animatronic lion in the film. “The Ghost” and “The Darkness” were played by real lions named Bongo and Caesar, who also appeared in George of the Jungle.
This scraggly looking black cat with torn ears is more overtly supernatural in Neil Gaiman’s book, but he still possesses some unusual abilities in the animated film, including being able to speak in The Other World. However, he is not, as he tells Coraline, a different version of himself there, “No. I’m not the Other anything. I’m me,” he tells her. (He’s voiced by Keith David.) He helps Coraline escape from the evil Other Mother, who, incidentally, hates cats.
In Kaneto Shindo’s beautifully stylized horror film, a woman and her daughter-in-law are raped and murdered by a group of samurais. They return from the dead as ghosts bent on drinking the blood of all samurai. The younger woman waits at night for traveling samurai, then lures them back to her house where they are plied with saké before she tears out their throat. The black cat that mourned them in death, seems to have been the spirit who granted them life after death and now they have a cat’s grace and menace as they prey on their sworn enemy.
Alex (Ben Stiller) is the main attraction at the Central Park Zoo, where he’s BFFs with Marty the zebra (Chris Rock). Much like fellow cartoon character Snagglepuss, he’s happiest when in captivity and being hand-fed steak. So he has a hard time adjusting to life in the wilds of Madagascar and almost (gasp!) eats Marty in a moment of desperation!
If the Cheshire Cat were a bus, it would look just like the fanciful Catbus, who has glowing eyes for headlights and twelve legs. He’s also got rats with pink eyes as tail lights and a rotating destination banner like any other bus. Once you’re on board, the seats are just as furry and breathe along with him. As it turns out, he can fly, jog daintily over telephone wires and—like any cat—jump from a great height and land gracefully on his feet. Since he’s a part of the same magical woodland as Totoro, the trees part as he runs through them. Like the Cheshire Cat, he likes to perch in a tree or on the roof, grinning. And when he bids goodbye, he disappears just like the cat from Alice in Wonderland.
Binx the talking cat (voiced by James Marsden) helps defeat the wicked Sanderson sisters in this Disney favorite. He began life as a regular boy back in the 17th century, but was turned into a black cat by Winifred (Bette Midler). Since then, he guards against the three witches’ return every Halloween. When they’re accidentally brought back, he makes it his mission to send them packing, even if it means the end of his own immortality.
The Littles’ Persian Snowbell (peevishly voiced by Nathan Lane) is understandably less than pleased when the family adopts Stuart (Michael J. Fox). When the word gets out among his cat chums that he’s got a mouse for a brother, he’s a laughingstock. He asks tough tomcat Smokey (Chazz Palminteri) to get Stuart out of the picture for good. But, realizing how much Stuart means to the Littles, Snowbell comes through in the end, turning on his friends and helping Stuart get back home.
The big mission in the fourth installment of the beloved Pixar series: Retrieve Bonnie’s new toy Forky from an antique shop before she notices he’s missing. Woody and pals have not only got to dodge the creepy ventriloquist dummies who are after Woody’s voice box, but avoid the toy-destroying tabby named Dragon. While action toy Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) heroically tangles with the fearsome feline, it’s Woody who rides the surprised cat to victory. Everyone survives more or less intact, although Dragon’s dignity takes a bit of a dent.
Jiji (voiced in the American version by Phil Hartman) is apprentice witch Kiki’s naysaying black cat. Jiji doesn’t like the town she settles in, until he sees a pretty white cat across the way. He puts with up a lot: When Kiki loses a cat toy (who looks just like Jiji) on her first big delivery, she persuades him to act as the child’s toy until she can retrieve the real one. Since there’s a big dog and a canary involved, that’s a big request. When Kiki begins to doubt her own powers, she finds she can’t hear Jiji anymore: All she hears is “Meow.” (No worries—her confidence and Jiji’s voice are happily restored by the film’s end.
It’s hard to tell since this sci-fi classic is in black-and-white, but that’s Orangey playing the family cat Butch. When Scott Carey (Grant Williams) begins inexplicably shrinking, he becomes a pretty tempting plaything for Butch. Who can forget the scene where Scott opens the doll house door to the now-enormous, hissing predator? Unlike the loyal family dog in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, who alerts the dad to the now-microscopic kids’ presence, this cat just sees a mouse-sized thing it wants to catch—and eat. Ulp!
A trailer for this “wild, wacky, and exciting” MGM film assures us that Clarence is “no relation” to Leo the Lion. Since Clarence is cross-eyed, he can’t hunt (or kill anything), so he’s taken care of a doctor who runs a wildlife rehabilitation clinic on the African savanna. Shenanigans, naturally, ensue. He returns the favor by saving the doc and his family from poachers. Followed by the TV series Daktari.
A striped orange kitty named Milo and an adorable pug puppy named Otis go adventuring in this Japanese film. In Japan, it was billed as A Kitten’s Story, in which their names were the less-marquee-friendly Chatran and Poosky. Despite run-ins with bears and other critters, it all ends happily with both Milo and Otis happily mated off (to one of their own species not each other!) with a new batch of kittens and puppies.
This winking black cat is a very helpful companion to an alien brother and sister. First, Winkie jumps in when a bully snatches the all-important star case from Tia (Kim Richards). Later, she helps them by jumping on various henchman or making them sneeze. Behold, the power of cat dander! She’s also very useful in finding missing keys. She doesn’t accompany them back to their home planet, but she does get to stay with their kind, grandfatherly friend, Jason (Eddie Albert). Sadly, the sequel was not about Winkie and Jason RVing cross country.
This beautifully shot documentary follows several street cats of Istanbul, including one colorfully named Psikopat, a black-and-white shorthair female who attacks any rival who comes near her mate. These strays prefer to roam free and simply stop in for a free meal now and then with the humans who dote on them. The man who takes care of a cat called Bengu says, “It’s said that cats are aware of God’s existence, but dogs are not. Dogs think people are gods … cats know that people are middlemen to God’s will. They’re not ungrateful. They just know better.”
A stray tabby links these three Stephen King stories. In the first, James Woods goes to the wrong clinic to try to quit smoking. To show him they mean business, they start shocking the cat … and that’s just their first threat! In the second tale, the rich man regards the cat (who survives crossing busy traffic) as his good luck charm as he challenges his wife’s lover to a deadly wager. But the tabby bestows its luck on the lover, not the murderous tycoon. In the last, and most cat-centric story, he makes it his mission to save young Amanda (Drew Barrymore) from a troll that tries to steal her breath every night. Amanda insists the cat stay and calls him “General.” Mom keeps trying to get rid of the cat—until he finally defeats the troll and the parents realize that General is a furry little hero.
American writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) travels to Vienna only to learn that the friend who invited him, Harry Lime (Orson Welles), was just killed in a mysterious accident. Holly tries to court Harry’s girlfriend Anna (Alida Valli), she is understandably cool towards him. When Holly tries to tempt her indifferent kitty with a shoelace, Anna tells him, “He only liked Harry.” So later, when we see the same cat contentedly washing himself in a doorway and playing with a man’s shoelaces, we can guess whose shoes those are. Trivia: Several cats were used in the film, and director Carol Reed had to smear the shoes with salmon oil to get the cat to pay proper attention to them.
This orange kitty is so key to the film, he’s on the poster! Down-on-his-luck folk singer Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is crashing at his friends, the Gorfeins. When he and Ulysses get accidentally locked out, he has no choice but to carry the cat around New York City. Then the cat escapes, but Llewyn spots it on the street and returns it. Except it’s the wrong cat! Eventually, through no help of Llewyn’s, Ulysses makes his way home. Llewyn’s luck, however, continues to be terrible.
Art Carney is widower Harry, who dotes on his cat Tonto. He feeds the cat so well, the local grocer remarks, “Hey, that cat eats better than me.” When Harry is evicted from his Upper West Side apartment, he and Tonto decide to go on the road, eventually ending up in Los Angeles. According to CinemaCats, Harry walking Tonto on a leash was inspired by director Paul Mazursky’s mother, who had a Manx cat that she used to walk in the Village. When Art Carney won a Best Actor Oscar for the film, Mazursky said he thought the cat should have won, as well.
Persian cats in movies are often typecast as spoiled and mean and Duchess is no exception. She lords it over the little pig that he’s not allowed in the house—and breaks it to him that humans like to eat pigs. She even scratches Babe’s nose when Farmer Hoggett allows Babe inside … which results in Duchess being put outside instead! Good thing she never teamed up with sheep dog Rex, who was also wildly jealous of Babe.
This mean, mouse-eating machine (who makes Si and Am look like nice little pussycats) helps make Cinderella’s life miserable, not to mention her friends, Jaq and Gus. According to the Disney Wiki, this fat cat’s look was based on a pet owned by animator Ward Kimball.
In this lesser-known but well-loved Disney movie, a cat lives three lives, beginning as “Thomas” in 1912 Scotland. Once her family realizes she’s a girl, she becomes “Thomasina.” After her first death, she journeys to the afterlife, where she meets all the cats who have already used up their nine lives. They are all turned into Siamese cats and spend eternity with the Egyptian goddess Bastet. But since Thomasina has lived only once, she returns to live twice more, finally reuniting with the little girl who loves her. It was based on the novel Thomasina, the Cat Who Thought She Was God.
Decades before E.T. or Stitch (aka Experiment 626), the cat-like Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4-7 was stranded on earth and needed to repair his ship. His quest was made a lot simpler because he could speak to humans and could convince scientist Frank (Ken Barry) to help him out. The alien (nicknamed “Jake”) could make ordinary things fly, including levitating a motorcycle over a tall fence. It hasn’t quite got the magic of the E.T. bicycle scene, but it’s very handy when you’re trying to escape from a military installation.
A carefree cat ends up working with the FBI on a kidnapping case after his astute owner (Hayley Mills) notices he’s wearing a watch for a collar and it’s got what looks like “Help” scratched into the back. Now if Agent Zeke Kelso (Dean Jones) can just get the cat to go back to the kidnappers’ hideout. And if he can stop sneezing long enough to finish the case! Remade in 1997, with a cameo from Dean Jones.
One of Disney’s more comical villains, the corrupt and cowardly Prince John has usurped the throne while his heroic brother, Richard the Lionhearted, is off fighting the Crusades. When he’s not busy sleeping with his bags of ill-gotten gold, he’s sucking his thumb and calling for his Mommy. Peter Ustinov voiced both lion brothers.
Paul Schrader’s sensual remake of the 1944 film makes explicit the premise that Irina (Nastassja Kinski) turns into a man-eating panther when she becomes sexually aroused. (The transforming cat-creature effects are less than great, alas.) The remake also adds a long-lost brother, Malcolm McDowell, who is the only one she can mate with without having to kill. Since Irina isn’t into incest, her options are to live her life alone, keep killing, or spend a lonely life in a cage as a panther.
Irina, a woman from Eastern Europe (Simone Simon), believes she is one of her country’s feared cat people and will turn into a panther if she ever makes love. Producer Val Lewton was renowned for low-budget horror films that suggested far more than audiences actually ever saw, including the fantastic scene where Irina’s romantic rival, Alice (Jane Randolph), is stalked by something she never sees, but which we absolutely believe is Irina as a cat. Alice’s robe ends up torn to shreds—as does the audience’s nerves. Irina is obsessed with a black panther at the zoo, and her fate is intertwined with his.
The incredibly adorable kitten named Keanu isn’t in this comedy much, but he does inspire the suburban dudes played by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele to impersonate hardcore drug dealers to retrieve him. And, when they do find him, he does look very stylish in the bandana and gold chains his new owner has decked him out in.
Sassy the cat (voiced by Sally Field) is routinely told “Dogs rule, cats drool” by her canine pal Chance (Michael J. Fox). But could a dog have come to Shadow (Don Ameche)’s rescue when he’s captured by animal control on their long trek home? We think not! Happily, they all make it home in one piece, although Sassy has a scare when she’s swept upstream and presumed dead by her companions.
Two dogs and a cat journey hundreds of miles to be reunited with their humans in the heartwarming original Disney version. Syn (who would go on to star in That Darn Cat) is Tao, the Siamese cat who braves encounters with a lynx and a bear—as well as a fateful dunking—to make her way home. The animals don’t talk in this version: Their adventures are narrated by the genial Rex Allen, who also narrated Charlie the Lonesome Cougar.
Church, the gray kitty beloved of Louis (Dale Midkiff)’s children, is hit and killed, like so many other pets, on the incredibly busy street outside their new house. Luckily, his wife and kids are out of town so, it seems like a good idea when neighbor Jud (Fred Gwynne) suggests they bury Church in the nearby pet cemetery, which is known for reviving dead animals. Sure enough, the cat comes back, although he’s clearly not the same animal. When Louis’s son is killed on the same road, he makes an incredibly foolish decision. Realizing he never should have brought the cat or his now homicidal son back, Louis shoots both up with a syringe full of morphine, but that’s hardly the end of the carnage.
This adorable tuxedo kitten (Cleo is the goldfish, in case you get their names confused) was one of Walt Disney’s favorites. After Pinocchio, Walt made him Minnie Mouse’s pet, replacing Fifi the Pekingese. (So much for Pluto’s love interest!) Figaro starred in his own series of cartoon shorts and also appeared in some with Pluto.
One of our favorite Disney orphans is Charlie the cougar, who is taken in and raised by a logger. The poster promises “the exciting adventures of a teen-age mountain lion!” and Charlie gets up to more than his share of mischief, including encounters with a bear and a dog named Chainsaw, who isn’t happy that his owner likes to feed this overgrown kitty on the sly.
A cute kitty named Meowthra wreaks kaiju-like havoc in NINJAGO city while trying to to catch a red laser. It’s all a villain’s horrible plot. Now how can the giant kitty be stopped? Meowthra was actually played by two kitties and some CGI was required, but other than that, the kitty action is all real.
Rajah the tiger is Princess Jasmine’s fierce protector and considers it his duty to chase off unworthy suitors, including, at first, Aladdin. He helps the princess escape from the palace, even though it means being separated. How she could leave with those sad tiger eyes and mournful sighs, we have no idea! Fortunately, they’re soon reunited and Rajah helps defeat the evil Jafar (even if he has to suffer the indignity of being turned into a cub first).
In C.S. Lewis’s fantasy series, the “Great Lion” is kind and wise, but we never forget he is far from tame. In the first film, he allows himself to be sacrificed by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). But, like Jesus (for he is most definitely a Christ allegory), he is resurrected. Liam Neeson took over as the voice of Aslan from Brian Cox, who was originally announced for the role.
It was Bagheera the panther (voiced by Sebastian Cabot) who found Mowgli as a baby and brought him to be raised by a family of wolves. He’s the man cub’s guardian and voice of reason, although his good advice most often goes completely unheeded. For some reason, Mowgli prefers to embrace “the bare necessities” with laid-back pal Baloo the bear. Ben Kingsley took on the role in the 2016 live-action film.
Pity the poor cat actor (the famous Orangey) who had to get soaked for one of the most famous film endings of all time: After Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) declares to Paul (George Peppard) that she won’t belong to anyone and nobody belongs to her, she shoves Cat out of the cab to prove her point. The wet cat gives her a mournful look, which is enough for Paul to go running after it and, thankfully, Holly quickly follows. She finds Cat taking shelter in a box and kisses him—and then kisses Paul as “Moon River” plays over the drenched threesome.
Duchess (elegantly voice by Zsa Zsa Gabor) and her three kittens—Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse—are the cherished pets of elderly Madame Bonfamille. And the sworn enemy of Madame’s butler, Edgar, who wants them out of the way so he can inherit Madame’s fortune. After Edgar dumps Duchess and family in the country, they meet Thomas O’Malley the alley cat (Phil Harris, bringing the same easygoing charm that he brought to Baloo the Bear), who helps them get back home. They also meet O’Malley’s swinging jazz cat friends who belt out “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat.”
“We are si-a-mese if you ple-ease. We are si-a-mese if you don’t please…” If you didn’t walk around warbling this sing-songy tune by the film’s mischievous cats, then you likely never saw this movie as a kid. The two Siamese sisters are the calculating pets of dog-hating Aunt Sarah, who is called on to sit John Dear and Darling’s baby. The two cats immediately make a mess and blame Lady. Like the unfortunately buck-toothed Siamese cat in The AristoCats, they’re a not-so-positive Asian stereotype, but not as egregious as, says, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
A seemingly ordinary cat, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson)’s sidekick is, in reality, a tentacled alien called a Flerken who can devour things about 10 times its size in seconds. Seeing a far less cynical ’90s-era Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) fuss over the kitty is one of the best scenes in the movie. (Spoiler: By the film’s end, the two are no longer best buddies.) Another great Goose moment: The end credit scene where he coughs up the Tesseract he swallowed earlier. Not such a good snack after all.
Since Dr. Evil is a parody of Bond villain Blofeld, he naturally has his own cat. Mr. Bigglesworth is at first a fluffy kitty like in the Bond films, but after surviving cryogenic freezing has become a hairless Sphynx. The Sphynx who played Mr. B reportedly ruined several takes because he was always falling asleep in Mike Myers’ lap. Dr. Evil’s clone Mini-Me has a “Mini Mr. Bigglesworth,” played by a hairless kitten.
Bringing a cat into space maybe isn’t the greatest thing for the cat. There’s no grass to gnaw on, no sun to bathe in, and no birds to chase. Also, there might be a hideous, acid-dripping alien that wants to eat everyone. Happily, the cat survives (along with Sigourney Weaver) for the sequel, having also survived 57 years in hypersleep! That makes Jonesy nearly the oldest cat in the movies—after Binx, who’s been around since the 17th century.
In this supernatural romantic comedy, the Siamese familiar of the witch Gillian (Kim Novak) was played by 12 different cats. As the trainer told The Hollywood Reporter at the time, “You can’t teach one cat do to 12 tricks, but you can teach 12 cats to do one trick each.” When Gillian falls in love, she loses her magical powers, so Pyewacket leaves her, presumably to become another witch’s familiar.
When the fearsome snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escapes from prison, Master Tigress (Angelina Jolie) believes she is the only one who can defeat him. But it’s panda Po (Jack Black) who proves he’s the true Dragon Warrior, defeating Tai Lung and finally earning Tigress’s respect.
A stray tabby cat on the Paramount lot lucked into cinema history when spotted by director Francis Ford Coppola, according to The Godfather Book. “The cat in Marlon’s hands was not planned for,” Coppola explained. “I saw the cat running around the studio, and took it and put it in his hands without a word.” Brando, always the improviser, made the cat a crucial part of the scene. However, the cat’s purring drowned out some of Brando’s sotto voce dialogue, which had to be re-dubbed.
Everyone knows petting a white cat helps you hatch evil plots! The actor playing Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld may have changed with each film, but the character’s fondness for stroking a white Angora cat did not. Blofeld’s cat actually made its appearance before we ever saw Blofeld’s face, and went on to grace the laps of Donald Pleasence, Charles Gray, Telly Savalas, and Max Von Sydow in subsequent Bond films.
As voiced by Denis Leary, Diego is a tough saber-toothed tiger who’s secretly kind of a softie. After new pals Manny and Sid save his life, he chooses to warn them about his pack’s planned ambush, nearly getting himself killed in the process. He’s also deathly afraid of water (like any self-respecting cat), as we learn in Ice Age: The Meltdown. And he finds love (aww) in Ice Age: Continental Drift with Shira (Jennifer Lopez).
When we first meet the tiger, young Pi wants to feed the caged beast. But his father abruptly pulls him aside, saying, “You think that tiger is your friend! He’s an animal, not a playmate.” Pi counters, “Animals have souls,” but his father teaches him a harsh lesson by placing a goat in the tiger’s cage to show how dangerous the beast is. After the ship they are on sinks, Pi and the tiger are the only survivors. They form an uneasy truce in the lifeboat, with Pi catching fish to feed them both. After they both are near death from lack of water and food, he’s finally able to cradle the tiger’s head on his lap. When they find land, Pi is heartbroken that—after all they’ve been through together—the tiger walks into the jungle without even a look back.
Baby the Leopard is one of the reasons this Howard Hawks classic regularly ranks higher than other screwball comedies like the leopard-less My Man Godfrey. The film actually has not one but two leopards, including an escaped circus cat that Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn mistake for their tame Baby (both played by a leopard named Nissa). Grant was reportedly terrified of the big cat and used a stand-in for many of his scenes with Baby.
This lion (Tony winner Ted Ross) sure doesn’t seem cowardly when first meet him bursting out of a lion statue, singing “I’m a Mean Old Lion” and primping in his handheld, fanged mirror. This guy definitely knows he’s the King of the Jungle. Except it’s all a show and he’s just as cowardly as that other guy. Good thing he’s got Dorothy (Diana Ross) to sing “Be a Lion” to him.
This swashbuckling kitty is both suave (since he’s voiced by Antonio Banderas) and impossibly cute. He can bend anyone to his will with his big kitten eyes and even out-cutes a trio of kittens in his spinoff Puss in Boots. In Shrek Forever After, Shrek is shocked to see that Puss has really let himself go in retirement—and no more hat or wee little boots!
When vaudeville star Bert Lahr was warned that he might be typecast in Hollywood, he replied, “Yeah, but how many parts are there for lions?” One of our favorite Cowardly Lion moments: The only thing betraying Scarecrow, The Tin Man and the Lion’s infiltration into the Wicked Witch’s guards? The Lion trying to calm his twitching tail peeking out from under his borrowed uniform.
The supremely hiss-worthy Scar (a perfectly cast Jeremy Irons) is Mufasa’s scheming brother, who plots his death and takes over his kingdom. His villainy doesn’t end there: Having failed to also kill Mufasa’s son, Simba, he cruelly convinces the cub that Mufasa’s death was his fault. Scar’s epic defeat is poetic justice (and quite dark for a Disney film): The hyenas who helped his rise to power now devour him!
This silky smooth tiger is voiced by Oscar-winning Brit George Sanders, and remains one of the most elegant and menacing of all Disney villains. Once he learns there’s a man cub in his jungle, he vows to kill him—after lazily interrogating python Kaa for more information. Idris Elba lent his voice to the 2016 live-action remake, making for an even more sinister king of the jungle.
Based on the best-selling true story of a lioness who was successfully released by George and Joy Adamson into the wilds of Kenya, the film made life-long conversationists of stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, who founded the Born Free Foundation. The studio reportedly wanted to sell the lions used in the film to zoos to make up for production costs, but instead they found a home at George Adamson’s Kora Reserve in Kenya. The movie also gave us the Oscar-winning (if extremely schmaltzy) theme song “Born Free.”
Drawn in the original illustrations as an orange tabby, the perpetually grinning cat became a lot more psychedelic in this Disney adaptation, with pink and purple stripes and glowing yellow eyes. He was voiced by Sterling Holloway, who was also Winnie the Pooh and Kaa in The Jungle Book. In the Tim Burton version, the Cheshire Cat is more sinister-looking: Gray, with big green eyes (like a Keane painting) and sharper teeth in a wider mouth. He was voiced by Stephen Fry, who Burton praises for “capturing a weird kind of floaty, too-focused, creepy… He has this thing of getting up close and just sitting there and staring at you, you know, like a cat. It just kind of sits there.” Burton (gasp!) hates cats
Tiggers, as you know, are “bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!” Tigger (Paul Winchell) first sang “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” in the 1968 Oscar-winning animated short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, which was later combined with two other shorts for this feature-length film. Besides bouncing all over the place, Tigger also warns Pooh about the honey-stealing Heffalumps and Woozles. (Tiggers, by the way, don’t like honey.)
Why is Simba at the top of the list? Well, he is the King of Pride Rock, a legacy passed down from the moment Rafiki proudly presented him to all the animals when he was just a little cub. And he grew up to be a lion his father Mufasa would be proud of, finally facing his fears and his guilt to confront his evil uncle Scar. And there are an awful lot of cats (and dogs) out there named Simba.