The 20 Greatest Cats In Movie History (Before Keanu)

Photo: PHILIP V.CARUSO/REX/Shutterstock.
The kidnapped kitten at the center of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peel's Keanu is about to steal our hearts forever. We'd probably join up with drug dealers to save him too. Theoretically.

But let us not forget the many feline thespians who paved the way for this tiny tabby. Cats, after all, don't just belong in the realm of YouTube videos and Instagram. They have a great and storied history in the cinema, dating back to Thomas Edison's first experiments in moving pictures. Then there was something of a golden age of cats in Hollywood from the '50s through the '70s, when cats slinked onto the screen in grown-up films like Breakfast at Tiffany's and practically every animated movie of the era.

Naturally, there have also been some box-office duds in this catalog (looking at you, Garfield), but we'll channel our feline friends here and ignore the existence of such failures (although it's harder to forget that one of our childhood faves, The Adventures of Milo & Otis, supposedly involved considerable animal cruelty.) Ahead, we honor the 20 best cats in movies.
1 of 20
Professor Welton's Boxing Cats (1894)

The first cat video of all time was shot by none other than Thomas Edison in his New Jersey studio. We can still watch those champs go at it on a loop, more than 120 years later, though it would be nice if we knew their names.
2 of 20
The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland (1951)

It's hard to imagine any cat we've seen grinning like the Cheshire in any of his onscreen incarnations, but his disappearing act and nonchalant riddles perfectly illustrate the feline attitude as it pertains to petty human problems.

Watch Alice in Wonderland on Amazon.
3 of 20
Si and Am, Lady and the Tramp (1955)

So, we included these crafty kitties to remind everyone of 1) how racist Disney movies used to be, and 2) despite this awful Orientalist treatment, these cats seem kind of awesome. Bold move, trashing the place and blaming everything on that sappy little dog.

Watch Lady and the Tramp on iTunes.
4 of 20
Pyewacket, Bell, Book and Candle (1958)

Gillian's (Kim Novak) familiar, another Siamese, is a great asset when helping her cast a love spell on her frenemy's fiancé (Jimmy Stewart). Sometimes a magical feline friend makes the best wingman.

Watch Bell, Book and Candle on DVD.
5 of 20
Cat, Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

This ginger is amazingly tolerant of his, er, roommate Holly Golightly, her raging parties, and her refusal to name him. It's a wonder he comes back to her after she abandons him in an alley on her way to a better life. A less forgiving creature would have tried his luck with someone new.

Watch Breakfast at Tiffany's on Amazon.
6 of 20
Mewsette, Gay Purr-ee (1962)

If, like us, you had never heard of this animated feature (voiced by Judy Garland and Robert Goulet) until this moment, your reaction to watching this trailer might be, "What the actual f...?!?" But who better to play a country girl making it in the big city but Garland?

Watch Gay Purr-ee on Amazon.
7 of 20
DC, That Darn Cat (1965)

The multiple Siamese cats who play DC (Darn Cat) are beautiful specimens of the breed. At the same time, they're also the poster pets for outdoor cats, who get to roam free and enjoy adventurous lives away from their so-called owners — you know, knocking up the neighbor's Persian, helping to save a kidnapped lady from fugitive bank robbers, the usual stuff.

Watch That Darn Cat on DVD.
8 of 20
Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley, The Aristocats (1970)

This rugged, seductive (for real, why did Disney movies of a certain era give cartoon animals sex appeal? It's so confusing to developing minds!) alley cat was quite the hero to posh, displaced Duchess and her kittens. Voiced by Phil Harris (who also was Baloo in the Jungle Book and Little John in Robin Hood), this cat could sing too.

Watch The Aristocats on YouTube.
9 of 20
Fritz, Fritz the Cat (1972)

So, the adventures of this counter-culture cat (originally from a Robert Crum comic) were actually rated 'X' when they hit the screen. That's what happens when you anthropomorphize animals this much (the female cats have boobs! Which, gross.) On the other hand, we've really got to applaud the way this guy blazed the path for all those cats you hear yowling away on any given summer night. Free love, man.

Watch Fritz the Cat on DVD.
10 of 20
Tonto, Harry and Tonto (1974)

You wouldn't automatically think of a cat as the perfect cross-country traveling companion until you saw this movie about an older man (Art Carney), who gets evicted from his New York City apartment and makes his way to Los Angeles (visiting his children and assorted other characters) with his leashed buddy in tow.

Watch Harry and Tonto on Netflix.
11 of 20
Jake (a.k.a. Zunar-J-5/9 Doric-4-7), The Cat from Outerspace (1978)

Haven't you always kind of suspected that cats aren't actually of this world? Talking alien cat Jake and his telekinetic collar don't seem all that fantastical.

Watch The Cat From Outerspace on YouTube.
12 of 20
Jones, Alien (1979)

We'd question the wisdom of keeping a cat on a spaceship, but, unlike Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), we're not rocket scientists. Her pet is of no interest to the Alien attacking the Nostromo, which makes us wonder about the real origin story of this space kitty.

Watch Alien on Amazon.
13 of 20
Dragon, The Secret of NIMH (1982)

This movie was one of our childhood faves, and its story of lab rat experimentation gone wrong has probably inspired a few generations of animal rights activists. As adults, however, we might be inclined to take the side of grisly, mean farm cat Dragon, who's really just doing his part to control an infestation of mice and rats in his territory.

Watch The Secret of NIMH on Amazon.
14 of 20
Catbus, My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Cats are lots of things to lots of people. This is the first time we've seen one so accommodating you could commute comfortably inside him and never worry about the traffic again.

Watch My Neighbor Totoro on DVD.
15 of 20
Sassy, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)

We do not recommend revisiting this movie, as it's actually a bit disturbing to watch animals being voiced by Michael J. Fox, Don Ameche, and Sally Field (she's the cat, of course). Allow the childhood recollection of this film to remain untouched, and consider this film a great service to any child whose cat has gone missing. She's really just trekking across a mountain range to get back to you, kid. Don't worry!

Watch Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey on YouTube.
16 of 20
Orion, Men in Black (1997)

This loyal companion couldn't bear to leave his owner's side, accompanying the disguised alien all the way to the morgue. The fact that he is keeping an entire galaxy safe in his collar is beside the point.

Watch Men in Black on Amazon Prime.
17 of 20
Mr. Bigglesworth, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Due to "feline complications" in being cryogenically frozen and then reanimated, Dr. Evil's white Persian lost all his hair (although he now seems much better suited to being an villainous sidekick).

Watch Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery on YouTube.
18 of 20
Mr. Jinx, Meet the Parents (2000)

Not only is Jack's (Robert De Niro) Himalayan extremely well trained at using the toilet and waving, he's also quite good at sniffing out and exposing any possible weaknesses of his owner's daughter's suitors. He would make the ideal companion for any parent of a teenager.

Watch Meet the Parents on Netflix.
19 of 20
Puss in Boots, Shrek 2 (2004)

This swashbuckling cat (hammily voiced by Antonio Banderas) straddles so many identities — is he a hero or is he a villain? Is he a cat or an anthropomorphized cat? The fact that he really is still a cat is why we love him most. Also, those eyes.

Watch Shrek 2 on Amazon.
20 of 20
Crookshanks, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

This fearless half-kneazle's intelligence and instincts get Harry, Hermione, and Ron out of more than one sticky situation. He's not exactly a lap-cat, but who in this world has time to sit around?

Watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on Amazon.

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