Jayne Nelson counts down the best kitties ever committed to celluloid…
If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that you like cats (and we like cats, too!). As the big screen has seen its fair share of some (mostly) awesome moggies, that’s excuse enough for us to celebrate the release of Black Panther with – yes, we’re totally owning it – a countdown of the most memorable feline movie stars! We knew it was doubtful we’d see Chadwick Boseman playing with a ball of twine in Black Panther, and the same goes for most of our list here.
Thomas O’Malley (The Aristocats, 1970)
This scruffy, streetwise moggie gets to romance the spoiled, superbly upper-class Parisian Duchess when she finds herself and her kittens in unfamiliar back-alley territory after being kidnapped. The jazz-loving Thomas, voiced with chocolate-smooth charm by Phil Harris (who also voiced Baloo the bear in The Jungle Book), gets to sing, strut and generally prove he’s the top cat in town – all while protecting Duchess and her babies from the big, bad world. And who couldn’t love him for it? We do rather suspect he’s not housetrained, though…
Garfield (Garfield The Movie, 2004)
Okay, so this film won’t be inducted into the Cinema Hall of Fame 100 years from now. But it does have one thing going for it: Garfield, the lazy, lasagne-loving, Monday-hating cartoon cat. Sure, he looks weird in CGI, but what’s important is that he’s voiced by none other than Bill Murray. You can almost hear in Murray’s voice that he, too, is lazy, lasagne-loving and really hates Mondays, and that makes his Garfield absolutely purrrfect (just don’t mention it to Murray: he later said he hated the film).
Church (Pet Sematary, 1989)
Named for Winston Churchill, this cat had the misfortune to come a cropper under the wheels of a passing vehicle when his human family rather thoughtlessly moved next door to a busy highway. Rather than simply buying a new kitten and keeping it indoors, daddy buries the mangled cat in a handy Native American burial ground nearby… and Church is reanimated. Of course, he’s a murderous, bitey, scratchy bastard, but then most cats are anyway, so no difference. He’s also the taster of what’s to come when the family’s toddler gets squished…
Jiji (Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1989)
Studio Ghibli has gifted us several glorious kitties over the years – most notably in 2002’s The Cat Returns – but we’ve chosen little Jiji from this adorable coming-of-age ’toon. The reason? Jiji starts the film as Kiki‘s faithful familiar, who not only helps her out but talks. Yet he gradually becomes fully feline again after befriending a pretty lady kitty, and isn’t that just like a cat to abandon its ‘owner’ for someone better, without a second thought? Full marks for characterisation there! Mind you, he befriends Kiki again at the end, so he’s not that shallow.
Every lion (Roar, 1981)
Telling the story of a house invaded by lions, Roar‘s lengthy production – it took more than a decade to bring to the screen – eventually resulted in more than a hundred injuries from actual lions attacking actual people and causing actual damage! This included actress Melanie Griffith, who had to have stitches on her face after being mauled, and cinematographer Jan de Bont, who was all but scalped. Roar goes down in history as one of the most dangerous film shoots ever – but hey, the lions were just being friendly, weren’t they? Nobody, like, died. Sheesh.
Jonesy (Alien, 1979)
Was ginger ship’s cat Jonesy in league with the Xenomorph that was so memorably released onto the Nostromo? It’s easy to imagine – the Alien doesn’t eat him, after all, when he finds the terrified kitty in his carry-case in a hallway. And so many people died while searching for the mog: was Jonesy luring them to their deaths? We may never know, but we do know that Jonesy, aka the “little shit-head”, got to sit out Ripley’s next encounter in Aliens. Lucky or what?
Crookshanks (The Harry Potter series)
Poor Crookshanks began his time at Hogwarts maligned by all except Hermione, who steadfastly defended her familiar from accusations of rat-eating and general mardiness towards red-headed Weasleys. But as time went on, we learned that not only was Crookshanks helping out escaped convict Sirius Black behind everybody’s backs (Sirius was a good guy, after all) but the cat had sniffed out the fact that Ron’s rat was really a human-shaped total bastard. Was Crookshanks all cat, or was he part kneazle (an intelligent magical creature)? Either way, he rocked.
Si and Am (Lady And The Tramp, 1955)
“We are Siamese if you please… we are Siamese if you don’t please…” These two sneaky cats almost stole the show in Lady And The Tramp (well, if you excuse that iconic bit of shared spaghetti). Emerging with creepy elegance from a basket and proceeding to destroy the house in their search for a nice juicy goldfish – while Lady desperately tries to stop them – the havoc they wrought ended up being blamed on the poor dog. Bonus points for synchronised nastiness.
Shere Khan (The Jungle Book, 1967/2016)
In the ’60s Disney cartoon, Shere Khan was voiced by the oh-so-frightfully British and respectable George Sanders, bringing some class to a jungle otherwise inhabited by dancing bears and monkeys. The Shere Khan in the 2016 live-action remake, however, was voiced by Idris Elba, who turned this plum-voiced smoothie into a deadly, terrifying killer – the kind of cat you’d expect to play with you for a looooong time before the final bite. And you know what? They’re both brilliant. We know who’d win in a fight, though.
Simba (The Lion King, 1994)
Simba was us. At first he was carefree and bossy; then he learned the harsh lessons of life and grew up fast; then he wanted to hang out with his best buddies and chill; and then he realised he had to get up off his furry butt and sort out his career. And he did pretty damn well at it, too, seeing off evil Scar and saving the Pridelands. Although how he grew so big and strong eating nothing but bugs and fruit like his warthog and meerkat friends, we’ll never know.