In honor of the new movie Keanu and the downright adorable kitten costar, we are listing the 50 best cats from film and TV, ranked by their performances.
Dealing with cat actors can be tricky.
…but they’re damn cute, so we’re willing to put up with them. Here is the official ranking of the 50 Best Purrrformances* by Cats from Film and TV.
(*and we hope you’re okay with the pun, because you’ll be seeing it exactly 50 more times)
50. Crookshanks (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2007)
Purrrformance: Kicking off our ranking, we have Hermione Granger’s pet cat Crookshanks. Crookshanks is given plenty of scenery to literally chew on here, but unfortunately, he underplays the scene with a lack of overall energy, and for that, he just barely sneaks in to our list at Number 50.
49. Pumpkin (The Heat, 2013)
Purrrformance: Pumpkin isn’t given much to do in this movie besides showcase Agent Ashburn’s (Sandra Bullock) loneliness, but we have to give the cat props for going the extra mile and putting on an impressive three pounds for the role.
48. Black Cat (Scary Movie 2, 2001)
Purrformance: In his epic cat fight with Cindy (Anna Faris), this black cat puts in an undeniably scene-stealing performance. However, close analysis shows that he did indeed use stunt-cats and puppet body doubles during many of the more demanding shots of this fight, and for that we had keep him back at Number 48.
47. Garfield (Garfield, 2004)
Purrrformance: Being an entirely computer-generated creation, we aren’t able to fairly judge this cat’s performance against the others on this list. However, Garfield is still voiced by the legendary Bill Murray, and his vocal performance as the infamous cartoon lasagna-lover is so spot-on we felt he was worth inclusion.
46. Sprinkles (The Office)
Purrrformance: Portraying a dying cat on the last of her nine lives is difficult, especially one that is in constant need of insulin, ace inhibitors, and a variety of pills, so we felt Sprinkles was worthy of recognition, even in her brief role. Though Dwight is to blame for Sprinkle’s death – it is worth noting that Angela isn’t exactly the most caring pet-owner herself.
45. Smelly Cat (Friends)
Purrrformance: A true method actor, it is rumored that Smelly Cat lived in the gutters of New York City for weeks in preparation of his big role in the official Smelly Cat music video.
44. Kitty (Drag Me To Hell, 2009)
Purrrformance: An undeniably cute cat, this kitten really makes you feel for her when she is regrettably sacrificed by Christine (Alison Lohman) in an attempt to appease the evil demon who is after her. Unfortunately, the sacrifice is not successful, but at least the demon was nice enough to give the cat back.
43. Agent Jack Bauer (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)
Purrrformance: Playing a junkyard-cat-turned-dirty-cop is a tough part; it takes a special talent to capture the moral complexity and imposing physicality of such a character. Agent Jack Bauer not only nails the role, but even gives the famous Counter-Terrorist Agent of whom he is named after a run for his money.
42. Toonces the Driving Cat (Saturday Night Live)
Purrrformance: Being a Saturday Night Live cast member is a hard job, especially when you have to compete with the comedic chops of legends like Steve Martin. Toonces manages to hold his own though, and completely commits to the absurd premise of this driving cat character, perhaps never more so than in this iconic “Toonces Without a Cause” sketch.
41. The Deja Vu Cat (The Matrix, 1999)
Purrrformance: Portraying a cat who is actually just a glitch in a program created by machines to keep humans ignorant to their true role as mere batteries in a dystopian future is one thing, but to convincingly pull it off twice? Now that’s the sign of an actor who knows his craft.
40. Church (Pet Sematary, 1989)
Purrrformance: Cats don’t get much more terrifying than Church, the risen-from-the-grave cat responsible for a whole lot of mayhem and bloodshed. This cat’s performance is so frightening it makes Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining look like it belongs in a Meow Mix commercial.
39. Meatball (Anger Management, 2003)
Purrrformance: Not every display of acting needs to be dramatic or over-the-top; in fact, a truly gifted thespian can communicate emotion just as effectively through stillness. Look at how Meatball uses the motionless jutting of his limbs for comedic effect, all the while conveying the pathos of his character with only his eyes. A true Brando in the making.
38. Duck (Constantine, 2005)
Purrrformance: Here is another performance that all comes down to the eyes. We, as the audience, have to truly believe in this moment that Duck the Cat is transporting John Constantine, played by Keanu Reeves, into hell through the sheer power of his gaze. It’s a rather absurd premise for a scene, but through sheer force of will and undeniable acting chops, Duck makes us believe it.
37. Egyptian Cat (The Mummy, 1999)
Purrrformance: Here we have yet another performance predicated on the supernatural connection cats are said to have with the underworld. In this scene, the stray Egyptian Cat is used to frighten away the villainous Mummy before he claims another victim. Spoiler: It works.
36. Bleecker (Gone Girl, 2014)
Purrrformance: You have to feel a little sorry for Bleecker (played by wizened showbiz cat Cheeto) for booking a gig with director David Fincher, a notorious perfectionist who commonly films up to 100 takes per shot. We applaud Cheeto for sticking through it, because he plays a key role as an inside witness into the seriously warped marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne.
35. Isis (Star Trek)
Purrrformance: Though initially the mysterious cat Isis is welcomed by the Enterprise crew as a harmless shipmate, it is ultimately revealed that the cat is far more than it appears when it transforms into a full-grown woman. This shocking Fight Club-esque twist only works because of Isis’s skillfully layered performance.
34. Stray Cat (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2011)
Purrrformance: Another feline performance that has to be commended for dealing with David Fincher’s eccentric demands behind the camera, this Stray Cat also gets bonus points for impressively holding her own against the acting expertise of Daniel Craig, and for pulling off her tragic death scene with style and aplomb.
33. DC or “Darn Cat” (That Darn Cat!, 1965)
Purrrformance: From the opening scene of this 1965 classic, it’s clear we are in the presence of a performance of astonishing confidence. The way DC swaggers around the streets like he owns the place – messing with dogs, meowing up kittens, eating whatever he likes – paved the way for future roguish characters like Han Solo and Indiana Jones, and for that we are thankful.
32. Tesla’s Cat (The Prestige, 2006)
Purrrformance: This cat wasn’t actually electrocuted on set, but he makes you believe that he was, which is quite the achievement. He was also lucky enough to share the screen with David Bowie as Nikola Tesla.
31. Salem (Sabrina the Teenage Witch)
Purrrformance: A magical talking cat, Salem is relentlessly snarky, always quick to undermine Sabrina with a sarcastic remark or ironic quip. Like Kramer and Frasier before him, Salem went from a supporting player to the show’s audience favorite.
30. Suzy’s Cat (Moonrise Kingdom, 2012)
Purrrformance: When Suzy runs away with Khaki Scout Sam, she brings along all the essentials: science fiction books, binoculars, a cassette player, left-handed scissors, and of course her small kitten. Working with child actors is notoriously tough, but this cat makes it look like a cakewalk.
29. Molly’s Cat (Ghost, 1990)
Purrrformance: In Ghost, Sam and Molly hit a rough patch in their relationship when Sam is killed in a mugging. Fortunately, Sam is still able to communicate to Molly through her cat, who can see him in his ghost form. Though he is extremely helpful in a pinch, he will never be able to replace Sam in the sexy pottery department.
28. Skippy (The Boondock Saints, 1999)
Purrrformance: In one of the most famous (and shocking) cat-death-scenes in cinema history, the accidental shooting of Skippy the Cat by Rocco remains a controversial moment, even among the film’s many die-hard fans. Still, you have to give the cat credit: he completely committed to the role.
27. Fluffy (The Brady Bunch)
Purrrformance: The Brady Bunch’s fiercely independent pet cat Fluffy, who defiantly demanded to live outside in a doghouse regardless of what society thought of it, was regrettably cut from the show after only the pilot episode and replaced with a dog named Tiger. A tragic blow for this talented performer’s career.
26. Grumpy Cat (Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, 2014)
Purrrformance: From humble beginnings as an internet meme, Grumpy Cat (born name: Tarder Sauce) took advantage of her wave of internet stardom to land a starring role in her own Lifetime Original Movie (voiced by none other than Aubrey Plaza). Just like Dirk Diggler before her, Grumpy Cat has adopted her new stage name onscreen and off, and refuses to ever break character.
25. Binx (Hocus Pocus, 1993)
Purrrformance: A young man transformed by witches into an immortal black cat, Binx had a complicated role: He had to capture both the awkwardness of a human trapped in a cat’s body, and the wisdom of a cat who has been alive for 300 years. The result is a remarkably nuanced performance, one which was unjustly ignored by Academy Voters during Awards Season.
24. Milo (The Adventures of Milo and Otis, 1986)
Purrrformance: This Japanese family film (redubbed in English for its North American release) is the subject of much controversy among animal rights groups, who allege that the filmmakers engaged in acts of animal cruelty during filming. Still, you can’t argue with the results – just look at this scene where Milo interacts with various creatures, from birds to crabs. It’s bold, risky scenes like these you just don’t see attempted by haughty American cats.
23. Snowbell (Stuart Little, 1999)
Purrrformance: The fact that Snowbell was able to make it through two whole features without eating his surely-delicious rodent co-star alone is enough to earn him a spot on his list. You don’t encounter such fancy feats of admirable restraint everyday.
22. Miss Kitty Fantastico (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Purrrformance: Hands down the best name on this list, Miss Kitty Fantastico proves herself to be more than just a great name over the course of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s 7 season run…though to be honest, she really just made this list for the name.
21. Buttercup (The Hunger Games Series, 2012 – 2016)
Purrrformance: In her big tearjerker moment in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Buttercup faces down a screaming, emotionally unstable Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), beautifully keeping up with her talented costar beat-for-beat until there isn’t a dry eye in audience. If there is a Meryl Streep of cats, this is it.
20. Fat Louie (The Princess Diaries, 2001)
Purrrformance: The Princess Diaries was not only the debut of actress Anne Hathaway, but also her pet in real life, Fat Louie – which is why their onscreen chemistry feels so realistic. Though Fat Louie was provided with three stunt doubles during filming (for scenes where he 1. had to be carried, 2. had to jump, and 3. had to perform tricks), those scenes of Fat Louie sitting still are all him.
19. The Panthers (Team America: World Police, 2004)
Purrrformance: It’s challenging to portray a character of a completely different species than your own, let alone in a movie where you are acting against, well, puppets. So hats off to these two cats who really let the claws out in their brief but powerful scene.
18. Stray Cat (American Psycho, 2000)
Purrrformance: Patrick Bateman is a man who loves a proper fitness routine, expensive suits, nice business cards, the occasional killing spree, and of course the classic feeding stray cats into ATM machines. Don’t worry, the cat escapes any harm…but he definitely has you worried for a second there.
17. Jake (The Cat From Outer Space, 1978)
Purrrformance: Appropriately detached and foreign to normal Earth-dwelling cat behavior, Jake the Space Cat truly sells his out-of-this-world nature – even though it is never revealed where he is really from. Our guess: the Milky Way.
16. Butch (The Incredible Shrinking Man, 1957)
Purrrformance: When the tables are turned on pet-owner-turned-shrunken-man Scott, his cat Butch relishes the opportunity to treat his former master like mere catnip, a toy to play with and torment. It’s a larger-than-life portrait of villainy and unchecked power that is sure to leave you with nightmares during your next cat nap.
15. Sassy (Homeward Bound, 1993)
Purrrformance: Years before Leo got acclaim for his punishing physical performance in The Revenant, Sassy the Cat performed similar feats, letting herself get swooped away by a wild river before tumbling down a waterfall all in the name of art. Where’s all the clamoring for her Oscar?
14. Mr. Bigglesworth (Austin Powers, 1997)
Purrrformance: Much like Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver before him and Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta after him, Mr. Bigglesworth in Austin Powers bravely conveys his psychological transformation by shaving off all of his hair. At least hairballs won’t be a problem for him anymore.
13. General Sterling Price (True Grit, 1969)
Purrrformance: “General Price don’t belong to me. Cats don’t belong to nobody. He just roams with me.” With that line, cinema icon John Wayne (as cowboy Rooster Cogburn) perfectly described the condition of having a cat who chooses to roam with you, and the mutual respect that implies.
12. Blanche (Hausu, 1977)
Purrrformance: A demon cat who torments seven schoolgirls when they visit a creepy old house in the Japanese countryside, Blanche may be cute and cuddly on the surface, but underneath she is pure evil. In addition to her spooky inclinations, Blanche is also a very talented piano player.
11. Keanu (Keanu, 2016)
Purrrformance: The inspiration for this entire list, the cutest cat you’ll ever meet: Keanu. Named after John Wick star Keanu Reeves, this cat is so adorable (whether he’s going all-natural or rocking the gangster look), who wouldn’t be willing to risk their lives by infiltrating a dangerous gang to get him back?
10. The Griswald Cat (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, 1989)
Purrrformance: This is the kind of performance that really lights up a room with laughter. Put a cat with this much comedic talent in a room with Chevy Chase, and just watch the sparks fly.
9. Orion (Men in Black, 1997)
Purrrformance: This cat literally carries an entire universe around with him at all times. That’s a lot of responsibility for one cat, but when you look into Orion’s no-nonsense eyes, you know he’s up to the task.
8. Hungry Cat (The Long Goodbye, 1973)
Purrrformance: The undisputed Feline Fatale of Film Noir, the adored cat of famed literary detective Philip Marlowe dominates the first 10 minutes of this classic Raymond Chandler adaptation. While most big screen cats are woven into the narrative, in this movie the complex crime plot is not even allowed to begin until Marlowe’s cat gets his favorite brand of cat food.
7. Blofeld’s Persian Cat (The James Bond Series)
Purrrformance: Appearing in several James Bond films over the years including From Russia With Love to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and even in the recent Spectre, Blofeld’s Persian cat has not only become a staple of the franchise, but has worked its way into pop culture as a defining symbol of villainy. Look at the way he coldly watches as a woman is ripped apart by piranhas. Just chilling.
6. Cat (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961)
Purrrformance: The second appearance of famed Movie Star Cat Orangey on this list, he outdoes his frightening role in The Incredible Shrinking Man here with with a powerhouse performance as the cat of Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) named…Cat. When people think of this movie today, they think of two things: Hepburn’s little black dress, and her delightful cat roaming freely around her apartment during a party.
5. Jinx (Meet the Parents, 2000)
Purrrformance: Jinx, or Jinxy Cat, is the most well-trained house cat you’ll ever encounter: he’ll come when you call him, jump into your arms on command, and can even use (and flush!) the toilet all on his own. No litter box required. Just don’t try and milk him.
4. Jinx the Impostor (Meet the Parents, 2000)
Purrrformance: When Greg (Ben Stiller) accidentally loses the real Jinxy Cat, he has no choice but to purchase a fake cat who looks just like Jinx. The problem: this new cat has a white tail. Nothing a can of black spray paint can’t fix. Not every cat would be willing to go the controversial route of wearing Black Tail for a movie nowadays, and we commend him for taking that risk.
3. Vito’s Cat (The Godfather, 1972)
Purrrformance: Now here’s a true Hollywood Cinderella Story for you. On the day of filming this iconic scene, director Francis Ford Coppola found a stray cat on the Paramount lot and decided to put it in the movie to add another layer to Vito Corleone’s character. Despite having no experience, no professional training and no prep time, this right-place-at-the-right-time cat played the part wonderfully, and found himself instantly catapulted from the streets to the red carpet.
2. Ulysses (Inside Llewyn Davis, 2013)
Purrrformance: Just a hairball shy of the top spot is Ulysses, the wide-eyed cat from Inside Llewyn Davis. The scene where he rides a NYC subway for the first time, learning about the vast and magnificent city he has been shut out from his entire life, is a tour de force performance, bringing the viewer back to their own childhood when life was simpler, and the world was still filled with wonder.
1. Jonesy (Alien, 1979)
Purrrformance: Here it is, the crème de la cat, the unparalleled pussy, the cat’s pajamas himself: Jonesy. In a movie filled with cold spaceship interiors and gross chest-bursting aliens, one cat rose above it all and stole America’s heart. Just look at his stand-out scene where he comes face-to-face with the titular xenomorph: we feel the alien’s presence before it even enters frame thanks to Jonesy’s quivering whiskers and we understand its terrifying power through Jonesy’s unblinking gaze. When it comes to cats in film & TV, this is as close as we’ll get to a purrrrfect performance.