Since the days of Lumiere, the film industry has searched for the perfect felines to fill the critical roles in their most important movies. It’s easy to see why: They constantly steal the scene and, in the process, our hearts. Join us now, on the day that Key and Peele’s Keanu brings new visibility and range to the world of thespian cats, as we celebrate 16 four-legged masters who deserve their own Oscar category.
These are the cats that inspire us. These are the cats that make life worth living. These are the greatest cat performances in the history of cinema.
16. GARFIELD – GARFIELD
Garfield may be the most famous cat in Hollywood, but he’s certainly not the hardest working. His work ethic has caused problems on set, and his lasagna addiction has been known to spill over from the screen and into his personal life. He’s like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, without the attempt to make things right.
15. AUNT BETHANY’S CAT – CHRISTMAS VACATION
Maybe one of the most underrated cat performances belongs to this little guy in the classic holiday film Christmas Vacation. His physical comedy inside that wrapped gift box rivals that of the Three Stooges, and his electrocution scene is one of the most memorable moments in cat film. Very few have been able to match his impact with so little time onscreen.
14. SASSY THE CAT – HOMEWARD BOUND
Everyone knows dogs are the divas of animal Hollywood. There are always contract negotiations and demands that make working with them more trouble than it’s worth. So when you consider that Sassy had to share the screen with two dogs in the family hit Homeward Bound, it makes her performance that much more astonishing. She changed the views in Hollywood and broke down walls that had held back cats for decades.
13. HOLLY GOLIGHTLY’S CAT – BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S
Some people enjoy Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the unforgettable performance of Audrey Hepburn, or the charming role of Paul Varjak, played by George Peppard, but most film buffs know the real reason to constantly revisit the film is the performance of the unnamed cat. He doesn’t need all the recognition and hype. He came in, did his job and let the art speak for itself.
12. PUSS IN BOOTS – SHREK 2
Antonio Bandares proved that cats aren’t just eye candy in the Shrek sequel that spun off into a full-length feature of its own and became a global phenomenon. Air Bud doesn’t even have the kind of box office power that Puss in Boots showed off. It was a performance that may have turned the tide from dogs to cats for good.
11. DON CORLEONE’S CAT – THE GODFATHER
If the only animal you think about in The Godfather is the decapitated horse, then you clearly aren’t a true cineaste. During Don Corleone’s iconic speech, he can be seen holding his cat that absolutely nails his mark and stays in a dramatic pose the entire time. The film wouldn’t be what it is today without that cat’s performance.
10. MR. BIGGLESWORTH – AUSTIN POWERS
It’s hard to play a part that’s basically a parody of a popular role and do anything memorable with it. But Mr. Bigglesworth—that is, the fluffy longhair and the Egyptian Sphinx who collectively played him—does just that by embracing the role and taking it to a level never before seen in any of the Bond films. There are so many subtleties and nuances that make his performance one that actors of all ages and species can learn from.
9. ORION – MEN IN BLACK
Shockingly, Orion had very little experience in Hollywood before landing the blockbuster role in Men in Black. He was working a day job and barely getting by before a friend suggested he give it one last shot and audition as Will Smith’s co-star. Of course he took the advice, and the rest is history. His performance is so raw and passionate that some believe Tommy Lee Jones asked for scenes to be cut out so he wouldn’t look like a terrible actor next to Orion.
8. MR. JINX – MEET THE PARENTS
Mr. Jinx has been described as the Daniel Day Lewis of cats, and rightfully so. Learning skills like flushing a toilet and shaking hands seemed impossible for many, but for Mr. Jinx, hard work comes with the craft. Clearly it paid off: Two sequels followed, opening the door for Mr. Jinx to take on whatever projects he wanted and eventually founding his own production studio, JinxWorx.
7. JONES THE CAT – ALIEN/ALIENS
Have you ever seen a more fearless and daring performance by a cat than Jonesy? Ridley Scott’s shoot was grueling and exhausting, but Jones was right there giving 110 percent on every single take and turning what would have been just another sci-fi movie into one of the greatest pieces of horror cinema moviegoers have ever experienced.
6. CHESHIRE CAT – ALICE IN WONDERLAND
It takes a lot of hard work and determination to be an iconic character and appear on numerous pieces of clothing in both the Disney Store and Hot Topic, but the Cheshire Cat has done just that.
5. OLIVER – OLIVER AND COMPANY
No one gave Oliver much of a chance when the film was announced. He was relatively unknown and going up against numerous Hollywood heavyweights, but with his heartfelt and honest performance he paved the way for young, aspiring cats to know that they don’t have to come from a recognizable family or name to become a star. All they need to do is dare to dream.
4. THE MOTT STREET MAULERS – AN AMERICAN TAIL
Everyone loves the performance Fivel gave the world, but what many of us fail to realize is that he would have been nothing without the group of cats that pushed him to another level in his acting. Fivel sang about there being no cats in America; thank goodness he was wrong.
3. MINI ME’S CAT – AUSTIN POWERS
Mr. Bigglesworth had the pressure of living up to the Bond cat hype. That was one thing. But Mini Me’s cat had to come in and hold his own onscreen next to a now iconic cat and Verne Troyer. If you ask any young cat actor who inspired him to get into acting, this is the one name that will come up every single time.
2. CHURCH – PET SEMATARY
Church is maybe the only cat that has brought me to tears out of sheer terror and fear. His range is absolutely exceptional. Do you realize how difficult it is to play the part of the loving family cat and then, in an instant, turn around and play an undead, murdering beast that now hates his loving family? This is why acting is considered art.
1. MILO – THE ADVENTURES OF MILO AND OTIS
Milo is the only cat who was more than likely murdered by the filmmakers during his performance, so it would be really tacky to put anyone else in the top spot. Rest in peace, sweet angel. Watching your movie as a child was delightful, but, as an adult, it will haunt me forever.