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.
100. Mr. Bitey, Kick-Ass (2010)
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?
99. Kitten, Trainspotting (1996)
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.”
98. “Déju vu” cat, The Matrix (1999)
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.
97. ATM kitty, American Psycho (2000)
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!
96. Alley cat, Walk on the Wild Side (1962))
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.
95. Black Cat, The Legend of Hell House (1973)
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.
94. Kitten, La Dolce Vita (1960)
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.
93. Escaped leopard, The Leopard Man (1943)
From the terrific producer-director team of Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, Curse of the Demon): A black leopard who was brought in as a publicity stunt for a singer escapes?and begins killing people in a small New Mexico town. The hunt is on to capture the leopard before he can kill again, but he’s not the only predator on the loose.
92. Floyd, Ghost (1990)
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.
91. Garfield, Garfield (2004)
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.
90. Mr. Tinkles, Cats & Dogs (2001)
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.
89. Leo the MGM lion
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.
88. Buttercup, The Hunger Games (2012)
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.
87. Lota the Panther Woman, Island of Lost Souls (1932)
In the first film adaptation of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, a British man is lured to the island with the idea that he’ll mate with Lota (Kathleen Burke), the most successful animal-human hybrid bred by Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) yet. He learns of the doctor’s cruel experiments and wants to flee with Lota, only realizing that she is not fully human after seeing her long claws. The doctor laments that the “beast flesh” in her is “creeping back.” In subsequent adaptations, the character was played by Barbara Carreras (and named Maria) and Fairuza Balk (and named Aissa).
86. Charles and Mary Brady, Sleepwalkers (1992)
A lesser Stephen King tale written directly for the screen features a mother and son who are actually cat-like, shape-shifting creatures called Sleepwalkers. Poor Tanya (Mädchen Amick) accepts a date with the son, not realizing she’s going to be dinner for his mother. There are plenty of ordinary cats in the film as well, including the deputy sheriff’s cat Clovis, who rides shotgun in the squad car and helps take down the villains. Good work, Clovis!
85. The Black Cat (1981)
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!
84. Eye of the Cat (1969)
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?
83. Cat, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
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.”
82. Kitten, Day for Night (1973)
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!
81. Wild cats, Roar (1981)
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.
80. Marty, Elle (2016)
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.
79. Rhubarb, Rhubarb (1951)
?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.
78. Frankie, A Bucket of Blood (1959)
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.
77. Fred the One-Eyed Cat, Gifted (2017)
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.
76. Black Cat, Tales of Terror (1962)
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.