25. Rajah, Aladdin (1992)
Rajah the tiger is Princess Jasmine’s fierce protector and considers it his duty to chase off unworthy suitors, including, at first, Aladdin. He helps the princess escape from the palace, even though it means being separated. How she could leave with those sad tiger eyes and mournful sighs, we have no idea! Fortunately, they’re soon reunited and Rajah helps defeat the evil Jafar (even if he has to suffer the indignity of being turned into a cub first).
24. Aslan, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
In C.S. Lewis’s fantasy series, the “Great Lion” is kind and wise, but we never forget he is far from tame. In the first film, he allows himself to be sacrificed by the White Witch (Tilda Swinton). But, like Jesus (for he is most definitely a Christ allegory), he is resurrected. Liam Neeson took over as the voice of Aslan from Brian Cox, who was originally announced for the role.
23. Bagheera, The Jungle Book (1967)
It was Bagheera the panther (voiced by Sebastian Cabot) who found Mowgli as a baby and brought him to be raised by a family of wolves. He’s the man cub’s guardian and voice of reason, although his good advice most often goes completely unheeded. For some reason, Mowgli prefers to embrace “the bare necessities” with laid-back pal Baloo the bear. Ben Kingsley took on the role in the 2016 live-action film.
22. “Cat,” Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Pity the poor cat actor (the famous Orangey) who had to get soaked for one of the most famous film endings of all time: After Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) declares to Paul (George Peppard) that she won’t belong to anyone and nobody belongs to her, she shoves Cat out of the cab to prove her point. The wet cat gives her a mournful look, which is enough for Paul to go running after it and, thankfully, Holly quickly follows. She finds Cat taking shelter in a box and kisses him—and then kisses Paul as “Moon River” plays over the drenched threesome.
21. Cats of The AristoCats (1970)
Duchess (elegantly voice by Zsa Zsa Gabor) and her three kittens—Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse—are the cherished pets of elderly Madame Bonfamille. And the sworn enemy of Madame’s butler, Edgar, who wants them out of the way so he can inherit Madame’s fortune. After Edgar dumps Duchess and family in the country, they meet Thomas O’Malley the alley cat (Phil Harris, bringing the same easygoing charm that he brought to Baloo the Bear), who helps them get back home. They also meet O’Malley’s swinging jazz cat friends who belt out “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat.”
20. Si and Am, Lady and the Tramp (1955)
“We are si-a-mese if you ple-ease. We are si-a-mese if you don’t please…” If you didn’t walk around warbling this sing-songy tune by the film’s mischievous cats, then you likely never saw this movie as a kid. The two Siamese sisters are the calculating pets of dog-hating Aunt Sarah, who is called on to sit John Dear and Darling’s baby. The two cats immediately make a mess and blame Lady. Like the unfortunately buck-toothed Siamese cat in The AristoCats, they’re a not-so-positive Asian stereotype, but not as egregious as, says, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
19. Fritz, Fritz the Cat (1972)
Ralph Bakshi directed this X-rated adaptation of the Robert Crumb comic about a hedonistic, talking cat. Fritz and his buddies do drugs, have group sex and run from the cops (who are literally pigs) in this controversial counterculture cartoon. Followed by The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat, which was made without Crumb or Bakshi.
18. Mr. Bigglesworth, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
Since Dr. Evil is a parody of Bond villain Blofeld, he naturally has his own cat. Mr. Bigglesworth is at first a fluffy kitty like in the Bond films, but after surviving cryogenic freezing has become a hairless Sphynx. The Sphynx who played Mr. B reportedly ruined several takes because he was always falling asleep in Mike Myers’ lap. Dr. Evil’s clone Mini-Me has a “Mini Mr. Bigglesworth,” played by a hairless kitten.
17. Jonesy, Alien (1979)
Bringing a cat into space maybe isn’t the greatest thing for the cat. There’s no grass to gnaw on, no sun to bathe in, and no birds to chase. Also, there might be a hideous, acid-dripping alien that wants to eat everyone. Happily, the cat survives (along with Sigourney Weaver) for the sequel, having also survived 57 years in hypersleep! That makes Jonesy nearly the oldest cat in the movies—after Binx, who’s been around since the 17th century.
16. Pyewacket, Bell Book and Candle (1958)
In this supernatural romantic comedy, the Siamese familiar of the witch Gillian (Kim Novak) was played by 12 different cats. As the trainer told The Hollywood Reporter at the time, “You can’t teach one cat do to 12 tricks, but you can teach 12 cats to do one trick each.” When Gillian falls in love, she loses her magical powers, so Pyewacket leaves her, presumably to become another witch’s familiar.
15. Tai Lung and Master Tigress, Kung Fu Panda (2008)
When the fearsome snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) escapes from prison, Master Tigress (Angelina Jolie) believes she is the only one who can defeat him. But it’s panda Po (Jack Black) who proves he’s the true Dragon Warrior, defeating Tai Lung and finally earning Tigress’s respect.
14. Don Corleone’s cat, The Godfather (1972)
A stray tabby cat on the Paramount lot lucked into cinema history when spotted by director Francis Ford Coppola, according to The Godfather Book. “The cat in Marlon’s hands was not planned for,” Coppola explained. “I saw the cat running around the studio, and took it and put it in his hands without a word.” Brando, always the improviser, made the cat a crucial part of the scene. However, the cat’s purring drowned out some of Brando’s sotto voce dialogue, which had to be re-dubbed.
13. Blofeld’s cat, From Russia with Love (1963)
Everyone knows petting a white cat helps you hatch evil plots! The actor playing Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld may have changed with each film, but the character’s fondness for stroking a white Angora cat did not. Blofeld’s cat actually made its appearance before we ever saw Blofeld’s face, and went on to grace the laps of Donald Pleasence, Charles Gray, Telly Savalas, and Max Von Sydow in subsequent Bond films.
12. Diego, Ice Age (2002)
As voiced by Denis Leary, Diego is a tough saber-toothed tiger who’s secretly kind of a softie. After new pals Manny and Sid save his life, he chooses to warn them about his pack’s planned ambush, nearly getting himself killed in the process. He’s also deathly afraid of water (like any self-respecting cat), as we learn in Ice Age: The Meltdown. And he finds love (aww) in Ice Age: Continental Drift with Shira (Jennifer Lopez).
11. Richard Parker, Life of Pi (2012)
When we first meet the tiger, young Pi wants to feed the caged beast. But his father abruptly pulls him aside, saying, “You think that tiger is your friend! He’s an animal, not a playmate.” Pi counters, “Animals have souls,” but his father teaches him a harsh lesson by placing a goat in the tiger’s cage to show how dangerous the beast is. After the ship they are on sinks, Pi and the tiger are the only survivors. They form an uneasy truce in the lifeboat, with Pi catching fish to feed them both. After they both are near death from lack of water and food, he’s finally able to cradle the tiger’s head on his lap. When they find land, Pi is heartbroken that—after all they’ve been through together—the tiger walks into the jungle without even a look back.
10. Baby, Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Baby the Leopard is one of the reasons this Howard Hawks classic regularly ranks higher than other screwball comedies like the leopard-less My Man Godfrey. The film actually has not one but two leopards, including an escaped circus cat that Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn mistake for their tame Baby (both played by a leopard named Nissa). Grant was reportedly terrified of the big cat and used a stand-in for many of his scenes with Baby.
9. Lion, The Wiz (1978)
This lion (Tony winner Ted Ross) sure doesn’t seem cowardly when first meet him bursting out of a lion statue, singing “I’m a Mean Old Lion” and primping in his handheld, fanged mirror. This guy definitely knows he’s the King of the Jungle. Except it’s all a show and he’s just as cowardly as that other guy. Good thing he’s got Dorothy (Diana Ross) to sing “Be a Lion” to him.
8. Puss in Boots, Shrek 2 (2004)
This swashbuckling kitty is both suave (since he’s voiced by Antonio Banderas) and impossibly cute. He can bend anyone to his will with his big kitten eyes and even out-cutes a trio of kittens in his spinoff Puss in Boots. In Shrek Forever After, Shrek is shocked to see that Puss has really let himself go in retirement—and no more hat or wee little boots!
7. The Cowardly Lion, The Wizard of Oz (1939)
When vaudeville star Bert Lahr was warned that he might be typecast in Hollywood, he replied, “Yeah, but how many parts are there for lions?” One of our favorite Cowardly Lion moments: The only thing betraying Scarecrow, The Tin Man and the Lion’s infiltration into the Wicked Witch’s guards? The Lion trying to calm his twitching tail peeking out from under his borrowed uniform.
6. Scar, The Lion King (1994)
The supremely hiss-worthy Scar (a perfectly cast Jeremy Irons) is Mufasa’s scheming brother, who plots his death and takes over his kingdom. His villainy doesn’t end there: Having failed to also kill Mufasa’s son, Simba, he cruelly convinces the cub that Mufasa’s death was his fault. Scar’s epic defeat is poetic justice (and quite dark for a Disney film): The hyenas who helped his rise to power now devour him!
5. Shere Khan, The Jungle Book (1967)
This silky smooth tiger is voiced by Oscar-winning Brit George Sanders, and remains one of the most elegant and menacing of all Disney villains. Once he learns there’s a man cub in his jungle, he vows to kill him—after lazily interrogating python Kaa for more information. Idris Elba lent his voice to the 2016 live-action remake, making for an even more sinister king of the jungle.
4. Elsa the Lioness, Born Free (1966)
Based on the best-selling true story of a lioness who was successfully released by George and Joy Adamson into the wilds of Kenya, the film made life-long conversationists of stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, who founded the Born Free Foundation. The studio reportedly wanted to sell the lions used in the film to zoos to make up for production costs, but instead they found a home at George Adamson’s Kora Reserve in Kenya. The movie also gave us the Oscar-winning (if extremely schmaltzy) theme song “Born Free.”
3. Cheshire Cat, Alice and Wonderland (1951)
Drawn in the original illustrations as an orange tabby, the perpetually grinning cat became a lot more psychedelic in this Disney adaptation, with pink and purple stripes and glowing yellow eyes. He was voiced by Sterling Holloway, who was also Winnie the Pooh and Kaa in The Jungle Book. In the Tim Burton version, the Cheshire Cat is more sinister-looking: Gray, with big green eyes (like a Keane painting) and sharper teeth in a wider mouth. He was voiced by Stephen Fry, who Burton praises for “capturing a weird kind of floaty, too-focused, creepy… He has this thing of getting up close and just sitting there and staring at you, you know, like a cat. It just kind of sits there.” Burton (gasp!) hates cats
2. Tigger, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Tiggers, as you know, are “bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!” Tigger (Paul Winchell) first sang “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” in the 1968 Oscar-winning animated short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, which was later combined with two other shorts for this feature-length film. Besides bouncing all over the place, Tigger also warns Pooh about the honey-stealing Heffalumps and Woozles. (Tiggers, by the way, don’t like honey.)
1. Simba, The Lion King (1994)
Why is Simba at the top of the list? Well, he is the King of Pride Rock, a legacy passed down from the moment Rafiki proudly presented him to all the animals when he was just a little cub. And he grew up to be a lion his father Mufasa would be proud of, finally facing his fears and his guilt to confront his evil uncle Scar. And there are an awful lot of cats (and dogs) out there named Simba.