Last Updated: March 17, 2021
We’ve got big cats, small cats, talking cats, cats that are sweet, evil, snarky, and grumpy. Unfortunately, our unique and somewhat crazy feline friends don’t seem to gain the same kind of attention as dogs when it comes to the silver screen.
But nonetheless, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best (and not so best) movies that feature cats. We’ve tried to stick with films where the cat is the star or is integral to the characters and the plot.
At the end of our list, we’ve included an “honorable mentions” section. These are all cats that weren’t featured in the movie but still played an important role.
So, here are our picks for 20 of the best cat movies, in order by date of release.
1. Rhubarb (1951)
The name of this movie is also the name of the cat. The part of Rhubarb was played by Orangey, a famous, short-haired, ginger cat that starred in a number of TV shows (including Batman and The Dick Van Dyke Show) and movies (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, anyone?). This comedy is about a wealthy owner who leaves his cat Rhubarb his inheritance, which also includes a pro baseball team.
2. The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963)
This Walt Disney movie stars another ginger cat. This drama centers around a young Scottish girl and her cat, Thomasina, who dies early on in the film. Thomasina is restored by the compassion of a young “witch,” and begins her second life. The movie is about family and trust, and it all centers around the love of a cat.
3. The Incredible Journey (1963)
This is the true story about two dogs and a cat, a Siamese cat named Tao, that are accidentally lost and separated from their owners. It’s an earlier Disney movie that used a narrator rather than relying on CGI or animatronics. The animals spend the majority of the film surviving and finding their way back home.
4. That Darn Cat (1965)
This movie might be more than 50 years old, but it’s a funny thriller with mystery, intrigue, and a Siamese cat. It stars Haley Mills, who was a young adult star in the 1960s and featured a kidnapping, the F.B.I., and crazy antics. This movie was remade in 1997 with Christina Ricci, but it didn’t quite capture the same charm as the original.
5. The Aristocrats (1970)
Walt Disney strikes again! This animated movie revolves around some rather pampered Parisian cats and kittens. They are kidnapped and dropped off in the countryside by a wealthy family’s butler after he overhears that the cats will inherit the family’s fortune. The charming tomcat O’Malley takes the family of cats under his wing. He, in addition to a variety of animals, brings the family back to Paris. The Aristocats has adventure, comedy, and jazz and is a fun romp for any cat lover!
6. Harry and Tonto (1974)
This is a lovely movie about the friendship between Harry (played by Art Carney) and Tonto, a short-haired ginger cat. Harry is a retired teacher who takes Tonto on a journey across the United States to visit his children and find a new place to live. This is a poignant, sometimes funny, sometimes sad movie where actor Art Carney actually bonded with Tonto and became a cat person based on his love for this amazing ginger cat!
7. The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
Disney is back with another family comedy adventure featuring a cat that is, well, an alien. The cat is called Jake (sort of) and is an Abyssinian with a special collar that allows him to speak to humans. Jake finds a human (Ken Berry) to help him repair his ship so he can go home (maybe Steven Spielberg was a little inspired by this movie).
8. Oliver & Company (1988)
Disney released this animated take on the Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, about a homeless kitten who encounters a group of dogs that steal in order to survive. This is a family-friendly movie that features the voices of Bette Midler and Billy Joel and is a fun and charming romp that uses a cat to tell a classic tale.
9. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
This is the remake of the original Incredible Journey, so it has the same plot, but in this film, the animals speak. The cat’s name is Sassy and is a Himalayan and voiced by Sally Field. If you enjoy a family-friendly movie that is funny and you don’t mind keeping a tissue box close by, then you might just enjoy this one.
10. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Who hasn’t seen this movie around Halloween! While this film is about the Sanderson sister witches, it features an enchanted boy who was turned into a cat (that speaks) named Binx. Binx is a short-haired black cat (can’t have a witchy movie without a black cat!). Action, humor, a talking cat, and a spooky story! Best family Halloween movie ever!
11. Stuart Little (1999)
Stuart Little is a mouse and is voiced by Michael J. Fox. But Snowbell, the family cat, does play an important role in this movie. This live-action movie has a beautiful white Persian cat voiced by the hilarious Nathan Lane. He is pretty jealous of Stuart Little’s adoption by his human family. The film features a number of other cats, including the rather goofy Monty and the bad to the bone leader of the feral cats, Smokey. Plus, there’s a sequel.
12. Cats & Dogs (2001)
While many adults might not list this movie as one of the best, most kids will. The cats attempt to prevent a scientist (played by Jeff Goldblum) from inventing a cure for dog allergies, which means dogs will become a more popular pet than cats. So, it’s a full-out war between cats and dogs, with evil cats plotting the demise of the dogs. Typical. Poor cats seem to get stereotyped in this way far too often. There are two sequels in this franchise.
13. Shrek 2 (2004), the Third (2007), Forever After (2010), and Puss in Boots (2011)
We’ve combined 4 movies into 1 entry for this list since each movie involves the same character, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas does the voice). Surprise, surprise, Puss in Boots is a ginger cat. Puss is one of Shrek’s sidekicks (alongside the awesome Donkey) and is based on a fairytale character. He is a combination of a little Indiana Jones with a dash of Zorro, and of course, a whole lot of cattitude (you knew we would use this word at some point)!
14. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
This black comedy-drama film by the talented Coen Brothers follows Llewyn Davis, a merchant marine following his path as a folk singer in New York City. He spends a chunk of the movie trying to return a ginger cat, Ulysses, back to his friends.
15. Keanu (2016)
Keanu Reeves is not in this movie. Well, actually, his voice is. But the Keanu in this movie is an adorable tabby kitten who occasionally sports a do-rag. This comedy was written by and stars Jordan Peele and his usual sidekick Keegan-Michael Key as cousins who lose Keanu to a gangster. The usual zaniness occurs as the cousins attempt to get the kitten back that everyone falls in love with when he crosses their paths. Could you blame them?
16. A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
Based on the true story and book by James Bowen (portrayed by Luke Treadaway), a homeless busker and drug addict whose life was changed by a ginger cat named Bob. James was struggling to recover as a heroin addict when an injured cat crossed his path, and James took care of him. The real James has said that Bob saved his life. The power of our love and friendship with our cats is at the root of this beautiful story.
17. A Whisker Away (2020)
The movie is not so much about a cat, but rather about a girl who turns into a cat. This animated movie from Japan falls in the anime category and is about Miyo, a junior high student who has an unrequited crush on a fellow student, Kento. Miyo finds a mask that allows her to transform into a cat, which she does to try to gain Kento’s attention. However, she risks staying a cat forever if she continues to use the mask.
These are just a few movies that we just can’t bring ourselves to place in the above “best cat movies” spot. While not every movie in the above 17 is perfect, they are quite possibly perfect for some, particularly children.
So, these are 3 movies that star cats but not necessarily in the “best” way. However, if you love any or all of these movies, no judgment at all. We all love different things, right?
18. Garfield (2004)
Garfield is one of the most famous cats ever and has been around for about 43 years. This ginger (yep, another orange cat) who hates Mondays but adores lasagna was in a popular comic in various newspapers. Then in 2004, the first movie was made and featured the incomparable Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield. Unfortunately, while we might love Garfield as a comic, it didn’t translate well into movie form, even though there’s a second movie.
19. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Movie Ever (2014)
We love Grumpy Cat! How can anyone not love that adorable but sour-faced Tardar Sauce? While she was a major success online and especially in memes, her movie wasn’t as great. More than likely, some will still enjoy this movie, if not just to appreciate Grumpy Cat.
20. Cats (2021)
And lastly, we have the much-maligned musical, Cats. Perhaps this movie would have been better if they had used real cats. Or if it was animated. Or if it had just stayed on the stage. Where it belongs.
Cats that don’t quite make the cut since they weren’t in the movie as much as they should but still have a memorable moment (or two).
Lady and the Tramp (1955)
Okay, this is a movie about dogs. But then there’s those Siamese cats – Si and Am. I mean, there’s a whole song that’s not only about them, but they also sing it. And let’s face it, Lady would never have met Tramp without them, so let’s hear it for those naughty Siamese!
Meet the Parents (2000)
Jinx is a gorgeous Himalayan that provides a number of comedic moments in the movie series starring Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. It starts with Meet the Parents and is followed by another two movies. Milking a cat, anyone?
Jones, A.K.A. Jonesy, is another ginger who didn’t get a lot of airtime in the sci-fi horror movie, Alien, but was an important part of the film, nonetheless. Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, spends a lot of time and effort and risks her life to save Jones from the alien.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel that bears the same name, the cat from the animated movie Coraline guides her throughout her journey in the scary yet somehow ideal version of her real home. This feline is a pretty sarcastic companion who helps Coraline when she gets into trouble.
Captain Marvel (2021)
Goose is – you guessed it – a ginger, and is the reason why Nick Fury wears an eyepatch. Perhaps she doesn’t belong on this list since she’s technically an alien called a Flerken, but why not?
Harry Potter (2001) & (2002)
Mrs. Norris is a long-haired tabby with red glowing eyes and belongs to Argus Filch, the cantankerous caretaker of Hogwarts. She is described fairly differently in the books (dust-colored fur, scrawny, and yellow eyes). She actually doesn’t do very much in the movies (basically, she’s a spy for Filch), but we love Harry Potter and just wanted Mrs. Norris on this list.
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
The Cheshire Cat is pink with purple stripes, glowing yellow eyes, and has that famous smile. He acts as Alice’s guide but also causes her trouble when it amuses him.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
“Cat” is played by Orangey, the same cat from Rhubarb, and won the PATSY award for both Rhubarb and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Cat plays an important symbolic role for Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, and is never actually given a name.
Pet Sematary (1989) & (2021)
The movie was originally released in 1989 and starred a British Blue in the role of Winston Churchill. Nicknamed Church, the family cat starts off nicely enough, but thanks to the evil in the Pet Sematary, he comes back as a vicious and nasty cat.
The remake just came out in 2019, and Church was played by quite a different kind of cat – a tabby Main Coon. Same personality, of course.
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Lastly, we have Chloe, a rather obese grey tabby who is sarcastic and seems pretty indifferent at times, but she ends up standing up for her friends.
What have we learned? That ginger cats are very popular in the movies? Perhaps Orangey started this trend. After all, he was a famous cat and actually won two awards that are considered the equivalent of the Oscar, but for animals.
We’ve also seen that while cats are portrayed as evil or snarky, they are also given roles that show off their unique and loving personalities.
Given the popularity of cats, especially these days, and the lack of movies starring cats, this is clearly a niche that needs to be filled.
However, we hope you’ve gotten some ideas for your next movie night. There’s enough here for people of all ages and all different levels of love for cats.
Other interesting cat reads:
Featured Image Credit: Iryna Kuznetsova, Shutterstock
Kathryn was a librarian in a previous lifetime and is currently a writer about all things pets. When she was a child, she hoped to work in zoos or with wildlife in some way, thanks to her all-consuming love for animals. Unfortunately, she’s not strong in the sciences, so she fills her days with researching and writing about all kinds of animals and spends time playing with her adorable but terribly naughty tabby cat, Bella. Kathryn is hoping to add to her family in the near future – maybe another cat and a dog.
- 1. Rhubarb (1951)
- 2. The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963)
- 3. The Incredible Journey (1963)
- 4. That Darn Cat (1965)
- 5. The Aristocrats (1970)
- 6. Harry and Tonto (1974)
- 7. The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
- 8. Oliver & Company (1988)
- 9. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
- 10. Hocus Pocus (1993)
- 11. Stuart Little (1999)
- 12. Cats & Dogs (2001)
- 13. Shrek 2 (2004), the Third (2007), Forever After (2010), and Puss in Boots (2011)
- 14. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
- 15. Keanu (2016)
- 16. A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
- 17. A Whisker Away (2020)
- Not-The-Best-But-Still-Stars-Cats Movies
- 18. Garfield (2004)
- 19. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Movie Ever (2014)
- 20. Cats (2021)
- Honorable Mentions