Cinema’s 5 Greatest Cats

Shut up, this is a super important topic! It’s serious and meaningful and…oh who am I kidding, cats are the best and I want to write about them!

There are many deserving felines, and so I will probably miss some of your faves, but these are mine. Aside from one of them (you’ll see which one) I would gladly own all of these cats were it possible. I just adore them.

And so break out the tuna and the laser pointer!

5. The Cheshire Cat

DisneyCheshireCat

True, this grinning feline began as a literary character, but he has appeared on screen enough times, he definitely deserves a place on this list.

Have you ever wondered where he got his name? Lewis Carroll based many Wonderland characters on idioms (such as, “she’s mad as a hatter”) and the Cheshire Cat is no different. The saying goes, “he’s grinning like a Cheshire cat.” Cheshire is a county in northwest England, a place known for its dairy farms. Naturally, a cat from Cheshire would have a steady supply of cream and would thus be very happy (hence the grin).

Alice’s cat is much more supernatural in nature, embodying any number of trickster gods, but his extreme grin is still his most prominent feature, staying behind even after the rest of him has vanished.

Although he’s had many actors bring him to life, MY Cheshire Cat will always be Sterling Holloway’s Disney portrayal. For an actor who would go on to voice Kaa the snake and Winnie the Pooh, he is able to find a very different and unhinged personality for the vanishing feline that remains iconic to this day.

4. Cosmic Creepers

bedknobs02_2Best. Cat name. Ever.

There are many days when I relate to Cosmic Creepers on a spiritual level. This misanthropic black cat hails from Bedknobs and  Broomsticks, a severely underrated Disney film which came out a few years after Mary Poppins.

Cosmic Creepers is Miss Price’s familiar. He’s raggedy and ill-tempered and hates pretty much everyone, preferring to glower at people from some perch somewhere. He also detests being picked up.

I wish there was some sort of wonderful redemption moment where he lets the three orphan children Miss Price is watching over pet him or hug him or something, but by the end of the film, everyone is happy and Cosmic still hates everyone.

And I love that about him.

3. Spot

phantasms3OK, I kind of cheated on this one. Spot is Data’s cat on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he does appear in the Star Trek films Generations and Nemesis, so he IS a cinematic cat.

The thing with Spot, though, is that the writers never paid much attention to him, bringing him out when the plot required it, and so his breed (and sex) changed as the show progressed. Spot began as a male Somali cat, then became a short-haired orange tabby, and in season seven, he inexplicably became a she and had kittens. *shrugs* I suppose as many times as the Enterprise has encountered alternate realities or spacial anomalies, it’s logical to assume that it’s had an effect on the ship and her crewmembers.

Protean nature aside, Spot is wonderful. I can’t think of a better pet for an Android. The importance of this particular kitty is summed up in a scene at the end of Generations where Data and Troi are going through the wreckage of the crashed Enterprise D and they find Spot, whereupon Data breaks down and cries at being reunited with his pet.

That scene gets me every time.

Plus, we shan’t forget the poetic brilliance that is “Ode to Spot”

2. Bagheera

the-jungle-book-bagheera-e1403735910634Bagheera is a big kitty and so probably not an appropriate housepet (sadly), but I’m an immense fan of the stoic Jungle Book panther who helps Mowgli find his way to the man village.

He’s grumpy, but he loves Mowgli, and though he’s inclined to leap to the worst possible conclusion, he’s usually right.

Voiced by Disney veteran Sebastian Cabot (who narrated The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and voiced Sir Ector in The Sword in the Stone) Bagheera is one of those characters you just love unconditionally. Cabot’s lovely voice gives Bagheera a lot of warmth, and the animators add just enough cat-like tics and mannerisms to make him a believable feline. I especially love the scene where he first finds baby Mowgli and approaches the basket as though it’s a bomb that’s about to go off. It’s that pairing of big cat power and little cat hesitancy that makes Bagheera such a lovable character.

I was especially happy that Ben Kingley, who voiced Bagheera in the recent live-action version, was able to perfectly capture that same balance of stern authoritarianism and loving warmth that made the character one of my all-time favorite Disney characters (along with Aladdin’s genie and Timon).

1. Jones

jones01It’s my goal in life to have an orange cat and name him Jones, after the space-faring kitty in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

I have no idea how Scott was able to get such a good performance out of this cat whose eyes convey as much depth as his human crewmembers. There are times when one wonders if Jones is actually in league with the alien, leading the crewmembers to their dooms to suit his own feline plan.

That’s probably a stretch, but Jones still deserves the number one position on this completely ridiculous list.

So much of the tension in Alien works because of what you don’t see, and Jones is used in two of the biggest jump-scare moments after the xenomorph explodes from John Hurt’s chest, faking the audience out twice so that, when the alien does actually make its first full-grown-appearance, the audience is fully prepared for it to be Jones again, only to be scared stiff at what appears instead. It’s a masterful tension-builder.

Along with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, Jones is also the only other character to survive the film, so that makes him pretty special in my book.

We should all be so lucky to have cats like Jones in our lives, even if they’re conspiring with malevolent aliens to destroy us all.

There are other marvelous film cats that I have failed to mention. Did your favorite make the list? Do you have others? Let me know in the comments!

See you on Saturday!

 

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