What is it about cats on the big screen that creates some of the most timeless and beloved movie characters? Movie cats gather legions of fans that are greater in number and far more loyal than their human co-stars.
A cat, especially a cat actor, does not give a rat’s tail what the director, or any fan, thinks. Still, it is important to hold those deserving in high esteem. They may never show gratitude, but these five cats still deserve an Oscar, or at least some extra special attention for their performances.
Five of the Best Cats in Movies
Zachary Binx: Hocus Pocus
The immortal product of the Sanderson sisters’ magical mayhem ended up being the four-legged hero that saved the day, and subsequently changed the world’s opinion of black cats. Stereotypes of bad luck and evil intentions be damned, Zachary Binx finally got his retribution, restitution, and revenge on the bat-crazy witches responsible for the curse that transformed him from human to cat. After hundreds of years as a feline to be feared, Binx finally sets the record straight when he heroically breaks the spell and gets his human body back. His brief stint back as a human allows him to pass through the pearly gates and reunite with his family. As touching of a moment as it was, we all wished he could have stayed kitty Zachary Binx forever. Be honest, you did too.
Sassy: Homeward Bound
Let’s be frank here, cats of the domestic variety are not known for their survival skills out in the wild. Sure, they can lay claim to the royal throne in their home, but the wilderness isn’t usually their forte—having been lost somewhere on the evolutionary path from lions and tigers to furballs and sofa destruction. It is quite refreshing then, when a character comes along to break the preconceived notions of what a cat should be and shatter the stereotypes that plague the feline species. Sassy, the sharp-tongued Himalayan in Homeward Bound, is a true role model for feline thespians everywhere. Sure, she is full of complaints about her present circumstances, thinks everyone else is dumb, and manufactures a whole new level of dry sarcasm to voice her displeasure. But when push comes to shove, Sassy steps up to the plate and along with supporting stars Chance and Shadow, finds a way home. Sassy proves she can roll up her sleeves just like the big dogs and beat the odds with intelligence and panache. Oscar worthy? Indeed.
The Cheshire Cat: Alice in Wonderland
There is no other cat in a movie that has become a tour-de-force brand all on his or her own more than Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire Cat. Disney’s interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s classic character should have been a lot scarier than he was received. A frozen clown-like smile that teases nightmares coupled with a mischievous persona ripe with uncertainty as to whether he will play with you or kill you in your sleep, usually means keep back 200 feet. But distance was not in the cards, and people flocked to Cheshire more than any other character in the eclectic film.
As to why he is so loved is quite the curiosity. Perhaps it is his nonsensical but intelligent riddles, neon coat fit for a rave, or a honey-badger-don’t-care attitude towards mischief that attracts legions of volunteers ready to follow him down the rabbit hole. If the latter is true, then maybe the real reason everyone loves Cheshire lies in what he represents. Maybe we flock to the illuminated grin because Cheshire is the symbol of the troublemaker in all of us—just itching to get out.
Scat Cat and His Band: The Aristocats
One of the greatest on-screen celebration of cats is the musical masterpiece from the last animated feature Walt Disney approved before his death. The Aristocats, which follows a high-brow mama cat and her three kittens as they try to find their way home to Paris. They are led by heroic alley cat Thomas O’Malley, who takes the kitty cat family back to his “penthouse pad”, where his fellow alley cat friends are jamming away to jazz. The aristocatic clan soon dumps some of their upper crust elegance to join in with “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.”
Can we pause for a minute and discuss how perfect a cat story this is? Aloof and stuck up cats meet a bunch of alley cats who have the good vibes and swagger in spades. Good cat with bad cat. Rich cat with poor cat. Prissy cat with laid-back cat. It does not get any better than this. Lead musician Scat Cat has won (by a completely unscientific polling panel) the award for coolest cat on the big screen. Today, fans of all ages still love to jam along with Scat Cat and all of his fellow commanders of jazz.
Puss n’ Boots: Shrek
What do you get when you cross Antonio Banderas with a cat? If you answered, “the best cat ever,” you are correct. Any other answer is just wrong. Puss n’ Boots is the ultimate Zorro superhero in cat form. You have the suave. You have the cute. You definitely have the sword skills. Is there anything Puss n Boots is not? Part tough and part sweet, a little manipulative but also kind, simultaneously ruthless with a sword and heart melting with that look, clearly Puss is everything and more.
While Puss is most famous for his supporting role in Shrek, his acting chops landed him his own movie focused on his life before Shrek. With his name headlined in the marquee, his brand soared to new heights. Today, Puss n’ Boots continues to capture fans with his rogue-like charm and enthusiastic affectation. Not only does the beloved bandit have an actual Oscar nomination under his belt, he inspired a band named after him and a series of bestselling books.
From their aloof quiet confidence, to their intelligent command of the big screen, these cats prove Hollywood is not only meant for humans. The amount of cats taking over movies continues to grow so stay tuned, even more movie cats that deserve an award is coming soon.