As Keanu Hits Theaters, 17 Famous Felines That Paved the Way for the Latest Leading Cat
Get ready to meet your newest animal obsession. In the new movie Keanu, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele star as cousins who infiltrate a street gang when their ridiculously cute kitten, Keanu, is catnapped. But soon enough, their mission erupts into a full-on gang war over the precious pet—and the little guy’s fate is anyone’s guess.
Keanu may be the first kitten to face such absurd circumstances onscreen, but he’s in good company when it comes to the famous felines that have paved the way to success before him. From tabbys to calicos, titular characters to supporting stars, cool cats have been ruling the entertainment industry for years—way before the rise of their Internet-famous counterparts (we’re looking at you, Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub). Scroll down for 17 of the most fabulous felines to ever grace our TV and movie screens.
Perhaps the most recognizable feline in the world, the orange tabby cat was first introduced to the public in Jim Davis’s 1978 comic strip, Garfield. Lazy and lasagna-loving, the character went on to become a beloved TV and movie star in his own right. From 2004 until 2006, he was even voiced by Bill Murray for two live-action films—and if that doesn’t earn him a spot on coolest cat list, we don’t know what will.
The Cat in the Hat
Dr. Seuss’s classic 1957 children’s tale hit the big screen in 2003, with Mike Myers playing the fun-loving human-like cat. He mesmerized the story’s characters and audiences alike with his tricks, games, and unforgettable red-and-white striped hat—not to mention, he brought along the creatures we’ve come to know and love as Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch
This former warlock was turned into a cat as punishment after trying to take over the planet, but he seemed truly comfortable in his feline skin once he was taken in by the Spellman family on the ABC sitcom starring Melissa Joan Hart. Sure, he cared more about world domination than about being a good pet, but his sarcastic sense of humor and loyalty to Sabrina ultimately made him a lovable character.
Sylvester from Looney Tunes
Sylvester the Cat has been a Looney Tunes staple since the 1940s. The cartoon tuxedo cat with an unforgettable lisp is best known for chasing Tweety Bird around, spitting while he talks, and refusing to give up no matter the odds against him. He even repeatedly “died” throughout the course of the series, but luckily for us, he always managed to survive.
Tom Cat from Tom and Jerry
Thomas “Tom” Cat and Jerry Mouse made their debut in a series of short films in 1940, and the public couldn’t get enough of the ongoing rivalry between the mostly-mute pair. They’ve gone on to star in numerous feature films and television series, with Tom often defeated by a clever Jerry. Over the years, we’ve seen Tom court several love interests and somehow find his way out of precarious situations—proving that he’s not going anywhere.
Binx from Hocus Pocus
At the start of Hocus Pocus, Thackery Binx was just like any other teenage boy living in 17th century Salem. But when he found himself face to face with three witches known as the Sanderson sisters, Thackery was turned into an immortal black cat. The witches were ultimately killed, but Thackery continued to roam the streets of Salem—and he was on hand to help when the Sandersons were accidentally brought back to life by Max Dennison in the 1993 film’s present day. Max teamed up with his sister, Dani, and his crush, Allison, to defeat the Sandersons once and for all—but Thackery (known just as “Binx”) is the one who truly helped them succeed. His soul was finally freed from the Earth once the Sandersons’ magic no longer worked, and we all shed a tear as he said goodbye to his new friends.
Puss in Boots
We first met the most badass cat in movie history in Shrek 2, when he tried to attack the friendly titular ogre before ultimately teaming up with him. Since then, he’s starred Puss in Boots, a feature film about his early life, and a Netflix series, The Adventures of Puss in Boots. Voiced by Antonio Banderas, it’s hard not to fall in love with the talking feline when he uses his wide-eyed stare to appear innocent—until he attacks with his sword, that is.
Felix the Cat
The cartoon character first rose to fame in 1919, and starred in silent short films and comic strips throughout the 1920s. But after a brief lull in popularity, Felix was fully revamped in the 1950s. With the new addition of his magical satchel, known as his “Bag of Tricks,” the character was back to starring in TV shows and feature films—and he’s remained one of the most famous cats in pop culture ever since.
Mr. Bigglesworth from Austin Powers
Based on the cat-toting enemy from the original James Bond films, Dr. Evil’s feline companion started off as a Persian cat with beautiful long fur. But after being “cryogenically frozen” for 30 years, the feline suddenly appeared hairless—just like his villainous owner. From then on, Mr. Bigglesworth was played by a naturally-bald Egyptian Sphynx—but he still spent most of his time in Dr. Evil’s arms.
Mr. Jinx in Meet the Parents
This Himalayan cat truly landed the role of a lifetime, playing Robert De Niro’s pet in the Meet the Parents films. And Mr. Jinx had some major skills. He preferred toilets to litter boxes and created mass chaos when he ran away, causing Ben Stiller’s desperate character, Greg, to try to replace him with a lookalike stray cat (spray-painted tail and all). The plan ultimately backfired, and Mr. Jinx made it home safe and sound—although Greg was in the doghouse.
Snowbell from Stuart Little
In the Stuart Little films, yet another unlikely friendship developed between the titular character, a mouse, and his adoptive family’s pet cat, Snowbell. The white Persian cat was skeptical of Stuart when he first moved in, doing whatever he could to get rid of his new rodent “master” (he even tried to eat him). But the former alley cat gang member ultimately warmed up to Stuart and became the mouse’s biggest protector and loyal friend.
D.C. from That Darn Cat
Christina Ricci starred as teenager Patti Randall in the 1997 remake, which followed the aftermath of a kidnapping gone wrong. Patti’s tomcat, D.C., returned home with a clue to the mystery after stumbling upon the kidnappers’ hideaway—and after some major investigating and some help from her trusty “Darn Cat,” Patti found the kidnapped victim. There were a few setbacks along the way, but the canine-and-human pair managed to save the day and were hailed as heroes in the end.
Sassy from Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Sassy was a total #girlboss in this 1993 movie. Voiced by Sally Field, the Himalayan cat reluctantly teamed up with her canine brothers, Chance and Shadow, to find their vacationing family in the remake of 1963’sThe Incredible Journey. Smart and witty, Sassy truly lived up to her name—and it was her quick thinking that ultimately helped the trio of pets find their way back home.
Who could forget the French family of singing cats from this 1970 animated film? The Aristocats followed the story of Duchess, a mother cat, and her three kittens in 1910 Paris. They lived with an older wealthy woman, who decided that she’d leave her estate to the feline fam when setting up her will. But her butler threw a wrench into her plan when he kidnapped the cats, and chaos ensued. Despite the drama, the kittens remained pitch-perfect—and they hit all the right notes in our hearts.
Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland
Perhaps the most mischievous feline in pop culture is none other than the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. In the original 1951 animated film, he appeared as a pink-and-purple-striped character who could make his entire body disappear, save for his yellow eyes or devilish grin. He enjoyed giving Alice the wrong directions as she navigated Wonderland in both the original movie and Tim Burton’s 2010 live-action film, although he was friendlier and a bit more helpful in the latter. His appearance also changed, with a new gray coat and turquoise eyes—but his invisibility tricks still remained.
Crookshanks from Harry Potter
As Hermione Granger’s furry ginger pet, Crookshanks was one smart kitty. He was integral in discovering the truth about Ron Weasley’s pet rat, Scabbers—who actually turned out to be disguised villain Peter Pettigrew—and his instincts led him to protect the beloved Sirius Black on more than one occasion. But despite his friendliness towards some, Crookshanks still had his moody moments—and they were usually directed at Ron. Still, we’re glad that Hermione took him home from the Magical Menagerie instead of the owl she was initially planning on adopting.
Oliver from Oliver and Company
This 1988 animated film was based on Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist—only in this adaptation, Oliver was a homeless orange kitten rather than an orphaned boy. Alone on the streets of New York City, Oliver teamed up with a rough gang of dogs to survive. Although he became good friends with his canine crew, Oliver was ultimately adopted by a wealthy girl named Jenny who could provide the loving home that he truly needed.