Last Updated on: February 2, 2023 by Crystal Uys
While I often watch movies with my cats, it’s a rare treat to find a movie featuring felines. Dog movies abound (anybody still keeping up with the never-ending Air Buddies series?), but you won’t find many with cats, and even fewer with cats as the main character. Maybe it’s because cats are little prima donnas. They want to do what they want to do, when they want to do it. Training a cat to perform is arguably harder than training animals that are more popular in movies, such as dogs and horses.
It’s also interesting to note that orange tabbies reign supreme in Hollywood, followed by Siamese cats and black cats. Unfortunately, Siamese cats and black cats are often cast as villains. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a movie featuring other common house cats such as a calico or blue tabby.
Next time you’re searching for good titles to put on your watchlist, here are 20 films starring cats, from classic children’s movies to horror. Most of these titles are centered around a human subject, but all have some feline drama thrown in.
Top 20 Movies Starring Cats:
1. A Street Cat Named Bob (2016)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 43 min.|
My cats and I watched this movie around Christmas time last year. Although it looks like a Christmas movie from the cover, it isn’t as much of a blatantly festive film as its sequel. It’s my personal favorite cat movie because it’s based on a true story about a real cat named Bob—who also stars as himself in the film! The story centers around a homeless drug addict who’s struggling to turn his life around, until he meets an orange tabby named Bob. Not only does he have someone to provide for, Bob repays his kindness by drawing people to buy his dad’s newspapers and support his new dad’s busking in order for them to both have a more comfortable future.
2. A Christmas Gift from Bob (2020)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 32 min.|
To be honest, I didn’t know there was a sequel until I was researching A Street Cat Named Bob for this article. I’m adding A Christmas Gift from Bob to my Christmas watch list, although speculating from the reviews, I doubt it will compare to the first movie. The storyline sounds similar to the original by going back to when Bob and James are living on the street. The twist is that an animal welfare organization is fighting to take away Bob at Christmastime.
3. The Aristocats (1970)
|Rating:||1 hr. 32 min.|
|Running Time:||1 hr. 18 min.|
Three spoiled kittens and their mama rest in the luxurious caresses of their rich widow lady in Paris…until the evil butler decides to kidnap them after hearing that the cats were to inherit everything once Madame passes away. The animated Disney classic features the famous “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” song, and you’ll be singing your arpeggios for at least a week after you watch it since all of the tunes are so catchy. My first kitten, Satura, was captivated by the Thomas O’Malley song as a baby, and has dreamed of being an alley cat ever since.
4. The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 37 min.|
I’m so impressed with the filmmakers and animals in this Disney nugget. Made long before animatronics, this 1963 classic manages to follow a real cat (actually, several) around the set while telling an amazing story through voice-over narration. A young Scottish girl treasures her orange tabby cat, Thomasina, but is devastated when her callous veterinarian father puts her to sleep after she contracts an illness. Thomasina is granted a second life by an Egyptian cat goddess that she meets in the afterlife, but she can’t remember her past. It’s a heartbreaking story of reconciliation, folklore, and faith that’s worth revisiting with your cat.
5. That Darn Cat! (1965)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 56 min.|
I’m not sure if Hayley Mills or the cat is the true star of this family-friendly crime comedy. A Siamese cat helps an FBI agent solve a case and rescues a kidnapped bank teller. Of course, it was made during the golden age of Disney, and may seem a little cheesy to modern audiences, but at least there’s a clever cat to enjoy if the human side proves lacking. I haven’t seen the 1997 remake with Christiana Ricci, but most reviewers say it falls flat.
6. Captain Marvel (2019)
|Running Time:||2 hr. 3 min.|
Feline or flerken, who cares? Goose in Captain Marvel is a critical part of Brie Larson’s mission to save the planet. Fun fact, the feline actor’s name is Reggie and you can watch his film interview here.
7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 37 min.|
Aunt Grace’s ill-fated cat only adds to the family mayhem in this classic Christmas comedy. Just don’t watch it while eating Jello, or you might fancy you taste some Friskies.
8. Nine Lives (2016)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 27. min.|
A boring businessman with no time for his family is transformed into a cat, much to his utter dismay. While I haven’t personally seen this movie, it sounds like the premise of Shaggy Dog, but with a cat instead.
9. The Cat from Outer Space (1978)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 44 min.|
In a year a long, long ago, moviegoers were newly intrigued by a galaxy far, far away. It appears that Disney tried to ride Lucas’s successful coattails long before they acquired the Star Wars franchise by releasing this sci-fi cat movie a year after A New Hope was released. While it obviously didn’t win any of the accolades comparable to Star Wars, I’d be willing to put it on my watchlist.
10. The Smurfs (2011)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 43 min.|
Kids who watched cartoons in the 70s remember the evil wizard Gargamel and his sneaky feline assistant Azrael who always helped him try to capture the Smurfs. The 2011 live-action movie brings these characters to a new generation. In this version, Azrael is actually a mixture of brief shots of real cats overlayed with animation for more complex scenes and facial expressions. It doesn’t exactly look realistic, but it’s passable.
11. Cinderella (1950)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 14 min.|
Everyone knows the fairytale story of Cinderella, the abused step daughter who’s forced to cook and clean for her ungrateful stepfamily until she’s whisked away to the ball. However, the Disney cartoon embellishes the story with a mischievous, overweight black cat named Lucifer, who literally attempts to make Cinderella’s life resemble Hell on Earth until her prince arrives.
12. Oliver & Company (1988)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 14 min.|
This Disney cartoon from the 80s puts a twist on the classic Charles Dickens story by featuring orphan cats and dogs as the main characters instead of humans. Oliver himself is an adorable orange tabby cat who loves to sing. Interestingly enough, orange tabbies tend to be very vocal cats who love to “talk.”
13. Cats & Dogs (2001)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 27 min.|
The ultimate cat spy movie, Cats & Dogs is a beloved kid’s movie that’s riddled with intrigue. However, it’s a little wacky to watch as an adult.
14. Harry & Tonto (1974)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 55 min.|
While most of the cat movies are geared towards children, Harry and Tonto tells the story of an elderly man who travels cross-country with his cat as they spend the final years of their lives together. It’s almost a reverse coming-of-age story, as Harry makes peace with old friends and final goodbyes. However, being a drama-comedy it’s far from somber with colorful language and risque humor throughout, making it unsuitable for young audiences.
15. Keanu (2016)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 40 min.|
No, this isn’t a documentary about Keanu Reeves. Two cousins adopt a cat and name him Keanu, but then must fight local gang members who also claim ownership. Rated R for language, violence, drugs, and sexuality/nudity, this feature is meant for adult and cat eyes only.
16. Harry Potter (2001-2011)
|Rating:||PG and PG-13|
There are several cat characters who play in this magical children’s series, but most notably Mrs. Norris. One of the only Maine Coons who’s starred in films, Mrs. Norris prowls around Hogwarts making sure all the students stay in line. The legendary Maggie Smith, who plays Professor McGonagall, can also morph into a tabby cat. Further along in the series, we’re introduced to an orange, long-haired Persian cat named Crookshanks, Hermione’s new cat.
17. The Adventures of Milo & Otis (1986)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 16 min.|
The American version of this movie is actually 13 minutes shorter than the Japanese original. It’s a friendship story about an orange tabby and a pug who grow up on a farm together and are tragically separated. They’ll cross land and sea just to see each other again. While it sounds like a heartwarming tale, the filming has received severe criticism about animal cruelty on set. Allegedly, over 20 animals died during filming, and some were deliberately maimed. Even the trailer is traumatic to watch, as it appears that the dog is dropped into the river against its will and the cat floats down rapids in nothing but a wooden box.
18. Alien (1979)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 57 min.|
When Ripley pilots the U.S.S. Sulaco at the end of the movie, the only other lone survivor is the crew cat, Jonesy. All of the other crew have been grossly killed by the phallic xenomorph. Modern fans of the cult classic attest that Jonesy is in fact a Flerken.
19. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 24 min.|
When a family leaves their pets behind on vacation, the animals decide they must run away and travel through hills and dale to reunite with the ones they love. Sassy the Himalayan cat is voiced by Sally Field. Fortunately, this movie was made in the United States where stricter humane laws existed than in Japan with the tragic filming of The Adventures of Milo and Otis. Plus, it’s before the age of animatronics, so the animal’s faces don’t contort weirdly as they “speak.” It’s a warm and fuzzy 90s classic that’s sure to please you and your cat, not to mention the scenery is lovely.
20. The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014)
|Running Time:||1 hr. 26 min.|
If you fall for Hallmark Christmas movies, this cute animal tale will entertain you and your feline as you stay warm around the fire sipping hot cocoa (not your cat, of course). A bachelor named Zachary allows a stray cat into his life and is forced to decide whether he’s willing to let a woman in, too. Like every Hallmark movie, this one comes with the promise of plenty of holiday cheer, and there’s even a 2022 sequel called The Nine Kittens of Christmas.
Few movies feature cats, and not all are winners. However, there are a few favorites on my list, such as The Aristocats and The Street Cat Named Bob. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try out something new like Keanu or perhaps a mid-century movie that’s new to you, such as The Three Lives of Thomasina. If you and your cat simply need to chill, Homeward Bound or The Nine Lives of Christmas are heartwarming tales that should soothe you both and remind you of how grateful you are for your own furry star.
Featured Image Credit: bombermoon, Shutterstock
About the author
Cat mom to Ivy – a feisty little rescue kitten that is her one and only child. For now! Throughout her life, she has been introduced to the special love that can be found in the bond with a cat. Having owned multiple felines, she is more than certain that their love is unmatched, unconditional and unlike any other. With a passion to educate the public about everything, there is to know about felines, their behavior, and their unique personalities, Crystal is devoted to making sure that all cats and their owners know the importance of conscious living – and loving!