The ten best scene-stealing cats

When movie cats outshine their human co-stars

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Never mind Carey Mulligan. Forget about Justin Timberlake. And who the hell is Oscar Isaac? The true star of the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is a bored-looking marmalade tomcat called Ulysses. And he’s not the first feline to paw their way into the spotlight.

  • Jones from Alien

    The cat
    A ginger Tom with a habit of wandering off into the vast bowels of the Nostromo in search of… what? Space mice?

    The scene
    It’s a horror classic. “Heeeeere, kitty kitty…” After “little shithead” Jones sets off the ship’s motion-tracking devices, Harry Dean Stanton is sent off into the cavernous cargo deck to bring him back. We’re not sure if it’s intentional, but Jones leads poor Harry right into the path of something very large, toothy and ill-tempered.

    Motivation from the director
    “Run away… keep running… keep running… now turn and… hiss!”

  • Topper in Bright Star

    The cat
    A handsome 17-year-old, black-and-white moggy in the sunset of his career.

    The scene
    Take your pick. Topper is shameless, with his car engine purr and way of head-butting himself into view. Here he is, as poet John Keats’s sweetheart Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) reads poetry. The scene is meant to be about Fanny discovering Keats’s super-sensitive soul. Instead, it’s all about Topper turning the pages of her book. Later, as Fanny mopes about, heartbroken, Topper leaps up to the window to swat a butterfly. In recognition of his talents, director Jane Campion gave him a credit: The Cat Topper.

    Motivation from the director
    Topper. Topper! Take off that frockcoat. You are playing the cat. Not Keats.

  • Vito’s cat in The Godfather

    The cat
    A grey-and-white stray. Director Francis Ford Coppola found him running around on set and dropped him into Marlon Brando’s lap.

    The scene
    It’s Connie’s wedding and a man has come to ask Vito Corleone a favour. He wants the godfather to kill the men who tried to rape his daughter. Vito is gently spoken, practically purring, but the cat tells us he’s got bite. The puss’s purr was so loud, it muffled Brando’s lines, which had to be dubbed in later.

    Motivation from the director
    “I need affection. Your character loves this guy. I know Brando looks like a lion, but seriously, he’s a pussycat. Just watch with the hairs on his tux.”

  • The attack cats in Let the Right One In

    The cat
    A mob of mogs crammed into the tiny flat of cat-loving recluse Gösta.

    The scene
    Everyone knows the vampire dos and don’ts—garlic, crosses, holy water. Now add “avoid cats.” Cats, we learn here, have a thing about vampires. It starts when this poor lady has the misfortune to bump into a peckish 200-year-old, pre-teen vampire. Her next mistake is visiting Gösta. His seriously spooked pack of kitties freak out, hissing, yowling and growling before going in for the kill.

    Motivation from the director
    Nothing verbal. Looks like these cats were starved for a week and the actress’s legs slathered with tins of tuna.

  • Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

    The cat
    A ginger tabby whose real name was Orangey. A cat-actor at the top his game, Orangey won his second Pudsy (the animal equivalent of an Oscar) for playing “Cat” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Cat doesn’t have a name, which tells us all we need to know about goodtime girl Holly (Audrey Hepburn) and her commitment issues. “I’m like Cat here, a no-name slob. We belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to us. We don’t even belong to each other.”

    The scene
    Cat reunites Holly and her on-off love interest Paul (George Peppard) for their big smooch-in-the-rain scene at the end. It begins with Holly cold-heartedly setting Cat loose in the rain as she runs off to marry a rich snore-bore for his money. Realising her mistake, she dashes out, scoops him up and tucks him into her trenchcoat. Not so heartless after all.

    Motivation from the director
    “Come on Orangey, you’re a pro. Get out into the rain. Now!”

  • Blofeld’s cat in You Only Live Twice

    The cat
    A spooked Persian.

    The scene
    We don’t see Blofeld (Donald Pleasence) for a goodish chunk of You Only Live Twice—just the back of his chair and his white Persian. So it’s left to the cat to channel all that dastardly evil. Judging from this scene, as 007 blows up Blofeld’s rocket base inside a volcano, the pressure was all a bit much for the pedigree puss. He was reportedly so traumatised by the bangs and explosions he was found a week later hiding in the rafters.

    Motivation from the director
    “Give me villainy. Give me mwah ha ha. And for God’s sake, keep away from the piranhas.”

  • Stray cat in Half Nelson

    The cat
    Pedigree unknown.

    The scene
    Ryan Gosling’s disillusioned, coke-snorting teacher (who, as it happens, has just neglected his own cat to death) picks up a stray outside a drug dealer’s house.

    Motivation from the director
    None. This is a case of being in the right place at the right time. With human actors we call it street casting. Here it’s alley casting. The scene was unrehearsed. Gos spotted the cat during filming and picked it up, giving this cat its 15 minutes of fame.

  • Alley cats in Batman Returns

    The cat
    They look a mere clutter of flea-bitten feral cats. But in fact these are creepy superhero cats.

    The scene
    Super-hardworking secretary Selina (Michelle Pfeiffer) has just been pushed out of the window by her boss after his nefarious plans for world domination. Is she dead? Looks that way… until these kitties swarm out from behind the dustbins to nibble on her fingers and lick her back to life (transforming her into badass Catwoman).

    Motivation from the director
    “Come on my preciouses. I need you terrifying and adorable.”

     

  • The black cat in The Black Cat

    The cat
    Nothing is known about the puss (or more likely pusses) who starred in this 1934 horror classic. The Black Cat is best known for bringing Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) and Bela Lugosi (Dracula) together for the first time. But the real star is the midnight black moggie belonging to Karloff’s devil-worshipping architect.

    The scene
    This puss will need all nine of his lives before the film is out. Like Paris Hilton with a chihuahua, Satan-loving Karloff has a black cat super-glued to the crook of his arm. The reason? His arch-nemesis Lugosi suffers from ailurophobia (fear of cats), sending a knife or a bullet in their general direction whenever he claps eyes on one.

    Motivation from the director
    “Give me evil. Give me scheming. Give me darkness. Give me the living embodiment of evil.”

  • The fluffy white kitten in La Dolce Vita

    The cat
    The cutest of the bunch, a mewling, fluffy white ball of adorable kitten-ness.

    The scene
    This cat paws its way into one of the most iconic moments in movie history, the Trevi fountain scene. Hollywood film star Anita Ekberg has arrived in Rome and is prowling through the alleys. After howling at a dog, she scoops up the kitten and plonks him on her head. The poor kitty looks terrified. Maybe he’s scared that his brothers and sisters were sacrificed for her fur wrap?

    Motivation from the director
    “Okay, so when you see Miss Ekberg, think dog. Big, slathering, teeth-the-size of-gravestones hell hound.”

Jones from Alien

The cat
A ginger Tom with a habit of wandering off into the vast bowels of the Nostromo in search of… what? Space mice?

The scene
It’s a horror classic. “Heeeeere, kitty kitty…” After “little shithead” Jones sets off the ship’s motion-tracking devices, Harry Dean Stanton is sent off into the cavernous cargo deck to bring him back. We’re not sure if it’s intentional, but Jones leads poor Harry right into the path of something very large, toothy and ill-tempered.

Motivation from the director
“Run away… keep running… keep running… now turn and… hiss!”


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