Top 10 Kitties in Cinema – Big Cats Edition

A few months ago I wrote an article about the ten best cats in cinema. I did this because I like cats. We did restrict the list to domestic sized cats though, and that means we can do another list about cats. Big cats!

10. Aslan

The Chronicles of Narnia

This is an easy candidate for this list, being a famous literary character wonderfully brought to life in an attempt to capitalise of the popularity of the Lord of the Rings movies but with the director of Shrek running the show. So why’s he only in at the #10 slot? Because I’m still sulking that Brian Cox got replaced by Liam Neeson. Yes, yes…he did fine. But Brian Cox would’ve been better.

9. Arena Tigers


Whenever Ridley Scott’s sword-and-sandals revival piece took us into the colosseum we were treated to some of the most intense and brutal action sequences in modern cinema. Just when you think it can’t get any more exciting…tigers!

Before you hit up the comments, we won’t just be putting CGI animals in this list. The next one is a guy in the costume!

8. The Cowardly Lion

The Wizard of Oz

Another iconic character who slipped down the list on a technicality, that being that he doesn’t look super cat-like (more so than a recent musical adaptation I don’t need to mention). Due to the technical limitations of the time, The Wizard of Oz features what is undeniably a dude lion in a furry suit who doesn’t even try walking on all fours. To be fair to their efforts, any attempt to make it more realistic with the effects of the time would lead to something downright stupid looking.

7. Mike Tyson’s Tiger

The Hangover

During the events of a black-out drunk bachelor party, one of the more outrageous things waiting for our heroes when they wake up is a live tiger in the hotel bathroom. During the events of the film they discover that they stole the animal from heavy-weight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Although the tiger used in filming did not belong to Tyson – in the midst of his face-tattooing and cocaine binge – he did once own tigers as pets. Word is he once owned seven felines and that’s pretty rad.

6. Ruh

The Beastmaster

This cult classic reads like a list of tropes that get parodied when the barbarian sub-genre gets put on blast, but the hero does have a black tiger as a sidekick. It’s got some value based on that. To summarise, in the land of Aruk, Dar teams up with Rah to fight Zed…actually, I’m not going to summarise this. It’s silly.

5. Richard Parker

Life of Pi

This is an especially good CGI creation of a tiger, and plays such a great role in the story of Pi being stranded at sea that he deserves recognition. What prevents Richard Parker from earning a higher spot isn’t his CGI creation but his questionable existence. Was he really a tiger or a metaphor? Perhaps he is Pi himself? Perhaps he represents the intersection of Pi’s three belief systems? Perhaps Richard Parker is God? Perhaps I am God? Perhaps I should get on with the article?

4. Kumal and Sangha

Two Brothers

In the little explored genre of movies starring animals – mostly little explored because they tend to be boring – this adventure wins points by being about tigers. There’s a couple of moments that tug at the heartstrings as we see the brothers separated as cubs and later reunite as adults. It’s not a happy story, but it is a story about tigers overcoming the odds.

3. The Ghost and The Darkness

The Ghost and The Darkness

Whilst the previous entry gave us a pair of tiger siblings remembering the human’s who did them kind, this entry flips the coin for a duo of lions who ate the crap out of people. Based on the true story of the Tsavo Man-Eaters, this film version has Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer on the hunt for the titular animals who killed somewhere between 28 and 100 workers building a railroad. Maybe this murder-spree was just to compensate for the emasculation of not having manes.

2. Baby

Bringing Up Baby

I’ve never been one for Romcoms. They’re often a very shallow formula and they’re always toothless. It’s always the same story but with a single gimmick used as a selling point. In the case that you have a gimmick, it’s hard to beat ‘caring for a cheetah’. The hijinks of Katherine Hepburn – a precursor to the manic pixie dream girl trope – and Cary Grant include being given charge of a cheetah and an identity mix-up. The titular Baby gets an identity mix-up themselves, being mistaken for a dangerous zoo escapee, and…well, it’s a romcom with a cheetah!

1. Leo

This one isn’t from a movie, but is attached to many movies that have lit up our cinemas for decades. Leo’s roar will be immediately conjured up in your mind when you learn that he’s the lion who appears in the MGM logo. That lion in the crest that roars at the start of some movies. Leo was not the first lion to take the job, having been preceded by Slats, Jackie, Telly, Tanner and George, but he’s the longest standing having first appeared in 1957 and continues to appear to this day. Born in Dublin, Leo is the youngest lion at the time of their filming, and was known for his gentle nature. He’s the most recognisable big cat in cinematic history.