Welcome to the unofficial Cats support group. It’s an exclusive club considering the movie musical completely bombed at the box office when it opened against Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. But since the feline-filled film was recently made available on digital, more movie fans are turning to Tom Hopper’s magic and mythical musical to pass their extended couch time. Seth Rogen even got high and live tweeted his first viewing last week, along with uncovering the film’s mysterious “Butthole Cut”. In other words, you’re not alone Cats viewers. It’s time to process the unique experience (trauma?) through a ranking of the movie’s characters.
No, we’re not picking the Jellicle choice. That was the whole point of the movie, wasn’t it? The time has now come to reach into that memory and decide which Cats characters have become “Beautiful Ghosts” that have and will sear into our consciousness for years to come. We’re not talking about the scariest looking cat or worst music number – these are the show-stopping Jellicle cats that simply cannot be forgotten. They might just curl up in a corner hidden somewhere in our minds forever. Let’s get to it:
Victoria (Francesca Hayward)
The leading feline of Cats is Victoria – who is a rather plain character in comparison to the cat-human CGI hybrids she shares the screen with during the musical. She’s also the cat viewers spend the most time alongside as she gets to know each of the contenders for Jellicle Choice. Victoria is perhaps the only character with a complete story arc and she has the honors of singing Taylor Swift’s shiny new track made specifically for the movie. Francesca Hayward is a classically trained ballet dancer and wow does she keep dancing… and dancing… and dancing. Although Cats serves as an introduction to show her talent, Victoria’s at the bottom of this list because the movie demands the offbeat and she’s just playing the straight man here… err, woman-cat.
Bombalurina (Taylor Swift)
Speaking of Cats cast members who are trying, when Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina enters the movie about two-thirds of the way in she really stands out. The pop singer gives a cool cat performance of “Macavity” by strutting her unique charm and impressive vocals. Whereas many of the other scenes have an edge to them, Swift’s feels like a straight-up number from a musical. She’s a bit of a relief to witness (over-the-top British accent and all) but perhaps she comes in too late for us to bear. Swift is undoubtedly having a ton of fun being in Cats, but it’s not nearly enough to wake us from any music-filled fever dream. It’s almost soothing to hear her sing “Macavity’s not there", because we really wish he wasn’t. But, more on that later.
Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo)
One recurring question many of us had during the viewing of Cats is this: are they supposed to be sexy? Jason Derulo is an early indication of Tom Hooper’s best efforts to awaken something sexually in those watching. Thankfully, even Rum Tum Tugger’s pop and locking doesn’t stick the landing. (But hey, to each its own?) Derulo’s fur-coat wearing, song-and-dance number at what can only be described as a cat rave is one of the more upbeat portions of Cats. Neutered manhood and all, Rum Tum Tugger is clearly a “player” cat and it shows. But that’s kind of it. He’s a CGI Jason Derulo dancing. The audience demands theatricality, make us believe you’re a Jellicle cat!
Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson)
This, of course, leads us to one of the few fully clothed cats in Cats: Mr. Mistoffelees. Is there a Miss. Mistoffelees at home that made him his top hat? Anyway, Laurie Davidson’s cat is more hauntingly memorable perhaps due to his specific outfit choice in the show. That bedazzled coat is a real winner. He’s one of the more adorable characters in Cats – which is what felines are supposed to be right? He primarily finds himself in the middle of this ranking because of his signature musical sequence that still gets random airplay in my head whenever it’s convenient to hound at me. You know the one. “Oh! Well I never! Was there ever a cat so clever as magical Mr. Mistoffelees!” The lyrics repeat over and over in the sequence, we’d thought it might never, ever end.
Grizabella (Jennifer Hudson)
Cats’ Jellicle Choice makes it to the top five, but there are a ton more memorable performances blocking the way for her spot all alone in the moonlight. Jennifer Hudson’s Grizabella has of course a beautiful voice as she belts out “Memory” – well because she’s Jennifer Hudson. The singer knows how to bring out emotion in her performance, but someone needs to hand that kitty a Kleenex for meowing out loud!! If you witnessed Cats on the big screen, you must have noticed Hudson’s snot in high definition and wow. Why? Just why? She’s already a CGI cat human person. So it definitely might have been her tears running around her nose, but come on. Jennifer Hudson didn’t deserve that.
Macavity (Idris Elba)
And now back to Macavity. Taylor Swift told us “he’s not there” but wow is Idris Elba all there. The green-eyed villain of Cats wears a My Name is Dolemite type of coat for the most of the movie but once Swift starts singing about him, he takes off the extra fur and bares everything. Unlike the other cats in the production, Elba’s skin color matches the fur of his car character and there’s not a ton of fur to leave much to the imagination. That, his choice of a hat alongside his near-nakedness and that time when he says something “meow-out” as he uses magic to disappear into nothingness out of nowhere without context or warning, certainly makes Macavity a major contender for this list’s own Jellicle choice.
Bustopher Jones (James Corden)
It’s not easy to feel sorry for a wildly famous celebrity, but then James Corden’s Bustopher Jones appears on screen. Not to say he doesn’t do the best he can and give an entertaining few minutes to the film. The late night host is packed with talent as he musters through a musical number that has him (literally) busting his balls and eating a ton of gross trash. His character design is simply ridiculous. Bustopher Jones has a massive twisty mustache and eyebrows made of fur and again with the top hats! Did you notice he takes off a tuxedo to reveal that his fur actually takes the shape of a tuxedo as well? Incredible. We’ll never look at Carpool Karaoke the same again.
Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench)
Sure Judi Dench has over a hundred acting credits to her name, but there’s no way we’re forgetting her Old Deuteronomy anytime soon. Dench’s royal cat earned the film one of many Razzie nominations, which she had the purr-fect response to. While the rest of the Cats characters have a creepy memorability about them, Judi Dench manages to achieve this along with finding some endearing quality to Old Deuteronomy. If the character was a normal looking cat and not weird human CGI, I might adopt her. Judi has a gentleness about her performance that the actress doesn’t often emit. However, the haunting quality of her character certainly has to be the moment when she looks right into the eyes of the camera and into our collective souls to say a cat is NOT a dog.
Gus the Theatre Cat (Ian McKellen)
It’s been well publicized that the actors of Cats went to “cat school” to get ready for the big-screen adaptation. It’s evident that Ian McKellan was paying attention the most because wow does he really go for it with the character work. If you didn’t catch it, Ian McKellan’s cat is named Asparagus and “Gus” is for short. Oftentimes it feels like McKellan is the only actor in Cats that really understood what kind of movie it was going to be and leaned into it in every way. From his random uses of “meow”, searing few seconds in which he just licks into a bowl of milk and “serious” musical monologues, Ian McKellan is absolutely perfect in Cats.
Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson)
The only feline with an edge over Ian McKellen’s performance in Cats is Rebel Wilson’s Jennyanydots. And while McKellen is perfect in Cats, Wilson’s character encompasses the nightmarish quality of the movie to its full intensity. Whenever she is on screen, audiences are witnessing the most bonkers sequences in modern cinema. She’s the one to introduce viewers to humans dressed as cockroaches by the gift of CGI and children playing absolutely horrifying mice. Between her bumbling around and failed physical comedy, Jennyanydots actually unzips one of her catsuits to reveal another bit of fur during her musical number. And then she does it again in another scene! Which poor things is she skinning to add to the shock value of her songs? It’s the most hauntingly memorable bit of Cats that you have to see to believe.
Now it’s your turn? Which Cats character is setting up its own space in your memory? Sound off in the comments and vote in our poll below.