The "cat-and-mouse" story is popular in thrillers, both in print and on film. Maybe it's because we all have some sadistic impulse buried deep in our minds to watch one powerful creature toy with and dominate the other. Or maybe it's because a good cat-and-mouse thriller requires a certain amount of intelligence and refinement in its plotting. Whatever the reasons, here are five of the best cat-and-mouse thrillers ever made.
One of the few movies to actually feature a character using the phrase "cat-and-mouse," Alfred Hitchcock's single-setting thriller, shows a pair of college students who kill one of their friends, stuff his body in a trunk, then serve drinks off of it during a party. Classic cat behavior, right? But in typical Hitchcock fashion they eventually go from being the cats to being the mice, when their old college professor James Stewart catches on to their fatal game.
This 1950s noir is sort of obscure, but it features one of the screen's all-time biggest stars (Joan Crawford) with one of the screen's all-time biggest weirdos (Jack Palance) locked in a murderous game of cat-and-mouse. Crawford is a mystery playwright who uses her thriller-plotting skills to murder her husband (Palance), who was planning to murder her. It may seem confusing, but the tension of the story is as clear as a bell when you watch the movie.
David Fincher's 2002 thriller "Panic Room" is a masterful entry in the cat-and-mouse subgenre. Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart are the mother and daughter who become the prey of a group of vicious thieves who are looking for something inside the very room that was designed to protect them from intruders. The result is a highly suspenseful bit of cat-and-mouse gamesmanship.
"The Silence of the Lambs"
Lecter, the entire world is just one big bunch of mice to your cat. One mouse in particular is Clarice Starling, an FBI agent sent to pick the imprisoned Lecter's brain in order to try and stop a serial killer at-large by the name of Buffalo Bill. Instead of providing straightforward consulting, though, Lecter instead provides Starling with a series of clues before plotting his own ingenious escape. Advantage: Cat.
The "Tom and Jerry" Shorts
We would be remiss if we didn't include the definitive cat-and-mouse escapades: Tom and Jerry. Tom is a literal cat while Jerry is a literal mouse, but their relationship is a bit more complicated than that dynamic might suggest. For one, Jerry is a lot smarter (and luckier in that cartoon sort of way) than Tom, so Tom, while usually the aggressor, usually ends up the victim of either his own machinations or Jerry's attempts at revenge. How Sylvester the Cat fits into this, no one can say.