The film industry has employed the services of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes as far as 1900. The consulting detective, with his friend Dr. John Watson, are enduring characters dating back to their first appearance in 1887. Their stories are so iconic and well-developed that film studios, writers and directors often revisit them and create different iterations for new audiences.
The Batman films may have four different actors playing the Caped Crusader in two decades, but at least seven actors have played different versions of Sherlock Holmes in the same time frame. The character itself holds the world record as the most portrayed character with over 75 actors playing the detective over the years. Fancy the Victorian era Holmes? Or the modern-day Holmes? Here are Rotten Tomatoes-fresh-rated films to quench audiences’ thirst for a good, thrilling mystery featuring the 221B Baker Street resident.
‘Sherlock Holmes’ (2009)
Guy Ritchie directs a stylish and very Guy Ritchie-esque Sherlock Holmes (2009). Set in 1890s London, the Baker Street duo faces a secret plot that threatens England.
Ritchie’s signature kinetic style might not win all the critics, but audiences and critics agree that the production and cast are exceptional. Robert Downey Jr. leads with a strong performance, and his chemistry with Jude Law and Rachel McAdams is palpable. Moreover, Hans Zimmer‘s Oscar-nominated score greatly compliments the energy of the film. This film kicks off a trend of Holmes adaptations on the big and small screen for modern audiences.
‘Sherlock’ (2010 – 2017)
The BBC series transports Holmes to modern day London. Throughout its memorable four seasons and one special episode, the show sees Holmes clash against consulting criminal Moriarty, the mysterious Irene Adler and more.
The series was known for its intelligent plotting, creative visuals and great lead performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Sherlock‘s first three seasons are near perfect, averaging 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. The fourth season is still an engaging piece of television, but it mostly fell victim to high expectations. With both Cumberbatch and Freeman now global superstars, the chance for a fifth season is closing down but still possible.
‘Mr. Holmes’ (2015)
Based on the book The Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullins, Mr. Holmes follows a retired Sherlock Holmes who is struggling to recall his last case because of his old age.
This Bill Condon film might not be as bombastic as other typical adaptations, but Mr. Holmes is a tender story deconstructing the myth and the legend of Sherlock Holmes. Ian McKellen‘s portrayal is lauded by critics and audiences alike. McKellen brings an understated performance as the aging detective. The film is a very warm, character study suitable for a cozy viewing.
‘House’ (2004 – 2012)
The Fox series House is not a conventional Sherlock Holmes adaptation as it is merely inspired by the character. Hugh Laurie plays the titular role as an eccentric genius doctor specializing in diagnostic medicine. The series also stars Lisa Edelstein, Omar Epps, and Olivia Wilde.
The show is praised for its breath of fresh air for television programming at the time. Dr. Gregory House was even mentioned as one of the best characters to grace the screens. Throughout the series there are various references to Doyle’s stories such as House’s address which shares the same name as Holmes, as well as story elements from the classic Holmes adventures.
‘Enola Holmes’ (2020)
Enola Holmes shifts the focus from Sherlock to his little sister. Enola wants to break away from her brothers’ shadows and tries to solve the mystery of a missing Marquess. The Holmes siblings – Enola, Sherlock and Mycroft – are played by Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, and Sam Claflin, respectively.
Based on a book by Nancy Springer, the film is full of energy and fun with its frequent fourth wall breaks – similar to Fleabag -and excellent humor. The film relies on Brown’s performance, and she does not disappoint. The duo Sherlock and Mycroft provides the laughs. The film is a pandemic-era success for Netflix that they green-lit a sequel.
‘Enola Holmes 2’ (2022)
Following the first film’s exceptional run on Netflix, Enola Holmes returns. This time she brings along a piece of history to assimilate to the film as she investigates a missing sister who has been working in a match factory.
Enola Holmes 2brings a much larger mystery for the characters to unravel and also a much bigger part for Cavill’s Sherlock Holmes. The film is a charming and thrilling young adult adaptation that has been missing for a while now. Keep an eye out for new additions from the Sherlock Holmes’ canon to the film.
‘The Hound of Baskervilles’ (1959)
Based on Doyle’s landmark work, The Hound of Baskervilles sees Sherlock Holmes investigating a family who claims to be cursed at their new house. The film was quite revolutionary as it was the first Hammer Film Production presented in color.
As a big Sherlock Holmes fan, Peter Cushing (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) played the lead role, often suggesting things based on the book that he read for preparation. His dedication was not in vain; Cushing was highlighted by critics who say that he is one of the best Holmes depictions on screen.
‘Elementary’ (2009 – 2012)
In Elementary, Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) finds himself in New York as a recovering addict with Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) as his sober companion. The series ran for seven high-rated seasons from 2009 to 2012.
Released so closely with the BBC version, it was first met with criticism from fans. However, as the show finds its footing in subsequent seasons, the series managed to be its own thing. Part procedural, part Sherlock Holmes re-imagining, the series was able to experiment with the format and also incorporate iconic Doyle characters and storylines.
‘Miss Sherlock’ (2018)
Miss Sherlock might be the most unique adaptation so far. Not only it is set in current times, it shifts the location to Japan, and both Holmes and Watson are played by women. Sara “Sherlock” Shelly Futaba (the late Yuko Takeuchi) is a consulting detective aiding the Metropolitan Police alongside his flatmate Wato-san (Yes, that’s Watson played by Shihori Kanjiya).
The HBO Asia show was praised for gender-swapping the lead characters naturally to fit with the stories. The mysteries presented on the show is worthy of any Holmes or Doyle fan. The show is a tremendous addition to the ever expanding world of Holmes adaptations.
‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ (1939)
In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the pipe-smoking detective was pitted against his nemesis James Moriarty, as he tries to stop the master criminal from stealing the Crown Jewels.
Basil Rathbone is probably the quintessential Sherlock Holmes figure. He played the master deductionist in 14 major films in two time periods. This film and its predecessor was set in Victorian era while the next 12 films were set in contemporary 1940s. This film was responsible for making the line “Elementary, my dear Watson” so popular despite the fact it was never featured in Doyle’s works.
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