Did you know that the Guinness World Records considers Sherlock Holmes as the most portrayed literary human character in film and TV? Since 1887, Sir Arthur Doyle’s most iconic creation has had over 250 on-screen appearances. Moreover, there have been over 100 different actors playing the titular role, including Sir Christopher Lee, Charles Heston, Christopher Plummer, Robert Downey Jr., and Benedict Cumberbatch. I guess this is a testament to how timeless and compelling the character is. Read on as we rank some of the best Sherlock Holmes adaptations ever!
Holmes and Watson (2018)
Getting a high-profile comedian like Will Ferrell to play Sherlock Holmes is enough to question this film’s take on the famous character. Watching the film is enough to show that it probably belongs to the bottom of this list. The unjustly, quirky and rather offensive take on the iconic Sherlock Holmes is mostly the director’s fault.
Miss Sherlock (2018)
This out-of-the-box adaptation is the most interesting and unique take of Sherlock Holmes in a long time. Though the difference may seem super big on the outside, Yūko Takeuchi who plays Sara “Sherlock” Shelly Futaba is actually a perfect choice for the role. Her portrayal of the puzzle-obsessed legend makes this adaptation faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works. Who knew Sherlock would be perfect as a modern day Japanese woman with a knack for high heels?
Elementary was a pretty great procedural TV series adaptation of Sherlock Holmes if it didn’t have to live up to its more popular BBC rival. It shows an eccentric Sherlock as he recovers from substance abuse, and is assisted by Dr. Joan Watson. What’s interesting about this adaptation is that it went deep into Sherlock’s background – from his mother’s own issues with opium to his field experience with M-16.
Sherlock Holmes (1916)
This is the oldest known surviving Sherlock Holmes film. It was once thought to be a lost film, but a copy was miraculously found in Paris. William Gillette, who played the iconic character 1,300 times on stage, plays the lead character on this 1916 silent film.
Without A Clue (1988)
Without A Clue is a hilarious take on Sherlock Holmes. Its twist is that its lead character is actually NOT a genius detective. Rather, he is really a *clueless* actor being propped up by the ACTUAL genius, Dr. Watson. Though this Sherlock deviates from the original works, it gives a pretty entertaining and one-of-a-kind twist to the Sherlock we know all too well.
Enola Holmes (2020)
This one’s another interesting take on the Sherlock Holmes series because it focuses on his little sister, Enola, rather than him. Here, Sherlock plays a minor role as the already famous detective, while his sister embarks on adventure to find their long lost mother.
Mr. Holmes (2015)
Mr. Holmes shows us a glimpse into a 93-year old Sherlock Holmes as his brilliant mind starts to deteriorate. With an unsolved mystery haunting him, Sherlock must come to terms with the things from his past. This adaptation is another compelling take on the character, as we experience a more personal and emotional journey.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Here’s one of the craziest and most recent Sherlock film adaptations. Robert Downey Jr. brings a whole new level of insanity to the character by infusing some of his own persona into Sherlock’s. Some may love it, while some may hate it, but one thing rings true. This Sherlock Holmes is not one to back down from a fight!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (1968)
This one stars Peter Cushing who took on the role of Sherlock multiple times. By staying true to the source material, he was able to portray the character with every bit of arrogance and cleverness it so justly deserves.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
Between 1939 and 1946, Basil Rathbone starred in 14 Sherlock Holmes films. He was responsible for inspiring the classic Sherlock look that we are all familiar with to this day. It’s safe to say that his appearance in the film was a game changer and influenced many succeeding portrayals of the character.
BBC’s Sherlock makes it to one of the top spots of this list because, well, we all know why. In spite of its modern setting and much more arrogant and annoying lead, Sherlock still feels so authentic. This can be very much attributed to Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Gatiss’ chemistry as Sherlock and Watson.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984-1994)
Taking the top spot is The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which ran for over a decade. It was so apparent on the show that Jeremy Brett breathed and lived as Sherlock Holmes. In fact, he was so obsessed with the character that he reportedly even played the character off-screen. From this, audiences will know just how his dedication to the role resonated with the series.