Jul 15 2011 5:00pm

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes stands out among fictional characters insofar as a staggering amount of actors have interpreted him on the stage and screen for over a hundred years. Holmes himself has been called numerous things: intellect, superhero, amateur, specialist, addict, liar, egomaniac, and most recently “a functional sociopath.” But has anyone really nailed it all? Which actors throughout the years have given us the best Sherlock Holmes?

Obviously there are far more actors who have played the great detective beyond the ones I’ve listed below. Yes, I’ve excluded Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Roger Moore, Ellie Norwood, Tom Baker, and even John Cleese. But I consider the ones discussed below to be leading contenders, the winning horses, if you will, in the conversation about Sherlock Holmes as interpreted by an actor. 


Paget’s Pen & Brush

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

Though not an actor, the early drawings in The Strand compromise the first visual representation of the famed detective. While the physical details of Sherlock Holmes come from Doyle’s description of the character, it is invariably the illustrations of Sidney Paget that burned the most lasting impression of Holmes into the collective conciseness. Notably, the assignment of Sidney Paget as the illustrator of the Holmes stories was an accident, as Sidney’s brother Walter was also an illustrator and the intended recipient of The Strand Magazine’s contract. However, because we live in this universe, the most famous visuals of the great detective come from Sidney by way of a postal error. Though Doyle allegedly found these depictions of Holmes to be “too handsome” the Paget drawings doubtlessly influenced the casting of the character for the stage and screen for years to come. One could even argue that the small arrogant smile, present in many of Paget’s drawings later influenced the actors who played him. (For on on Paget, click here.)


William Gillette

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

If there is one actor who is truly responsible for the various Holmes acoutrements, such as the cloak, the hat, the pipe, or the robe, it is William Gillette. Gillette not only starred as Holmes in the stage play Sherlock Holmes, he also adapted his own version! The original version was a five-act play written by Doyle, which Gillette changed to a four-act structure, with Doyle’s approval. According to various accounts, when Conan Doyle met with Gillette to approve this project he felt as though Sherlock Holmes himself had stepped off the train to meet him. Interestingly, Gillette was an American, and was most famous throughout his career for this part. Many of the “incorrect” assumptions about the character come from this version, such as “Elementary, my dear Watson,” a phrase which never actually appears in the books. When one thinks of a sort of traditional version of Holmes, that interpretation most likely comes from Gillette, who played the character in nearly 1,300 performances throughout his life. Was he faithful to the original work? The verdict seems to be: kind of. However, at the point at which Doyle himself was around to endorse his interpretation, Gillette remains one of the most canonical Holmes actors of all time. Gillette’s portrayal of Holmes was so popular that during the 1932 farewell tour, novelist Booth Tarkington said “I would rather see you play Sherlock Holmes again than be a child again on Christmas morning.”


Basil Rathbone

The famous screen actor, though born to English parents, was from South Africa. Thanks to his Shakespearean background and a turn at dueling with Errol Flynn in films like Captain Blood, Rathbone was already a major star before he took on the role of Holmes. Rathbone’s tenure as Holmes is probably largely responsible for making The Hound of the Baskervilles the most wildly remembered Holmes title amongst the general public. His first Holmes role was a full-length film of Baskervilles in which, along side Nigel Bruce as Watson, Rathbone delivered a proper Victorian Holmes in keeping with Gillette’s interpretation. Rathbone is of course a great character actor and highly convincing as Holmes. However, despite having a bumbling and useless Watson, the Rathbone tenure has two major problems. The first is that Rathbone continued the trend started by Gillettte which emphasized Holmes as a gentleman. The sort of unkempt crazy-person of the stories and novels isn’t as evident in Rathbone’s performance, which is instead the more cartoony Holmes many pictured for years and years. Second, post-Baskervilles the majority of the Rathbone adventures are NOT adaptations of any kind and set in a WWII timeline. This is not to say putting Holmes in a timeline other than the Victorian era is bad, but at the point at which Rathbone’s Holmes was more of a caricature than a character, the jingoistic aspect of these stories only made that quality worse. The real crime isn’t Rathbone himself here, but rather that the majority of his Holmes work feels dated.


Peter Cushing

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

Of all the actors to play Sherlock Holmes, Cushing perhaps looks the part more than others, specifically the hawk-like nose. In the grand scheme of various actors who have assumed this mantle, Cushing often gets lost in the shuffle because of various other and perhaps more famous performances. However, Cushing brought a level of theatricality to the detective that was more intense than Rathbone, and more nuanced than some of the later incarnations. Cushing’s Holmes is one that has a lot of “Ah-ha!” moments in which he demonstrates in broad strokes just why he is such a genius. (A certain scene from The Hound of the Baskervilles in which Cushing throws a knife onto a letter springs to mind.) There is nothing particularly wrong with Cushing’s portrayal of Holmes at all, other than the fact that he has such stiff competition. If the depiction of Holmes on the screen had ended with Peter Cushing, the world would be just fine. However, it didn’t.


Jeremy Brett

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

In the 1980s, Granada Television set out to do something that had yet to be attempted with the canon of Sherlock Holmes: faithfully adapt all the stories and novels. Though minor changes and framing devices were altered throughout the run of this series, for the most part the accuracy to the source material is striking. Anyone who has seen the first two seasons of the Jeremy Brett era will agree; he may well be the definitive screen Sherlock Holmes. From his flippant arrogance, to his deadly serious demeanor, Brett perfectly blended the bohemian and messy Holmes with the Victorian gentlemen of the public consciousness. The costumes of Brett’s Sherlock were also fantastic because it reminded us that Holmes wasn’t about the deerstalker and the magnifying glass, but rather about the person. Brett’s performance also brought something somewhat new to the role: Holmes was human.

The character’s drug addiction is addressed with this Holmes and his feelings for Irene Adler are explored with more tenderness than in the original text. This Holmes is also hilarious. I’ve heard many fans cite this as something they didn’t like about Brett’s portrayal, however if you’ve never laughed out loud while reading Sherlock Holmes, then I think we’re reading different books. Brett’s Holmes was funny, messed up and sexier than previous Holmes. (He was considered for James Bond in the 70s!) Though some of the later episodes and TV movies are hard to watch as this great actor’s health deteriorated, he is still one of the best actors to ever tackle the part.

According to various interviews with Brett, the part deeply changed him as he found he had so much in common with Sherlock Holmes. In short, poor Jeremy Brett went a little bonkers from playing this iconic character, a character who is also a little bonkers. And though it is a tragedy that Mr. Brett was taken from us so early in his life, we’ll always have his perfectly mad Holmes to enjoy forever.


Robert Downey Jr.

The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

In 2009, Guy Ritchie decided to remind us that Holmes could handle himself in a fight as well as be an awesome intellect. Robert Downey Jr. then punched, kicked and shot his way through a pseudo-steampunk version of Sherlock Holmes. What irritated me about this movie actually had nothing to do with Downey Jr. Instead, the level of physical violence annoyed me. I get extremely tired of people telling me how “in the books Holmes fights people.” Let’s be serious, this doesn’t happen that often, and just because Holmes and Watson can take care of themselves in a dust-up doesn’t mean they are thugs. And in the Guy Ritchie movies, they’re thuggish.

BUT, this is not to say that Robert Downey Jr. isn’t a good Holmes. He’s actually great as Holmes. He combines the intellect with the insanity with such a smooth ease that sometimes you forget he’s the famous actor that he is. In terms of an actor who really shows how messy and screwed up Holmes is, Downey Jr. might be the best ever. This is closer to what Conan Doyle intended; a messy addict who happens to be more brilliant than everyone around him. The only problem I have with this Holmes is that he occupies a boring action-movie narrative. Both the character and Downey Jr.’s portrayal are better than this.


Benedict Cumberbatch


The most recent Holmes is easily the best since Brett. Unlike some of the WWII era Rathbone Holmes, the transportation of the character to a non-Victorian setting actually does Cumberbatch a lot of favors. Cumberbatch is arrogant, confident, funny, hyper intelligent, and absolutely social awkward. The way in which the various famous Holmes maxims are paraphrased in this version breathes new life into the character. The fact that writer Steven Moffat decided to play up Sherlock’s ignorance on a variety of subjects is a masterful move. Many a casual fan might forget that Watson drew up a list of Sherlock’s knowledge on various subjects in A Study in Scarlet, which demonstrated the great detective had limited information about all kinds of things, including knowing nothing about astronomy. In the text, Holmes refers to his mind as being like an attic full of furniture whereas Cumberbatch asserts, “this is my hard drive!”

Because there are so many moments when Benedict Cumberbatch owns the fact that he IS Sherlock Holmes, it’s hard to pick just one. Perhaps my favorite is when he is looking out the window of 221B Baker in “The Great Game” and describes the quiet peaceful atmosphere of the street below as “hateful.” Holmes thrives on conflict and hates boredom above all else. This, more than anything is the character. And Cumberbatch plays that aspect perhaps better than anybody.


What about you? Which Holmes is your favorite? Does it matter to you how accurate he is to the text? Do you like your Holmes funny or dark? Proper or sloppy? Let us know!

Ryan Britt is a staff writer for He has written about Sherlock Holmes for as well as Clarkesworld Magazine.

Ben HM3
1. BenHM3
I think you did pretty well, Ryan: you've wasted (unbelievably) even more time than I have watching the various Sherlocks. I'll bet we equally enjoyed every moment.

I'd like to point out that the character of Sherlock (played by any) seems to be the UK/Victorian/Detective version of Shatner's Kirk: The trick comes in walking just up to the line of melodramatic hyperdiva, and then turning abruptly. Each of the screen actors you've mentioned has a different trick for doing this, for not straying past the point where we roll our eyes and go for a snack.

And though Watson's not the story here, I'd like a shout-out for Brett's, Downey's, and Cumberbatch's co-pilots. Nigel Bruce was a ridiculously over-done foil to Rathbone's Holmes. Basil didn't need that much blue velevet to set off his sparkle. And though Jude Law's astonishingly good, Martin Freeman's run away with the prize. Even playing Arthur Dent, I've always seen a lethality in Freeman, perhaps in how suddenly and completely his expressions go to rest. So while I'll be right in front with my daughter to see RDJr's next foray, I'm really on the edge of my seat for Cumberbatch & Freemam.

Again, nice article Ryan. I shall have to rewatch some Rathbone this weekend!
Chris Long
2. radynski
I had just finished reading an anthology of every Holmes story ever when they announced the Guy Ritchie movie. I went to see it in the theatres and I couldn't have been more pleased.

I agree that the movie was probably more action-driven than most Holmes stories. However, what Guy Ritchie did REALLY right was Holmes, Watson, and their relationship. I thought this was by far the best Sherlock I had ever seen.
Mike Conley
3. NomadUK
I agree with you that Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch are likely the definitive on-screen Holmeses, and the amazing thing is that they are separated by a century of setting. Truly, the transportation of Holmes into 21st century Britain by Steven Moffat is one of the most inspired bits of television ever — and so utterly superior to the unfortunate placement of Basil Rathbone in WWII fighting Nazis; I prefer to simply forget about those entirely.

Whilst Brett's two Watsons were both excellent, I do think I prefer the earlier one, David Burke, to the later Edward Hardwicke — though the preference isn't a strong one, and both were, as I said, excellent in their own way. Cumberbatch's sidekick is played to perfection by the brilliant Martin Freeman, and may well be my favourite Watson ever.

But special mention must be given to James Mason, who played Watson in Murder by Decree — one of my favourite films. I think Christopher Plummer's Holmes was a bit too soft and jovial for my taste, but I thoroughly enjoyed Mason's long-suffering, hound-loyal portrayal of the good doctor. He wasn't, perhaps, as accurately portrayed as in the above examples, but, you know, I could, as is so often said of great actors, watch James Mason read the telephone directory and be perfectly content.
4. Hatgirl
Yes, Brett and Cumberbatch are my desert island Sherlocks (although why the desert island has a solar powered DVD player is another question).

As for the Watsons, "Hark, A Vagrant" springs to mind:
The Case of the Two Watsons
Another Case of the Watsons
5. Breda
Because I'm so picky about my book-based movies (see: Harry Potter), I hadn't really ever seen a Sherlock Holmes movie that didn't make me cringe. (To be fair, I only watched a few because of this experience. I don't even know which ones they were. Oh, except for the RDJ. He's good, though maybe a bit too charming, but I didn't like Jude Law, and I HATED the violence.) I was SO reluctant to watch the new BBC series because of this and the new setting, but I was finally convinced. And I was blown away. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are pitch-perfect in a way I wasn't sure anyone ever could be. I couldn't find a single nit to pick, and that in itself is an astonishing achievement. Add to that the fact that I straight-up loved the episodes? Excellent job, everyone involved with that show. Excellent.
6. GuruJ
Is it wrong to confess that for me, Michael Caine brings the definitive Holmes to life even though in his film he is just an actor for the real brains behind the outfit, Watson?
7. tnv
I had secretly hoped when I clicked on this that the wide erudition of would lead to a mention of the very interesting Soviet series (available with English subtitles). A large photograph of Vasily Livanov as Holmes hangs in the 221 Baker Street gift shop in London, in acknowledgement that his portrayal is sometimes considered the best portrayal of the detective in any language. If you could find a subtitled copy, don't miss it.
Karen Lofstrom
8. DPZora
Agree with mad love for the latest Cumberbatch-Freeman version, with one caveat: the second episode with the Chinese plot. Tongs? Tea ceremonies? Acrobats in Qing dynasty costumes? Antiquated stereotype much?
John Massey
9. subwoofer
Heh, Michael Caine, "Without a Clue" with Ben Kingsley- good movie, and an interesting turn on the story:) Don Knotts and Tim Conway did a spoof too, back in the day. I believe the movie was called "The Two Private Eyes". Good times.

For me, I grew up with Jeremy Brett and it is hard to wrap my head around the other actors. Brett will always be the mirror to which everyone else is held up to.

Robert Downey... well, back in the day he was part of the Brat Pack and did a movie- Less Than Zero- that Downey portrayed fairly accurately as it was him- drug addict. All his roles are colored by this- fairly egocentric over the top acting... waiting for him to pull a Charlie Sheen someday... in short, not the best Holmes I've seen.

I've seen various versions of "Hound..." for obvious reasons and I still prefer Brett to the others.

10. RachelK
Just chiming it to agree that Brett and Cumberbatch are the best screen Holmes. Jeremy Brett's career as Holmes is hard to top; he succeeded in filming near all the stories as faithful adaptations. My only quibble is that both he and the two actors who played Watson are a trifle too old to be entirely accurate to the original stories. Holmes and Watson were presumably in their 20s when they met. Cumberbatch and Freeman are about the right age, and I love the BBC adaptation. You can tell the people behind it are true fans of the original stories. Martin Freeman's Watson is the real gem of the series. He is my favorite screen Watson and captures all of the attributes of the retired army surgeon as he was originally written. Benedict Cumberbatch is also superb, and one day he may be remembered as great a Holmes as Jeremy Brett was.

You didn't include another of my faves - Robert Stephens from The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. He only played the role in that one movie, but he was a memorable Holmes.
Ryan Britt
11. ryancbritt
@1Ben and 4 Hatgirl
I think either myself or someone here at will do a Watson list soon. I'll restrain myself on comments until then, other than to say I love Martin Freeman.

Again on the Watson point, I have to say I really prefer the Hardwicke to Burke in a big way.

@7 tnv
I must see it now! I have to say I've heard it's great.

There will certainly be more posts about some of the lesser-known Holmes actors. Some of it requires me actually re-watching those versions, or in some cases, watching those versions for the first time! (As is the case with Caine)

I know, I know. Second episode is rough. Upon re-watching it though, it's not all bad.

@Breda I didn't like Jude Law much either. He was actually way better when he was a bit-part on the Jermey Brett version!
12. E. Hunter
Can only agree with all those who love the Cumberbatch and Freeman combination. I absolutely love the series and I think they've nailed the character dynamic between Holmes and Watson. I also love that they've transported the setting as it focuses the series on the characters instead of period details.
13. Tansy Rayner Roberts
Aww, no love for Nicholas Rowe in Young Sherlock Holmes? Just me, then?

I'll admit the suck fairy has probably visited this junior action adventure several times over since I fell in love with it at age eleven, but it was my introduction to the character and I still remember the scene in which he puts down the violin in a rage and says "I should have mastered it by now" after only practicing for 3 days.
14. Pinky
What? No love for Michael Pennington? For shame.
15. a1ay
"Agree with mad love for the latest Cumberbatch-Freeman version, with one caveat: the second episode with the Chinese plot."

Oh, and the episode where the climax is the "which goblet is the poison in" puzzle from The Princess Bride, which we are unaccountably expected to take seriously...
Sharat Buddhavarapu
16. spinfuzz
That was a wonderful sum-up and I have to agree that Brett and Cumberbatch are the best. Between them, there's not much to differentiate, except that the scripts Brett had to work with were obviously trying to stay faithful to Conan Doyle's work, whereas Steven Moffat is moving Sherlock into the 21st century. Also, Cumberbatch is Smaug in the Hobbit and Freeman is Bilbo. Moffat is working with Peter Jackson on Tintin. So as a package... maybe the new Sherlock wins! Besides, I've always enjoyed people able to bring a story up-to-date without making it feel like references to YouTube and Facebook are cheap.
Valentin M
17. ValMar
Brett is the man! Have to agree with Subwoofer- once I watched Jeremmy Brett no other Holmes seems truly good. Well, Data wasn't bad for an amateur...

A big reason why I enjoy the Granada series is the represenation of Watson and the chemistry between the two.

I haven't seen the ...Hound yet. Recorded it a week ago and I am waiting with giddy anticipation for a two hour window when I can devote all my attention to its goodness :)
Sharat Buddhavarapu
18. spinfuzz
I really, really disagree with the hate on the Chinese plot and so on. It was a clever way of interpreting the Sign of Four to me. The original story was I remember a pretty stereotypical, "the sun never sets on the British Empire" portrayal of India (I'm an Indian, btw). I kind of liked how they did it. Though it WAS the worst of the series.
James Whitehead
19. KatoCrossesTheCourtyard
I loved Basil Rathbone as a boy, my mum had his radio shows on records that I used to listen to; although I didn't like Watson being a bumbling fool.

Brett for me, however, is the best Holmes. I consider his to be the definitive Holmes as he captures the look, intonation, and physical presence of Holmes for me.


PS - I did find Caine's Holmes to be funny although it did irriate my mum no end as she's a big fan and has never gone into these 'reimaginings' of classic characters. ;-)
20. a1ay
The original story was I remember a pretty stereotypical, "the sun
never sets on the British Empire" portrayal of India (I'm an Indian,
btw). I kind of liked how they did it.

He liked his foreign secret societies, Conan Doyle did. You've got the Sign of Four, and then the Scowrers in "The Valley of Fear", and the Ku Klux Klan in "The Five Orange Pips", and of course the Mormons in "A Study in Scarlet", which is the one I really want to see modernised. "This man was killed by a murderous religious fanatic, sent on his mission by his bearded theocratic overlord in a far-distant desert country racked with violence and insurrection. ...No, not that one, Watson. A different one."
21. Demerara
Totally agree that Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Brett are probably the best on screen representations (although I still have a soft spot for Basil Rathbone), but my personal definitive Holmes isn't actually from the screen. It's Clive Merrison, who played Holmes in the BBC Radio 4 adaptations (they did every single book in the series) - his Watson, Michael Williams (Judi Dench's husband) was perfect as well, although he died a while ago. I totally recommend listening to those - Clive Merrison's voice and style of acting is just perfect for me (right down to his maniacal cackle)! I also wish he got a bit more love - radio tends to get forgotten, but I think his portrayal of Holmes deserves to be mentioned in every one of these lists. :)
Michael Poteet
22. MikePoteet
I didn't object to the amount of action in the Downey film as much as I did the fact that the plot hinged on the supernatural. Conan Doyle was a spiritualist, but his most famous creation was deciedly not; and I found the use of supernatural and occult plot devices throughout the movie a real turn-off. I did, however, enjoy Downey and Law's Holmes and Watson, and I'm hoping the sequel will have a mystery more grounded in reality.

Nothing but cheers for Cumberbatch from me, also. Yes, the climax of the pilot was a little bit "Princess Bride," but darned if Cumberbatch didn't sell it. I really got a sense for just how bonkers Holmes truly can be. He created, in that scene, a version of the character who is not just bored by inaction but who is threatened by it to the point that he has to go out and risk his own life, if need be, just to get his "fix." Very compelling.
23. a1ay
Conan Doyle was a spiritualist, but his most famous creation was
deciedly not; and I found the use of supernatural and occult plot
devices throughout the movie a real turn-off.

But all the apparently supernatural business in the film turned out to have completely natural rational explanations, which is bang in line with Conan Doyle. "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot", for example, and "The Adventure of the Sussez Vampire". No supernatural elements involved. Blackwood didn't really rise from the dead, he faked his own death. It wasn't Satan who split open his tomb, it was gunpowder. Etc, etc. Yes, there was a bit of improbable science involved... but that fits too ("The Creeping Man" for example.)
Ryan Britt
24. ryancbritt
@23 a1ay

Though I agree the debunking of the supernatural was a part of all those stories you mentioned, I feel like the way it was done in the Downey Jr. film was a little more like Scooby-Doo. I'm not sure why, but there's something about "Devil's Foot" and "Creeping Man" that is way more legit.
25. a1ay
I feel like the way it was done in the Downey Jr. film was a little more like Scooby-Doo.

True. I think because it was the villain deliberately faking supernatural effects, rather than (in the ones I cited) things happening and other observers wrongly assuming that the supernatural was involved.

But one massive counterexample, where the villain deliberately pretends that there's something spooky going on: The Hound of the Baskervilles. And I can't believe I missed that one out of my first comment. Big dog with glow-in-the-dark paint on its mouth!
26. karadin
Brett and Cumberbatch both bring wonderful intensity and charisma to the character of Sherlock Holmes, you understand why their respective (and all wonderful) Watsons would follow them without question.

Jeremy Brett was taken from us too soon, he suffered from manic depression exacerbated by the death of his beloved wife, so to say 'he went bonkers' from playing Holmes is making light of his affliction. He shared his condition with the world so that others would seek help.

Brett has come to be defined by his role as Holmes, Cumberbatch has risen to stardom as Sherlock, but he'll not be defined by it, I'm going to be thrilled to see where his career goes from here.
27. Jen J. Danna
For me, the first Holmes I became familiar with was Paget's Holmes. I adored Doyle's series and the illustrations only strengthened the character for me.

But I was a teenager in the 80s and was raised on PBS' Mystery series, and part of that was Brett as Holmes. To this day, he's the quintessential Holmes for me and now fills that roll as well for my daughters. My 14 year old will often pull the DVDs off the shelf to watch an episode or two. Brett nailed the Holmes I knew from the stories themselves, bringing style and flair to the role. Of course, it helped that the had the support of on outstanding supporting cast, wonderful sets and costumes, Patrick Gowers' magnificent theme and score, and a loyally adapted screenplay.

Thank you, Mr. Brett. You will live on forever in our family for this single role alone...
28. samtr3
I had the pleasure of knowing Basil Rathbone, we shared the same barber in Manhattan. His roles were always tongue in cheek. Jeremy Brett was Holmes, indeed he brought the stories to life.
Robert Downey, Jr. .. well, perhaps both he, the writer of the film and the director should have read Conan Doyle's version of the Great Detective.
29. earlofwessex
I enjoyed the Robert Downey Jr. Holmes, but was bothered by several things. First was his personal dirtiness. Holmes was untidy, but this is different from being physically dirty. Holmes could not have passed in polite society if he were personally dirty.

Second is how they made Watson a gambler. I think that they must have thought of this as a way to make him more real and three-dimensional, however it's totally out of character. Being a gambler (which is different from simply gambling) was a very serious vice and Holmes would never described Watson as being a conventional Englishman if he had been an inveterate gambler. Holmes’ telling Watson’s fiancé that he has a gambling problem would be the equivalent nowadays of telling a fiancé that her future husband habitually utilizes prostitutes. I feel offended on Watson’s behalf.

I was also bothered that they named the dog Gladstone, when Conan Doyle was a member of Gladstone’s Liberal Party (until Gladstone’s proposal of Irish home rule caused Doyle to leave with the Liberal Unionists). It’s like giving Jack Ryan a dog named “Reagan.” However, I realize that this is getting picky.
Thanks for the great article. I will be directing friends to it.
30. Rklewis
Where's the live for Christopher Plummer's rendition of Holmes in "Murder by Decree"? That's like leaving out Lazenby out of a list of Bonds!
31. Miss B
Jeremy Brett for me is the best Holmes ever- he was utterly mesmerising to watch, charismatic, eccentric and brilliant. As much as I like Edward Hardwicke, David Burke is my fave Watson.
Benedict Cumberbatch makes a good c.21st century Holmes, but I will always prefer Holmes in the Victorian era where he comes from.
32. Lesa
I agree with you that Jeremy Brett is the best on screen Holmes and forever has held my heart. No one could ever go wrong with loving Peter Cushing. I also have enjoyed the newest incarnation of this character played by Cumberbatch. That being said, I think you left out a few who deserved mention. For instance, Robert Stephens who was ,according to me and maybe only me, the most beautiful of all the actors to have played Holmes. He incidently reminds me of Benedict Cumberbatch. There is also Richard Foxburgh who played Holmes in the Hound of the Baskervilles. The newest version for TV with Cumberbatch is wonderful and makes Holmes to me not a sociopath but more of a person with high functioning Aspergers Syndrome. I also like the use of technology which increases Holmes intelligence tenfold.
33. Jackey Wordstooln
Sherlock holmes has been my favorite character my whole life. I really look up to him. I have also read the sherlock holmes books. Thank you very much by the way for sharing these awesome photos with incredible artists who played Sherlock Holmes.

My Last Post:
34. Girisaravanan
No one can match with the brett performance for potraying sherlock holmes character. He is intellect, admirable and mostly his face value does a great addition to the character.
35. Spelaea
"By the way, Watson, you know something of racing?"

"I ought to. I pay for it with about half my wound pension."

Straight from the short stories, so yes, Watson did have a gambling problem in canon.

Benedict Cumberbatch is my favourite Holmes, personally. A lot of people diagnose him as Asperger's... To my mind, he fits the profile for ADHD perfectly.
37. StudyingHolmes
Alright, I know I´m probably much younger than all of you (20), but I find it so hard to believe that none of you, the article, Sherlock Holmes Handbook By Christopher Redmond, nor any other Sherlockian I found on the Internet mentions my first Holmes, the one I imagine when I read the books and the one I believe portrays Sherlock Holmes more accuretly: The Great Mouse Detective (

And what do you think of Elementary and Watson being a woman?
38. Shan Gould
It's got to be Jeremy Brett for me, I just loved watching his reactions, he played Sherlock to perfection for me and was just the best actor for the role, all the other actors simply fade into the background.
39. Gerald Monteath Jones.
Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch has the great opportunity to be the current Sherlock Holmes. Obviously, presently, England's favorite son for this wonderful persona of law enforcement. Really appropriate, Benedict has the right Spirit for this action persona. I am glad to see Sherlock Holmes continue working for life and peace and community security. Please carry on. Gerald Jones. Tucson, Az. USA.
40. Maven W.
To me the definitive Holmes will always be Basil Rathbone. He had a way of conveying Holmes' snarkiness without ever coming across as mean-spirited - which, I'm sorry to say, cannot be said of Jeremy Brett's Holmes. (I tried to like Brett, I really did, but there was just too much unlikable-ness about his portrayal, and I kept wondering why Watson would ever put up with someone like that.)

Peter Cushing was good too, but beside Rathbone he came up just a little...short. (I would have liked to see what Christopher Lee could have done with the role, though.)
41. gypsy evans


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