The Many Imaginings of Sherlock Holmes

One of the best known characters in fiction and arguably the best known detectives, Sherlock Holmes has been adapted to screen multiple times. In celebration of the 3rd season of BBC’s smash hit Sherlock I have compiled a list of the best (and worst) imaginings of the the world’s greatest detective and his trusty sidekick Dr. John Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes in Film

Sherlock Holmes was first published in 1887, just one year before the introduction of motion pictures as an entertainment medium, so it’s no surprise that the first film featuring the titular character was released in 1890. This film was only 1 minute long and didn’t feature much in the way of a story. Holmes was then featured in several films throughout the 20’s, 30’s which brings us to our first real incarnation of the great detective which is.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)


This film, released in 1939, stars Basil Rathbone as Holmes in what would become his career defining role. Rathbone went to star in 14 films as Sherlock and it would become his legacy. The original film is oft found on top ten lists of the greatest mysteries of all time.

Without a Clue (1988)


Starring Michael Caine as Sherlock and Ben Kingsley as Watson, this British comedy alleges that Watson was actually the sleuth genius and he created the fictional Holmes to divert attention away from himself. Several comedies have been based off the detective.

Sherlock Holmes (2009)


The most recent incarnation of Holmes is Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law. The film was a massive box office success and spawned the sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Guy Ritchie’s  take on the detective was action packed and more lively than previous incarnations.

Sherlock Holmes in Television

The BBC has produced several series featuring Holmes, the first appearing in 1951. These adaptations are faithful to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels which took place in 19th century Britain. However, the BBC flipped the switch in 2009 with…

Sherlock (2009)


This adaptation brings Holmes into the 21st century with a modern retelling of Sherlock’s greatest mysteries. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Holmes. The series has been massively popular with British and American audiences alike through streaming services like Netflix.

Season 3 of Sherlock is currently being aired on PBS with it’s final episode slated for a February 2nd premiere.

Elementary (2012)


America has a nasty habit of stealing quirky British television shows and cutting out all of the things that it make them great. When the BBC had a smash hit with Sherlock on their hands CBS moved forward with another modern retelling of the story with Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock and Lucy Liu (a woman? edgy!) as Watson.

While Elementary has enjoyed good ratings it falls into the same played out action genre that has plagued network television over the past couple years.

What’s your favorite Sherlock adaptation?