The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes
One of our favorite sleuths is the legendary Sherlock Holmes. Though born in literary form, Holmes has found himself reincarnated on television and movie screens more times than Arthur Conan Doyle probably ever expected. Take a look below as we explore some of the more memorable portrayals of the famous detective.
Basil Rathbone – Various Sherlock Holmes Appearances (1939-1986)
Basil Rathbone is the real deal when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. His Holmes is the one of the most prolific of the bunch, appearing in a total of 18 productions as the iconic detective, including films, stage plays, television shows, and radio programs. Future actors, including Jeremy Brett, would look to Rathbone’s work as Holmes and emulate his character, meaning Basil Rathbone was perhaps the most influential Sherlock Holmes to date.
Jeremy Brett – Four Sherlock Holmes TV Series (1984-1994)
There is something to be said for totally immersing yourself into a role. Jeremy Brett certainly made the role of Sherlock Holmes his own in four television series. Unfortunately, due to his own physical and mental health issues, Brett’s portrayal became more and more erratic and even maniacal, both true to the character of Sherlock Holmes and greatly detrimental to his own well-being. The result, through tragic, is an extremely authentic Holmes performance that has prevailed over the span of decades.
Robert Downey Jr. – Sherlock Holmes (2009) & Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
RDJ and Jude Law took to the big screen to step into the roles of the iconic duo, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. The two played up the comedy in their characters, perhaps as a way to garner the attention of a new generation of fans. While still incredibly clever and quick-thinking, Downey Jr.’s Holmes added a slick charm into the mix. With witty one-liners and a yet unseen enthusiasm, this version of the detective is iconic.
Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock (2010-present)
Benedict Cumberbatch, along with this British miniseries, is popular—like really, really popular. Perhaps one of the most well-known versions of Holmes, this one has an addictive personality, cleverness beyond belief, and a complete lack of self-awareness when it comes to being a social human being. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is modern, conflicted, and completely enthralling. Add in his dry, snarky sense of humor, and we’re sold!
Ian McKellan – Mr. Holmes (2015)
Sir Ian McKellan brilliantly portrayed a version of Sherlock Holmes not often seen: an older, past-his-prime, retired detective. In this British-American crime drama mystery, which is based on a 2005 novel by Mitch Cullin, Holmes struggles to recall the details of his last case due to his fading memory. This portrayal cut through the facade and truly revealed the man beneath the deerstalker cap and his at times jarring personality.