Ten of the Best Screen Versions of Sherlock Holmes of All Time

Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed movie character appearing in more than 210 films, with over 75 actors playing the sleuth, according to Guinness World Records. The cast, Sherlock, is one of the oldest in the film industry with more than 130 years in the theatres. Films like The Elementary and Sherlock are some of the most popular recent versions of the infamous consulting detective. The character of Holmes first featured in print in 1887 authored by Sir Arthur Conan Dole, a Scottish physician, and Author. The name then featured in many novels before it started appearing in films, drama, television, and later, the silver screens. With hundreds of presentations of Sherlock, it can be hard to choose the best one, but these 10 just couldn’t be missed.


Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes
Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy Brett

Jeremy Brett is the most Sherlock Holmes actor having played the character 41 times for over a decade between 1984 and 1994. Of all the actors of Sherlock, he is considered the most genuine, described as the character with immense skill and intense personality. Brett produced a Granada television adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. He was supported by David Burke in The Jewel In The Crown and later by Edward Hardwicke, both representing the thoughtful and intelligent Dr. Watson. Brett was bipolar, which heightened his mannerism in performance, sudden emotional flashes, wit, and outstandingly convincing performance.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes

Benedict Cumberbatch

The star of the BBC Sherlock series, Benedict Cumberbatch, is the outstanding 21st century Holmes. Most people consider Cumberbatch the best modern Holmes. The way he masterfully portrays the Holmes has made him a household name and an international star. Cumberbatch encapsulates all the fine qualities of Sherlock from being calculative, cold, and to some extent, socially inept. The outright features of this character are that he has an addictive personality, constantly bored with people and life, many dark moods, and is viciously intolerant.

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone

Basil Rathbone was a South African born British actor who starred in more than 14 Sherlock movies between 1939 and 1946, including “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” He was the definitive Holmes during world war II. At the time, Holmes and Watson were dedicated to chasing around the Nazis across the world. His outstanding performance in Hound of Baskervilles became the benchmark and foundation for the films that followed. Rathbones portrayed a sympathetic, charming, and gentlemanly Holmes, a version that hasn’t been portrayed for long. He also acted Sherlock more than 200 times on the radio.

Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes
Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes

Peter Cushing

He played Holmes in three different films, including Hammer’s 1958 film Hound of the Baskervilles, which was the first to be adapted in colour. It marked the best performance ever by Cushing. His second performance was in the 1968 series that featured on BBC version of Sherlock Holmes. It was his personal best effort, considering the chaos that surrounded the production and the late delivery of scripts. In 1984, Peter Cushing featured in “The Masks of Death,” a Channel 4 series where he played the retired Holmes hired to solve the last case. He is one of the most adaptive Holmes of all time.

Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes
Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes

Vasily Livanov

Makes the only Russian on this list. He played Holmes in many TV shows in Russia. He is the Jeremy Brett of Russia, having featured in the Russian versions of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the hit film Dr Watson: The Hound of the Baskerville. The productions featuring Livanov as Holmes totalled to five films between 1979 and 1986, covering 11 episodes. His performance was outstanding. He received honours in the UK and Moscow, where he was honoured with a statue outside the British Embassy depicting Livanov’s Holmes.

Michael Caine as Sherlock Holmes
Michael Caine as Sherlock Holmes

Michael Caine

The hit film, Without a Clue, was based on the unusual interpretation of the main text. In the film, the main character, Holmes, was merely a frontman, while Dr. Watson was the genius. The comedy came out in 1988 with Ben Kingsley acting as Dr Watson famous for his line, “Try not to shoot yourself, at least not until I give the signal.” Michael Caine played a drunk, Holmes. His performance was still funny and captivating, which is why it drew a cultic fan base.

Ronald Howard as Sherlock Holmes
Ronald Howard as Sherlock Holmes

Ronald Howard

Ronald Howard acted the sleuth in more than 39 Sherlock Holmes shows between 1954 and 1955. The most remarkable character of Howard’s in the films was the young fit and active Holmes. Howard was courteous, approachable, and an efficient detective. The target audience of the series was the youth and kids because it had a lot of action and comedy as compared to other Sherlock films. It was simple and intriguing to watch. In the 50s, the show was a hit because of the characters, the hero of the film was likeable, and the partner, Dr Watson, was intelligent. The show’s rating on IMDb is still 7.9, unlike other films from the period that never gained popularity this size.

Christopher Lee as Sherlock Holmes
Christopher Lee as Sherlock Holmes

Christopher Lee

Lee appeared for the first time as Sherlock Holmes in the 1962 film Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace. He proceeded to star in other hit films such as Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady and Incident at Victoria Falls in which the Holmes met with Theodore Roosevelt. The two films were part of a Sherlock series named Sherlock Holmes: The Golden Years, covering the elderly sherlock in the early 1900s. Lee also featured in Hammer’s Hound of the Baskervilles, although someone else was played, Sherlock Holmes. His portrayal of Sherlock was, however, legendary as he is considered the best version of an old Sherlock Holmes ever seen.

Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes
Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes

Robert Stephens

Robert Stephens played the consulting detective in the 1970 movie, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Billy Wilder directed and produced the film, which was initially drafted to be a 165 minutes epic but was cut to 125 minutes. Stephen depicted Holmes to be wildly unconventional, funny, and irreverent, making the best comedy version of Sherlock Holmes ever made. Many fans believe that he deserved an Oscar nod for his witty and fascinating take on Holmes. His performance influenced the recent BBC series, Sherlock.

Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes
Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr

Robert Downey Jr featured in the film directed by Guy Ritchie as Sherlock in 2009 and its sequel in 2011. In both films, the sharp and attractive personality of Downey illuminates a cynical, crass, and likeable personality of a master detective. Jude Law supported him as Dr Watson allowing Downey to assume the part that depicts his delight, unkempt eccentricity, and enthusiasm. The elements are what made the film a new generation movie for all Sherlock fans. He was able to empathize with the mood swings of Holmes.

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