Sherlock Holmes is the most famous detective throughout popular culture. His stories, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have been around since the late 1800s, and not a decade has passed without something new being released. He’s a character that lends itself to a myriad of storytelling devices and will stay in tune for years to come.
Films based on these incredible stories go all the way back to 1900 with the extremely short 30 second silent film Bewildered Sherlock Holmes, and continued for 122 years. The most recent iteration was a different take on the story with Enola Holmes in 2020, and now, just two years later, Netflix has released the sequel, Enola Holmes 2. So, let’s take a look at some of the best adaptations of this iconic character throughout movie history.
‘Enola Holmes’ (2020)
In this new twist on the Sherlock Holmes story, the focus is diverted from the iconic detective and shifted to his younger sister, Enola, as she searches for her missing mother. However, while on the hunt, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery greater than she could have imagined.
Whereas Enola Holmesbased on a series of books, focuses more on young Enolaplayed amazingly by the very talented Millie Bobby Brownhe doesn’t forget Sherlock, because Henry Cavill does a superb job of playing the role. We even see Enola’s other brother, Mycroft (Sam Clafin), who is famous in the lore of Sherlock Holmes. This movie ties in beautifully to the world we all know and love, while allowing it to become its own thing, and doesn’t lean too heavily on Sherlock Holmes lore, as we never see characters like Dr John Watson. or Professor Moriarty. Enola Holmes opened the door to a new wave of stories in the world of the Holmes family.
“The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1939)
For decades, the definitive version of Sherlock Holmes has been performed by Rathbone Basiliskwho managed to bring this mythical character to the screen 14 times between 1939 and 1946, starting with The Hound of the Baskervilles. Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic book of the same name, this film sees Holmes and Watson investigate mysterious deaths at the home of Sir Henry Baskerville, the last of the Baskervilles. While a local myth claims there is a vicious dog prowling the park at night, Holmes is unconvinced and sets out to find out the truth.
After nearly 40 years of Sherlock Holmes movies at this point and another adaptation of that specific story, audiences got one of the best Sherlock movies ever made. Basil Rathbone was a perfect fit for this character – a selfish, self-absorbed know-it-all – because he plays the role to perfection.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
sherlock holmes sees the titular detective and his partner Dr. Watson as they are hired by a secret society to solve the mystery of a supernatural plot to take over Britain. However, things take an even stranger turn when an enemy they thought was dead apparently returns to wreak havoc.
While keeping it fixed in the late 1800s, Guy Ritchie manages to bring a bigger budget, more modernized feel to this version of the iconic sleuth, while putting his signature style on the action. And while Robert Downey Jr. and Jude’s Law give superb performance, what stands out the most is the unique style used by Ritchie to show Sherlock’s deductive abilities. It’s something hard to describe and just begs to be seen.
‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ (2011)
The sequel to Guy Ritchie’s 2009 film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows continues the wonderfully unique style of the first film and dwells more in known Sherlock lore, as Holmes and Watson travel across Europe in an attempt to stop the devious Professor Moriarty.
This movie makes better use of that character’s mythology by introducing key characters like Professor Moriarty and Mycroft Holmes, as well as using a character with the Hoffmanstahl family name. And like the original, it gives audiences a more action-packed story, something we rarely see.
“Murder by Decree” (1979)
Christopher Plumer picks up the pipe and dons the iconic hat in this 1979 Sherlock Holmes story, Murder by decree. Based on true events, this story follows Holmes and Watson as they investigate the infamous jack the ripper murders of the late 1800s. But things aren’t what they seem, as Sherlock soon uncovers a secret plot brewing in the background.
This one is a compelling tale that takes audiences to places they never expected. The film uses wonderful camera techniques, which gives it a more unique shooting style compared to most Sherlock Holmes films of the past. And fans are treated to a brilliant performance from the talented Donald Sutherland.
“The Great Mouse Detective” (1986)
In the anime adaptation The Great Mouse Detectivewe follow Basil of Baker Street and Dr. David Q. Dawson as they try to find the missing father of a little girl, who happens to be taken by Basil’s nemesis, Professor Ratigan.
It’s one of the smartest adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes story ever made. The main character, Basil of Baker Street (Barry Ingham), is the stand-in for the iconic detective (under whom Basil actually lives). His name, which originated in the books, was taken from the talented Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock more than a dozen times in the 1930s and 1940s. Basil’s character is a perfect representation of who Sherlock has always been shown – somewhat self-centered, somewhat rude, and incredibly intelligent, but caring when needed. This underrated gem is one no one should overlook, especially if you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan.
‘Sherlock: Evil Case’ (2002)
James D’Arcy took on the role of Sherlock Holmes early in his career, in the 2002 TV movie, Sherlock: The Case of Evil. After finally getting rid of his nemesis, Professor Moriarty (Vincent D’Onofrio), Sherlock takes on a case involving several murdered crime lords. During his investigation, he meets Dr. John Watson (Roger Morlidge), and the two work together to solve this mystery.
It was a unique and fantastical Sherlock Holmes tale, as most of the past just focuses on the mystery and how Holmes and Watson go about solving it. However, in this one, the audience can see how Holmes and Watson meet, they find out about Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft, and how Moriarty is related to both of them, and it even shows Sherlock’s addiction problem, which is featured. in some later films.
“Young Sherlock Holmes” (1985)
The young Sherlock Holmes is an all-new story, not based on the previous works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which follows a teenage Sherlock Holmes at school, on his first real mystery. Realized by Barry Levinsonwritten by Chris Columbusand produced by Steven Spielbergthis movie takes audiences on a journey they’re just not ready for.
This is a fascinating alternate universe tale of the infamous sleuth in his early years. Fans are treated to plenty of classic Sherlock tropes, even teasing something big in a post-credits scene. The story has high stakes and doesn’t shy away from killing off characters, even those the audience cares about. It does a great job mixing a classic Sherlock detective story with a bit of IndianaJones stock.
‘M. Holmes (2015)
In Mr. Holmesthe incredibly talented Ian McKellan plays a 93-year-old, long-retired Sherlock Holmes who struggles to remember his last case as his mind begins to fail him. It is also based on a book by Mitch Cullin called A little tour of the mind.
It’s a side of Sherlock Holmes we haven’t really seen before, out of the detective game for decades, with his once brilliant mind not what it used to be. Audiences are treated to some of Sherlock’s earlier exploits in the form of flashbacks, allowing the film to still use the classic crime novel while building an incredible character study for one of the most well-known characters in the history of literature.
“The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (1970)
Towards the end of his career, the Hollywood icon Billy Wilder decided to take on the infamous Sherlock Holmes in the 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. In this film, Dr. John Watson spotlights the “real” Sherlock, instead of the one everyone knows from his stories. The duo tackle a mystery involving spies, monks, castles, the Queen and even the Loch Ness Monster. But as usual, things are never what they seem.
Wilder takes an almost parodic approach to Sherlock Holmes, going against many of the tropes the character was known for at the time. It delves into Sherlock’s drug addiction, his relationship with Mycroft, and even questions his sexuality. It’s a fascinating take on the character that even inspired the much-vaunted BBC series. sherlockfeaturing Benedict Cumberbatch.
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