1 of 12
Basil Rathbone, multiple films (1939-1946)
John Barrymore first played the great detective in a 1922 silent film, but it was Rathbone—in 14 pictures from 1939 to '46—who transformed Holmes from literary to cinematic icon.
2 of 12
Peter Cushing , The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Before he bossed around Darth Vader in Star Wars, Cushing co-starred opposite Christopher Lee (himself a former Holmes, this time as Sir Henry Baskerville) in this gothic Hammer House production.
3 of 12
Robert Stephens, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Billy Wilder imagined Baker Street in lush, color-soaked Panavision. His version suffered studio recuts and flopped upon release but has grown in popularity ever since.
4 of 12
Nicol Williamson, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
The title refers to the amount of cocaine in hophead Holmes' morning cocktail, and his addiction leads Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) to get his pal counseling from Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin).
5 of 12
Jeremy Brett, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984)
Brett starred in 41 episodes of this beloved British TV show. "He's the dark side of the moon for me," he said of playing Holmes. "Harder than Hamlet or Macbeth."
6 of 12
Sherlock Hound, Sherlock Hound (1984)
Japanese animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki directed this droolworthy canine version for television, complete with real adaptations of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories.
7 of 12
Nicholas Rowe, Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Chris Columbus wrote the script for this witty, knowing teen version of the Holmes mythology. Rowe and Alan Cox (as Watson) deliver buoyant performances amid creepy, cutting-edge F/X.
8 of 12
Michael Caine, Without a Clue (1988)
What if Holmes were all along just a creation of his sidekick? That's the premise of this comedy, featuring Ben Kingsley as Dr. Watson, who hires a lousy actor (Caine) to play the famed sleuth.
9 of 12
Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Arthur Conan Doyle, meet Guy Ritchie. And remember to duck. A beefy Downey played Holmes here (and in a 2011 sequel) as a martial-arts specialist solving cases with his brains—and fists.
10 of 12
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock (2010)
More than a century after publication of the books, Holmes achieved true rock-star status due to Cumberbatch's hysteria-inducing, Emmy-winning turn on the BBC's limited series.
11 of 12
Jonny Lee Miller, Elementary (2012)
Another adaptation that opts to acknowledge the character's drug history, this CBS series is set in New York City and begins with a sober Holmes meeting Watson (Lucy Liu), his recovery sponsor.
12 of 12
Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes (2015)
Based on the novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, Bill Condon's movie finds the world's greatest (retired) detective at 93 years old, losing his memory. McKellen imbues the man with his usual grace notes.