Sherlock Holmes: 15 faces of the famed detective in movies and TV
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime-solver has donned countless hats — literally. He’s been an action hero, a teen, a cokehead, even an animated mutt.
The game is afoot with these Sherlocks
“Elementary, my dear Watson” is probably one of the most famous lines in pop culture, even if the creator of Sherlock Holmes himself, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, never put such words to paper. Still, it’s as ensconced in the collective memory of who the mysterious detective is as his pipe thanks to its various adaptations. Dozens of actors from around the world have taken a crack at portraying the famous resident of 221B Baker Street to varying success, and as Henry Lloyd-Hughes joins the this exclusive fraternity of distinguished gentleman with Netflix’s The Irregulars, EW looks back at the pugilistic private detectives who came before him.
Basil Rathbone, multiple films (1939-1946)
Peter Cushing , The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Robert Stephens, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Billy Wilder imagined Baker Street in lush, color-soaked Panavision. His version starring suffered studio recuts and flopped upon release but has grown in popularity ever since.
Nicol Williamson, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
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."
Sherlock Hound, Sherlock Hound (1984)
Japanese animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki directed this drool worthy canine version for television, complete with real adaptations of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories.
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.
Michael Caine, Without a Clue (1988)
Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, meet Guy Ritchie. And remember to duck. A beefy Robert Downey Jr. played Holmes here (and in a 2011 sequel) as a martial-arts specialist solving cases with his brains — and fists.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock (2010)
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 (Jonny Lee Miller) meeting Watson (Lucy Liu), his recovery sponsor.
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. Ian McKellen imbues the man with his usual grace notes.
Will Ferrell, Holmes and Watson (2018)
Sacha Baron Cohen was originally set to star as Sherlock to Will Ferrell’s Watson in this comedic adaptation, but a long development process before production saw Cohen drop out, leaving Ferrell to take over the role of Holmes and for his longtime collaborator John C. Reilly to step in as Watson. Holmes and Watson ended up being a rare miss for the pair, as audiences were not fans of the film.
Henry Cavill, Enola Holmes (2020)
A subdued but amused Sherlock (Henry Cavill) takes a backseat to his adventurous younger sister Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) in this 2020 adaptation of author Nancy Springer’s young-adult series The Enola Holmes Mysteries.
Henry Lloyd-Hughes, The Irregulars (2021)
The Baker Street Irregulars, a ragtag group of London street urchins, have long been a part of the Sherlock Holmes canon. And now, thanks to the new series The Irregulars on Netflix, mystery fans will explore the origin of their peculiar happenstances — which might just be out of this world. Though Sherlock (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) is in the background of this story, one never knows in which shadow he may be lurking.