My Top Ten Favorite Sherlock Holmes Movies

I usually post blogs about purely technical topics, but every now and then I post something different, like this one about my favorite movies that feature Sherlock Holmes. First, let me say that these really aren’t my favorites. Instead they are a collection of Sherlock Holmes movies I’d take with me if I was going on a long ocean cruise. By that I mean I deliberately selected movies with 10 different actors who played Holmes (otherwise my list would have too many Basil Rathbone entries).

1. Terror by Night (1946) – This is one of 14 films starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson. Here the detective and doctor (and Inspector Lestrade) are involved with a diamond theft on a train. Sebastian Moran is the villain. Most critics rank this film very poorly, but it’s one of my favorites.

2. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) – I really enjoyed this movie starring relatively unknown actors (Nicolas Rowe as Holmes and Alan Cox as Watson), about Holmes’ boarding school days. Nice combination of action and sleuthing and might have been my favorite except for the sad ending.

3. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) – Robert Downey as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson are fantastic. I slightly prefer this sequel to the 2009 film with Downey. As several people have noted, Downey’s Holmes is actually closer to A. C. Doyle’s books than most portrayals.

4. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) – This is my favorite of several adaptations of this story. It’s a British Hammer production starring Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as Watson. Note: Lee played Holmes in the 1962 German production “Sherlock Holmes the Deadly Necklace”, and in several BBC production, and Mycroft Holmes in the 1970 “Private Life of Sherlock Holmes”.

5. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976) – I thought I would hate this reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes. But Nicol Williamson is excellent as a cocaine-addicted Holmes and Robert Duval does a nice job as Watson. (Spoiler ahead) And amazingly, the fact that Moriarty is a good guy, did not rile me up. Nice performance by Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud too.

6. Without a Clue (1988) – Another movie that I thought I’d hate because it doesn’t follow established Holmes’ lore and it’s a comedy, but I found it very entertaining. Michael Caine plays a Holmes who is an inept buffoon, but who is given all public credit for solving crimes, when in fact Watson (played by Ben Kingsley) is the actual brains of the pair.

7. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (1984) – Most people seem to think Jeremy Brett and David Burke are the definitive portrayers of Holmes and Watson, in the long-running BBC series. I’m not so convinced. Here the pair investigate a stolen gem and a goose.

8. Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976) – I’m really not a fan of Roger Moore at all, but I like his portrayal of Holmes here. A post-Avengers Patrick Macnee plays Watson. Holmes helps Irene Adler rescue her son from Moriarty. I liked the clever last scene.

9. Murder by Decree (1979) – I’m not a big Christopher Plummer fan, but I liked the job he does as Holmes. James Mason also does a good Watson as the pair track Jack the Ripper. Interesting plot not really based on any A. C. Doyle story.

10. Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) – Christopher Lee is Holmes and Patrick Macnee is Watson in a BBC production. Holmes goes to Vienna to investigate a stolen weapon. Interesting casting of Morgan Fairchild as Irene Adler and Engelbert Humperdinck as Eberhardt Bohm.

Note: I recently watched Mr. Holmes (2015) starring Ian McKellen playing a 93-year old Holmes who is trying to remember the details of his final case. I had high expectations but the movie was much, much too slow for me.

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3 Responses to My Top Ten Favorite Sherlock Holmes Movies

  1. Very good list. I have not seen ” Sherlock Holmes in New York” and “Murder by Decree”. My favorites in this list are Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. As you rightly said, Downey Jr’s performance is quite faithful to the Canon.

    Have you seen the Russian adaptation with Sir Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes. He is my all-time favorite actor to portray the Legendary Detective.


  2. I didn’t know about Sir Vasily Livanov as Holmes. An Internet search of that phrase brought up your excellent blog site and posts at and — very nice!

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