The 13 Best Sherlock Holmes Movies, Ranked

The Sherlock Holmes novels have been adapted into numerous movies over the years. Here are the best ones worth checking out!
The 13 Best Sherlock Holmes Movies, Ranked

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first published his novel on the famous "consulting detective" Sherlock Holmes back in 1887. Holmes adapts his natural genius for the world of forensics, deduction, and logic to solve the cases that Scotland Yard can't hack.

Meanwhile, Dr. Watson's medical background and social skills make up for the areas in which Sherlock lacks. (It's been speculated and suggested that Sherlock Holmes is on the autism spectrum.)

The bickering buddies have become an emblem of classic British literature, and they've been brought to the big screen through myriad adaptations over the years.

Here are my picks for the best Sherlock Holmes movies of all time and why they stand out from the rest.

13. The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother (1975)

Directed by Gene Wilder

Starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman

Comedy, Crime, Music (1h 31m)

6.0 on IMDb56% on RT

Gene Wilder is the known comic actor who first embodied the zany Willy Wonka in 1971. But did you know he was sometimes behind the camera, too? The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother was Wilder's directorial debut, and the logline is practically the same as its title.

Gen Z might not find it that funny, but parents will be wheezing their way through this very 70s comedy that's characterized by slapstick puns and funny plays on words like "photographic sense of hearing" and "Sheer Luck Holmes."

This is what Sigerson (played by Gene Wilder) mockingly nicknames his famous brother, who's been stealing Sigerson's thunder for decades.

12. Holmes & Watson (2018)

Directed by Etan Cohen

Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Rebecca Hall

Comedy, Crime, Mystery (1h 30m)

3.9 on IMDb10% on RT

After a hellish development, Holmes & Watson finally managed to secure starring roles for iconic comedy duo Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, alongside other big names like Rebecca Hall, Rob Brydon, Kelly Macdonald, Steve Coogan, and Ralph Fiennes.

Ferrell and Reilly put their own satirical twist on the legend of Sherlock Holmes when they stumble onto a murder scene and find out they have four days to save the Queen of England. Think Step Brothers in Victorian England. It's silly, but it works well enough.

11. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

Directed by Barry Levinson

Starring Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward

Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery (1h 49m)

6.8 on IMDb65% on RT

Also known as Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear, Barry Levinson's mystery movie is everything you'd want in a good old-fashioned family adventure flick.

Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox star as the eponymous detective and his buddy sidekick back in their school days, instantly befriending each other at London's Brompton Academy.

With an air of Steven Spielberg about it, Young Sherlock Holmes doesn't take itself too seriously. Instead, Levinson imbues the great detective's origin story with zesty, feel-good fun!

10. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

Directed by Billy Wilder

Starring Robert Stephens, Geneviève Page, Colin Blakely

Adventure, Comedy, Crime (2h 5m)

7.0 on IMDb89% on RT

Despite Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penning the Sherlock Holmes novels as serious, thrilling fiction, many filmmakers have turned to humor when reimagining him for the big screen.

The heralded Billy Wilder is one such filmmaker, who decided to present the Sherlock Holmes story with a lighter touch that focused more on his character than the bloody crime cases.

Being shorter than his clients expect, concealing a drug habit, a virtuoso on the violin and suspected lover to John—these are all points that most people already know about from the BBC show Sherlock.

But long before that show was ever a thing, it was Billy Wilder who had already lifted the veil on Sherlock's unusual private life in his DeLuxe Color comedy, starring Robert Stephens.

9. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Directed by John Musker, Dave Michener, Ron Clements, and Burny Mattinson

Starring Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin

Animation, Adventure, Family (1h 14m)

7.1 on IMDb77% on RT

Here's one for the kids! The Great Mouse Detective is a Disney animated cult classic that was inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

Despite being the 26th cartoon feature ever released by Disney, The Great Mouse Detective holds up well against other classics of the time, including 1977's The Rescuers and 1981's The Fox and the Hound.

John Musker, Ron Clements, Dave Michener, and Burny Mattinson gave us a charming adaptation of the children's book series Basil of Baker Street, in which Basil (drawn from the figure of Sherlock Holmes) is summoned to find the kidnapper of a mouse toymaker.

8. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

Directed by Alfred L. Werker

Starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Ida Lupino

Crime, Mystery, Thriller (1h 25m)

7.3 on IMDb89% on RT

Sherlock Holmes has been a recurring character in cinema ever since he was created. The 1970s and 1980s had a particular affinity for the pipe-smoking anti-policeman before the more recent post-Sherlock boom, but there were still a few great films even prior to then.

In fact, there was a whole Sherlock Holmes movie franchise during the 1940s, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the best of the 14 entries, except for perhaps its predecessor The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Loyal to Doyle's Victorian novels, Alfred L. Werker's installment depicts the age-old battle between Holmes and his equally matched archenemy Moriarty (played by George Zucco).

7. Murder By Decree (1979)

Directed by Bob Clark

Starring Christopher Plummer, James Mason, David Hemmings

Crime, Mystery, Thriller (2h 4m)

6.8 on IMDb86% on RT

Jack the Ripper remains the most popular and most curious unresolved serial killer case in history. The figure who terrorized London's East End by mutilating women in 19th century Whitechapel is still unknown to this day, with over 100 possible suspects.

Naturally, the era's most famous criminal was bound to overlap with the era's most famous detective, who were both kicking around London at the same time.

James Hill did it first in A Study in Terror, but I prefer Bob Clark's vision in Murder By Decree, which was informed by The Ripper File by Elwyn Jones and featured Christopher Plummer as Holmes.

6. Enola Holmes (2020)

Directed by Harry Bradbeer

Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin

Action, Adventure, Crime (2h 3m)

6.6 on IMDb91% on RT

After her career skyrocketed with Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown took up the role of Sherlock Holmes's sister, Enola Holmes. You probably haven't heard of her before this, given that Enola always took a back seat to her older brother, Mycroft (played by Sam Claflin here).

In this high-energy crime flick, Enola charismatically guides us through her search for her missing brother.

Intelligent and bursting with enthusiasm, Enola proves herself just as capable as the great Sherlock Holmes (played by Henry Cavill) under Harry Bradbeer's creative direction.

5. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)

Directed by Herbert Ross

Starring Nicol Williamson, Robert Duvall, Alan Arkin

Adventure, Comedy, Crime (1h 53m)

6.6 on IMDb72% on RT

You'd never think a guy as smartly dressed and intellectual as the great Sherlock Holmes would be a dopehead, but alas, that's what he's now remembered as.

Many films and TV shows have touched on this aspect of the Sherlock Holmes character, but The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is the only one to make his drug habit the entire premise and central focus.

Nicol Williamson plays the delusional detective, who's tricked into withdrawal and treated by none other than Sigmund Freud (played by Alan Arkin). You know, that famous cocaine lover...

Williamson's Sherlock became the revised template for the persona we know today: paranoid, restless, burned-out, and addicted, most recently embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr.

Despite its seedy themes, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution was Oscar-nominated as a classy period piece!

4. Without a Clue (1988)

Directed by Thom Eberhardt

Starring Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Jeffrey Jones

Comedy, Crime, Mystery (1h 47m)

6.9 on IMDb62% on RT

What if Sherlock Holmes wasn't actually Sherlock Holmes and was instead a washed-up stage actor named Reginald Kincaid?

Director Thom Eberhardt ponders this idea in his 80s British comedy Without a Clue, in which Michael Caine stars as the embodiment of Dr. Watson's fictional invention.

When Dr. Watson (played by Ben Kingsley) publishes a series of short stories to solve cases incognito, the stories' successes cause the public to demand meeting the "real" Holmes. In steps Michael Caine.

An amusing and original take on the classic story, Without a Clue reshuffles Dr. Watson into the spotlight with wit.

3. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Directed by Terence Fisher

Starring Peter Cushing, André Morell, Christopher Lee

Horror, Mystery (1h 27m)

6.9 on IMDb94% on RT

One of the earlier film adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's novels, The Hound of the Baskervilles specifically focuses on just one of Sherlock Holmes's cases. Published in 1901, The Hound of the Baskervilles was Doyle's third and most popular novel.

The legend of a diabolical hound haunts the hills of Dartmoor, to which Holmes and Watson are called from London to investigate.

Starring Peter Cushing, Sir Christopher Lee, and André Morell, Terence Fisher's adaptation was the first film to bring the characters to life in color, yet still remained tinged with elements of the Gothic.

2. Mr. Holmes (2015)

Directed by Bill Condon

Starring Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada

Crime, Drama, Family (1h 44m)

6.8 on IMDb88% on RT

Can you name a single fine British actor who's better suited to play the fabled detective than Sir Ian McKellen? Probably not!

Except in Mr. Holmes, Sherlock Holmes isn't out to battle hounds or save the Queen or solve murders. This time around, he's actually 93 years old and suffering from dementia.

Long retired from his crime-solving career, Mr. Holmes leaves Baker Street to live in a rural farmhouse with his housekeeper. Frustratingly, he can't remember his last case, which he longs to write about.

Take a peek into the man behind the mystery, stripped back of all his genius and glamour. With Mr. Holmes, Bill Condon swaps out the thrills of hunting serial killers for a taut and well-acted drama.

1. Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Action, Adventure, Mystery (2h 8m)

7.6 on IMDb70% on RT

This one might be the most well-known movie version of Sherlock Holmes, brought to life by British director Guy Ritchie. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law headline as the forever-clashing detective duo, placed in the authentic setting of Victorian London.

As much as Watson enjoys their thrilling adventures together, he's excited to get married and move on from Baker Street—but the junkie-genius Sherlock has other plans.

If you like this one, be sure to check out the sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows as well. There's also a third movie in the series that was supposed to begin production back in 2019, but delays and production hiccups have made its release ambiguous.