Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first published his novel on the infamous “consulting” detective Sherlock Holmes back in 1887. Holmes adapts his natural genius for the world of forensics, deduction, and logic to solve the cases Scotland Yard can’t hack.
Meanwhile, Dr. Watson’s medical background and social skills—it’s been speculated that Sherlock Holmes is on the autistic spectrum—make up for the areas in which Sherlock lacks.
The bickering buddies have become an emblem of classic British literature, and they’ve been brought to both the big screen and small screen in myriad adaptations over the years.
Here are our picks for the best Sherlock Holmes movies and TV shows of all time and why they stand out as worth watching.
10. Holmes and Watson (2018)
After a hellish development, Holmes and Watson managed to secure starring roles for iconic comedy duo Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, alongside 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. Silly, but it works well enough.
9. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
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Also known as Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear, Barry Levinson’s mystery movie is everything you want from 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 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!
8. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Here’s one for the kids: The Great Mouse Detective is a Disney animated classic 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 bring 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.
7. Elementary (2012–2019)
We’ve seen Americans go British for the role of Sherlock Holmes, but what about putting the Englishman in America? The myth of Sherlock Holmes has always vaguely hinted at a past of substance abuse, and Elementary taps into that by starting the series with him in rehab.
Sherlock (played by John Lee Miller) relocates from London to Manhattan after his fall from grace, only to team up with a reinvented version of Dr. Watson (played by Lucy Liu). From there, the sleuth and his doctor solve various cases for seven entertaining seasons.
6. Enola Holmes (2020)
After her career skyrocketed with Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown took up the role of Sherlock Holmes’ sister, Enola Holmes. You might not know of her, given that Enola has always taken a back seat to their older brother, Mycroft (who’s 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 under Harry Bradbeer’s creative direction.
5. Without a Clue (1988)
What if Sherlock Holmes wasn’t actually Sherlock Holmes? Instead, he was 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 in order to solve cases incognito, the stories’ success causes 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.
4. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
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One of the earlier adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels, The Hound of the Baskervilles specifically focuses on one of Sherlock Holmes’ cases. Published in 1901, The Hound of the Baskervilles is Doyle’s third and most popular novel.
The legend of a diabolical hound haunts the hill of Dartmoor, to which Holmes and Watson are called from London to investigate.
Terence Fisher’s adaptation was the first film to bring the characters to life in color, yet still tinged with elements of the Gothic. Peter Cushing, Sir Christopher Lee, and André Morell star.
3. Mr. Holmes (2015)
Can you name a single fine British actor who’s better suited to play the fabled detective than Ian McKellen? Probably not.
Except this time, Sherlock Holmes isn’t out to battle hounds or save the Queen; actually, he’s 93 and suffers 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 peep into the man behind the mystery, stripped back of all his genius and glamour. Bill Condon swaps out the thrills of hunting serial killers for a taut and well-acted drama.
2. Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Here 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 an authentic setting of Victorian London.
As much as Watson enjoys their thrilling adventures, he’s excited to get married and move on from Baker Street—but 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 a third movie that was supposed to film back in 2019, but delays have made its release ambiguous.
1. Sherlock (2010–2017)
Sherlock is yet another contemporary reworking of the character, except this one stays true to 221b Baker Street. Steven Moffat’s BBC series launched Benedict Cumberbatch from star to superstar back in 2010, impressing viewers with his fast-talking deductions.
As a self-described “high-functioning sociopath,” Sherlock struggles with emotions but excels with solving murder scenes. Eventually, his ex-military doctor roommate is able to dig feelings out of him as Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman crackle with chemistry.
Not only was Sherlock an immediate hit, it pushed the boundaries of TV cinematography and changed television forever.