The Best and Worst Representations of Sherlock Holmes

When I was a girl I loved reading detective stories. I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as if I was born in the ’50s rather than 1988. I found those mysteries a little too silly for my tastes after a while and that was about the time my mother handed me a pretty leather-bound copy of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Then I spent a good four to five years of my life wanting to be Sherlock Holmes. I also spent that time wanting to be a Time Lord so imagine if I’d been successful.

Anyway, out of a complete lack of creativity today, I thought I’d reflect on the best and worst Sherlocks I’ve seen and read in my time. Starting with the worst. But, before we start, I would like to say that Basil Rathbone was a phenomenal Holmes who added a great deal to the character in the years he portrayed him. I’m taking him out of these lists because he deserves special recognition and is otherwise untouchable. It’s the same way I feel about Tom Baker’s Doctor Who.

Worst Sherlocks:

So, why is Moriarty on the cover here, not Holmes?

Sherlock: Case of Evil

I feel I’m being somewhat unfair to this made-for-TV movie, but the way it handles Sherlock’s addiction is a little too awkward to appreciate these days. James D’Arcy portrays a surly and irresponsible Holmes with a penchant for absinthe and picking up girls at parties.

Vincent D’onofrio as Moriarty further muddles the traditional image. While sometimes a re-imagining is good, having Moriarty strap Sherlock down and pump him full of incredibly powerful drugs is just a bit ridiculous.

I bet it is....

Hound of the Baskervilles (Richard Roxburgh)

Richard Roxburgh has the dubious honor of playing both Moriarty and Holmes in his career. In the ill-advised film adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen he played M. If you can’t figure out what that stands for you have no business breathing.

There’s nothing really wrong with this edition of Hound of the Baskervilles other than it feels incredibly tired. While being one of my favorite Holmes stories, it is ridiculously over-adapted. Also, Roxburgh is a somewhat flat Sherlock, even though his role in most of this story is minimal.

Best Sherlocks:

Jeremy Brett

Just as Basil Rathbone did, Jeremy Brett gave the world a very crisp image of what Sherlock Holmes is. His Sherlock was full of emotional upheavals and shocking bursts of energy. He took the role to heart and had a slightly unfeeling pitch to his voice that made his portrayal very aloof. But, that worked, and he is no doubt one of the best.

Hugh Laurie

While House isn’t exactly Sherlock, the show’s writers made it very clear that’s where they drew their inspiration. He fits a modern view of the personality type and does solve mysteries in his own right. I toyed with completely dropping him from this list after the whole finally hooking up with Cuddy nonsense. I do believe this show is in its final season because of House finally getting what he wants.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Not to completely bypass the countless amazing actors who’ve portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the last century, but Cumberbatch is perfect. He adds a new layer to the  character laid down by Brett and shares the same turbulent behavior.

Unfortunately being at the mercy of the BBC’s willingness to share content with U.S. channels had me arriving late to this party.

So, reader, who’s your favorite Sherlock? I left many people off this list in effort to spark discussion.


About Jasmine Maleficent Rea

Jasmine is a writer, journalist, amateur chef, and general nerd. She loves Iron Man, Star Trek, and Dragon Quest to scary degrees and has been known to drink a bit of wine. She's also a semi-recovering game journalist.
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