Best Sherlock Series

James Smith
• Saturday, 21 November, 2020
• 9 min read

Nearly 100 years after 1922’s Sherlock Holmes, the watershed movie that proved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character a Hollywood leading man, the detective remains on the case! That includes films from Basil Rathbone’s defining decades-long run accessorized with the deerstalker hat, Robert Downey Jr.’s blockbuster take, and Sherlock‘s modern spin with Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Critics Consensus: Guy Ritchie's directorial style might not be quite the best fit for an update on the legendary detective, but Sherlock Holmes benefits from the elementary appeal of a strong performance by Robert Downey, Jr. Critics Consensus: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a good yarn thanks to its well-matched leading men but overall stumbles duplicating the well-oiled thrills of the original.

Critics Consensus: Mr. Holmes focuses on the man behind the mysteries, and while it may lack Baker Street thrills, it more than compensates with tenderly wrought, well-acted drama. Synopsis: Legendary detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner Doctor Watson return for a comedic take on their classic literary partnership, as...

Critics Consensus: Nola Holmes brings a breath of fresh air to Baker Street -- and leaves plenty of room for Millie Bobby Brown to put her effervescent stamp on a franchise in waiting. Envisioned by Steven Moat and Mark Gates, the BBC original series, Sherlock, stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the charismatic mastermind detective Sherlock Holmes, who along with Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), solves horrifying crimes on Baker Street.

To date, four seasons of Sherlock have been released, consisting of three episodes each, and every single one of them is absolutely thrilling to watch. While the show is adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books', the basic plots, seemingly, differ, and there are some new interesting twists.

During this whole fiasco, one of Sherlock's old enemies makes a surprise appearance, which leaves John and Mycroft shell shocked. In the second episode of season 2, Sherlock is visited by Henry Knight, whose father was killed by a hound almost twenty years earlier in the town of Dartmoor.

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Criminal mastermind, Moriarty, plans something big for Sherlock as they lock horns for one final time. John looks after Sherlock's life as a couple of assassins move into Baker Street, with wrong motives.

This Billy Wilder film stars Robert Stephens as a more complex Holmes beyond the suave observer depicted in Watson’s (Colin Blakely) tales. Multiple Shylockian admitted to having a soft spot for this “hilarious” reimagining that flips the personalities of its dynamic detective duo, featuring Ben Kingsley’s Watson as the brain and Michael Caine’s Holmes as the bumbling student.

For one of the most recent big-screen adaptations, Linger paid particular kudos to Jude Law, who plays “one of the very best Watson sever” opposite Robert Downey Jr.'s Holmes. Shylockian and film historians agree BBC nailed this serialized, updated take on Conan Doyle’s mysteries, featuring Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as a Holmes with “a kind of arrogance that ... is actually not very sympathetic but that made the role interesting,” according to UCLA Film & Television archive director Jan-Christopher Hora.

Jonny Lee Miller, left, as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson in CBS’s “Elementary.” That’s the premise for this buzz CBS series starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as a rare female Watson.

The program’s success, Hora said, proves “great capacity” for change in the Holmes canon as long as “the essence of the characters remains.” From his first appearance in print in 1887, Sherlock Holmes has spent more than a century facing all sorts of villains, solving a myriad of mysteries, and sharing quips and retorts with his trusted companion, Dr. John Watson.

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Alongside the legends of other British heroes like Robin Hood and King Arthur, the tales of Sherlock, Watson, the dreaded Moriarty, and their fellow London denizens continue to pop up in endless forms of cinematic and televised storytelling. This canon has been added to as recently as 2020, with the Netflix FIM Nola Holmes, starring Millie Bobby Brown as the sister of the intrepid detective, here brought to life by Henry Cavils.

While Downey's take on Holmes in the Guy Ritchie -helmed Sherlock Holmes films does have some issues, there's no denying that his usual charm and idiosyncratic style of performance creates a fun, offbeat take on the British detective, especially when paired with an equally game Jude Law as his Watson. In Ritchie's world, Holmes is just another Quincy action hero, turning the detective into a hulking, tough guy boxer type, replacing wit with buffoonery and style with muscles.

Though his Watson here is brought to winning life by Jude Law, Downey's Holmes leans too much into the style of generic blockbuster heroes, rather than the Baker Street detective we've become so accustomed to. All is revealed in this story, where the young Holmes is brought to life by Scottish actor Nicholas Rowe, who was not even 20 when he filmed this role.

Rowe is a fun, youthful Holmes, adrift in an eerily strange adventure involving stained-glass ghosts and Egyptian curses. That changed when celebrated director Billy Wilder (of Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, and Sunset Boulevard fame) came onto the scene with his late-career take on the British sleuth: 1970s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Much-beloved London stage performer Robert Stephens takes up the mantle this go-round, creating a Holmes unlike any other. Wilder's take leans heavily on the comedic aspects of the Holmes legacy, creating something closer to a studio comedy than a dramatic mystery.

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But Stephens is more than able to handle the trademark Wilder wit that's at play, tackling every barbed witticism with the necessary seriousness and comedic timing it needs. We all know that Sherlock Holmes spends his days busy with work as London's top consulting detective.

Unsurprisingly, McAllen shines in the tragic role of a Holmes desperately grabbing at the last vestiges of his remaining sanity, even if the film he's in less resembles The Hound of the Baskerville than it does Still Alice. Transplanting Sherlock Holmes from the streets of 19th century London to 21st century New York, Elementary follows modern-day detective Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) as he brings his deductive expertise to the assistance of the NYPD, primarily in collaboration with Dr. Joan Watson (the incomparable Lucy Liu).

Miller's Holmes is a recovering drug addict, which lends some additional intensity and dimension to the character. But Elementary definitely has some fun contemporizing the Holmes stories (including Natalie Dormer providing a fresh take on the villain Moriarty), and Miller is a wonderfully oddball performer that brings humor, humanity, and a ton of heart to this modern detective show.

His performance creates a detective whose dedication to the mystery at hand, while removing some comedy of the role, results in a uniquely compelling sleuth. Chances are, when you hear the name Sherlock Holmes,” your mind jumps to either the lovable scamp that is Benedict Cumberbatch (we'll get to him soon, promise) or the recent Robert Downey Jr. punch-fests.

Here, Basil (voiced by Barrie Ingham) provides a wonderfully faithful mouse version of the famed detective, balancing his deduction skills, nimble fighting, and veiled madness into a delightful concoction of a main character. He faces off against one of Disney's all-time greatest villains, Professor Vatican, devilishly voiced by Vincent Price.

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Cumberbatch met the challenge of bringing Sherlock to the 21st century with gusto, and his stylish, witty, one-of-a-kind performance emerged as nothing short of iconic. It's a wonderfully faithful adaptation, and what it may lack in any sort of reinvention or overt stylistic interpretations, it more than makes up in Brett's fantastically authentic performance, bringing to life what could be called the “definitive” take on Doyle's character.

Modern fandom wouldn't exist without Conan Doyle’s famous creation, writes Jennifer Fashion Armstrong. In 1893, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle shoved detective Sherlock Holmes off a cliff.

“It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr Sherlock Holmes was distinguished,” narrator Dr John Watson says in Conan Doyle’s story The Final Problem, which appeared in The Strand magazine in December 1893. One can imagine Conan Doyle, slicked-back hair shimmering in the candlelight, twirling his ample mustache with glee.

Sidney Page was the original illustrator for the Sherlock Holmes stories, and he conjured this vision for the Reichenbach Falls showdown (Credit: Wikipedia) Legend has it that young men throughout London wore black mourning crêpes on their hats or around their arms for the month of Holmes’ death, though that has recently been questioned.

(Some Holmes aficionados have suggested the story could have been an exaggeration perpetuated by Conan Doyle’s son in interviews.) Outraged readers wrote to the magazine in protest: “You brute!” one letter addressed to Conan Doyle began.

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Sherlock Holmes’ avid readers helped to create the very modern practice of fandom. Interestingly enough, Holmes’ intense following continues to this day, spawning endless reimagining, such as the US crime-solving series Elementary and the BBC’s Sherlock, which returned with a highly-anticipated special on New Year’s Day, its modern-day Sherlock and Watson returning to Victorian times.

Readers lined up at newsstands for The Strand on publication day whenever a new Holmes story was to appear inside. Holmes fans were truly the emerging middle-class, the exact sort of group whose tastes would be denigrated by snooty critics as populist for more than a century to come.

He’d meant to make some money to support his real art, novels full of what he felt were important ideas and political statements. It took eight years, but by 1901, however, public pressure grew so great that Conan Doyle wrote a new story, The Hound of the Baskerville, featuring Holmes before his fall.

Fans of the show, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a modern-day Holmes, frequent the London sandwich shop favored by Sherlock and his Watson (Martin Freeman), Speedy’s Café. They crowd the streets when the crew films on location, to such a point that it has caused production problems.

Never mind that the show itself could be considered ‘fan fiction’ based on Conan Doyle’s Victorian-age work. What’s remarkable is that Sherlock Holmes fans have been engaging in such histrionics over the fictional detective for more than 120 years, through many, many adaptations.

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Agatha Christie does it explicitly and makes Poirot short and round as opposed to tall and lean. “Even outside the world of detection, I think Doyle began the idea that super-intelligence comes at the price of some kind of social dysfunction, something that we’ve grasped as a narrative possibility ever since,” Moat has said.

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1 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicola_Walker
2 www.imdb.com - https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0908070/
3 www.hellomagazine.com - https://www.hellomagazine.com/film/2020030185521/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-split-star-nicola-walker/
4 www.telegraph.co.uk - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/10735392/Nicola-Walker-Ive-got-a-feisty-face.html
5 - /rebates/welcome