Anyone who wastes their time reading The Guinness Book of World Records (like me!) or just browsing the internet like a creeper (…me again) will know that Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed fictional character in history, with a total of 238 screen apperances! That’s more than Dracula, Hamlet, Cinderella, Superman and Batman, according to IMDB. And, considering the Holmesian-high the media seems to be experiencing at the moment, I feel that number is going to increase some more within the next few years.
As a kid, I remember watching Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective and Hayao Miyazaki’s Sherlock Hound, and one of my first Holmesian films was Steven Spielberg’s Young Sherlock Holmes, which still remains one of my old childhood favourites, but as the years have gone there have been newer, greater adaptations – and even some of the worse adaptations you will ever see, which I’m not going to even talk about (A Case of Evil anyone?)…
Have I seen all these adaptations? Hell no! But I’ve certainly gave it a shot and have thrown together a small list of what I feel as some of the best adaptations that any and all Sherlockians, new and old, should see. (These are in no particular order and are ordered randomly, they are not in order of favouritism or which is best and worst. The order means nothing.)
- The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution (1976): Starring Nicol Williamson as Holmes and Robert Duvall as Watson, this is a film that has been recommended to me several times. Based on the pastiche by Nicholas Meyer’s, The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution focuses on Watson going about curing Holmes’ addiction to cocaine (as referenced in the title, as in The Canon novels Holmes regularly injected himself with a solution of seven-percent cocaine, must to Watson’s dislike – though you must remember that it was legal in those times.) Someone once told me that this film was quite rare and hard to find (either the book or film, I can’t remember)… obviously whoever told me this has never been on Amazon… or the internet…
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson (1979 – 1986): This adaptation is actually a series of five television movies that split into eleven episodes (…I hope I wrote that right.), with Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as John Watson. Why the unusual names? Well, because this adaptation is actually Russian. But strangely enough this adaptation is still popular among many non-Russian fans, including myself. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, it’s definitely worth a watch. (According to a recent poll, Vasily Livanov was voted the best Holmes adaptation world-wide. Who knew.)
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984 – 1994): Quite possibly the most definitive Holmes you will watch, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke as Watson in first and second season and Edward Hardwicke for the remainder of the series. By many Sherlockians, Brett’s Holmes has been seen as being THE Sherlock Holmes and seen as the best English adaptation. This series is still enjoyed even now (and can even still be watched on TV on ITV3) and I doubt I could ever talk about the best adaptations without mentioning this one.
- Sherlock (2010 – onwards): If, perhaps, you don’t care for anything made before the year 2000, then here’s something a bit more modern. Even if you’ve never read Sherlock Holmes before or even know who he is, you will still enjoy this series. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson, Sherlock is a modern adaptation of the novels set in 21st Century London and is beautifully made with great cinematography and music and is quite possibly one of the best shows on British TV right now (and apparently the best Sherlock Holmes adaptation since Jeremy Brett). Sherlock has just finished airing series two and will be back either this year or next with series three, so you have plenty of time to catch up.
Honourable Mentions – (Great, But Not That Great):
- Murder By Decree (1980): I know I’ve mentioned before how I like the idea of Holmes vs Jack the Ripper, and that’s entirely what Murder By Decree is about, but I honestly just could not get into this film as much as I would have liked. It was good and I know others will disagree on not putting it in the other list (as some believe it as the “best” Holmes movie). I do intend to re-watch it at some point, so perhaps my opinion will change.
- Sherlock Holmes Film Series (1939 – 1946): Starring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, some Sherlockians would say Rathbone was one of the best adaptations, starring in a series of fourteen films. So far I’ve only watched six and though Rathbone is a very good Holmes, I don’t find myself enjoying the movies as much as I could. Maybe it’s because it’s in black-and-white (a format I’m not a big fan of) but I would like to watch the others.
- Sherlock Holmes (2009 and 2011): Starring Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. John Watson, this is usually the only adaptation people know when I talk to them about Sherlock Holmes, which is a shame because I honestly don’t see it as an “adaptation”, per se, and sometimes I just want to beat people with a stick when they think they know everything there is about Sherlock Holmes just by these movies. They are very over-dramatised and obviously filled with action and romance for the audience. Don’t get me wrong, I love these movies a lot (and have an awful crush on Jude Law) and are definitely worth a watch, but I don’t think this is the best adaptations.
Obviously, these are just my opinions and all I’m doing is offering them out. The only way you’ll know which adaptation is if best for you if you go out and look. So Happy Watching!