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Sherlock Holmes Movies List and TV Series

Updated on March 11, 2011

The new Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law is a great action film and lots of fun, but if you have ever read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, one thing is clear -- the new movie doesn't have a lot to do with the stories. In fact, about all they do share is that they have two characters with the same names and they take place in England.

But I'm not one to complain because I'm a fan of fun movies even if they don't resemble the characters in the books.Here's the thing though. Sherlock Holmes has been on screen a lot over the year and this new movie is hardly the first to stray from Arthur Conan Doyle.

And Sherlock Holmes fans are already pretty lucky anyway as there have been lots of movies told about the astounding detective over the years and many of them do a great job of bringing Arthur Conan Doyle's characters and settings to life. So without further ado, let's take a look at some Sherlock Holmes movies on DVD that you might want to think about adding to your collection.

Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson
Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes on DVD

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection
This set includes all of the 20th Century Fox and Universal films and they have all been immaculately restored to their full glory.

Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes Movies

Basil Rathbone had a long career playing Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce played his best friend, Dr John Watson.

While Rathbone is probably a favorite of many Sherlock Holmes fans, and he definitely has a certain look about him that suited the part (though he was too old!), it is amusing to note that these movies didn't have a lot to do with Arthur Conan Doyle's stories either. Just like our contemporary movie!

In fact, of the 14 movies that Basil Rathbone starred in as the great detective, only one of them was actually based on an Arthur Conan Doyle story. That movie is The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Only two movies in the series were set in the same time frame as the original stories, the previously mentioned Hound of the Baskervilles and the other 1939 film, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. These first two movies were made by 20th Century Fox.

The rest of the Sherlock Holmes movies were made by Universal Studios and the setting of the films were moved to a modern day period, so you find Sherlock Holmes fighting Nazis throughout World War II. Funny, I don't rememer Conan Doyle mentioning that in any of his stories!

If I remember correctly, Rathbone also abandons the deerstalker cap when his Sherlock Holmes leaps into the modern era -- but then that hat was never specifically mentioned in the original stories anyway.

Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes
Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes
The Sherlock Holmes Collection [DVD]
The Sherlock Holmes Collection [DVD]
This box set features the surviving Peter Cushing episodes, including his second version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes

The next Holmes actor to make a big impact was Peter Cushing. His first foray into the role was in the Hammer film, The Hound of the Baskervilles, in 1959. This is also the first Sherlock Holmes movie to be shot in color. Hammer is best known for horror movies, and this Hound has a lot of gothic, spooky appeal.

10 years later, Cushing revisited Holmes, this time for television. He joined the cast of the BBC series, replacing Douglas Wilmer in the role of Sherlock Holmes. Watson was played by Nigel Stock for both series. During his television stint as Sherlock Holmes, which lasted 16 episodes, Cushing starred in yet another version of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Sadly, not all of the BBC series survives. None of the Douglas Wilmer episodes are available and only several of the Cushing episodes survived the BBC's purge of their television archives in the 60s and 70s. It's a shame the BBC did not take better care of their television legacy and the cultural history of film & television.

Amazingly, Cushing played Holmes for a third time in his life in the 1980s. The 1984 movie, The Masks of Death, features a retired Sherlock Holmes who is nevertheless back on the case. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be available on DVD or in any other format.

1959 The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was directed by famed filmmaker, Billy Wilder, and released in 1970. It starred Robert Stephens as a more flawed Sherlock Holmes than we'd seen before and Dr. Watson, played by Colin Blakely, was a bit of a ladies man (and a lush!). This is obviously a very unserious Sherlock Holmes film and is all the more wonderful for that. Unfortunately, United Artists took a butcher knife to it in the editing suite.

Some of the missing footage can at least be viewed on the latest DVD release, but it hasn't been restored to its proper place within the movie and probably never will be.

If you are looking for a fun Sherlock Holmes movie, you might want to give this one a try. In the clip below, Sherlock Holmes neatly dodges a proposal to father a child by suggesting that he and Watson are more than just roommates.

This quote from one of the film's Amazon reviews should give you an idea of what you are in for:

It is a very very funny look at Holmes, a more human look perhaps. This is a mirthful look at the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, lovingly portrayed with a twinkle in his eye by the late great Sir Robert Stephens. The adventures are fun (the ones we see) but mainly centre around a woman's missing husband. Toss in several hundred canaries, the Loch Ness Monster, missing midgets - the Tumbling Pickaloes to be precise - the mysterious red runner, Queen Victoria, some Trappist monks, an ageing ballerina that does not 'look 39' - that is because she is 49!! -who wants Holmes to father her child and an amnesiac damsel in distress that temps Holmes, all done with the best British wit and droll sense of humour...and you have a mix that cannot miss.

Jeremy Brett & Edward Hardwicke
Jeremy Brett & Edward Hardwicke
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television Series
The beloved Granada TV series, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes.

Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes

And finally, this list wouldn't be complete without the Granada Sherlock Holmes tv series starring Jeremy Brett. There are tons more Sherlock Holmes movies and tv shows I could talk about. Many actors have played Holmes and Watson over the years. Of these, Jeremy Brett is considered by many fans of the actual Arthur Conan Doyle tales to be the definitive Sherlock Holmes on screen.

Jeremy Brett played Sherlock Holmes over the course of 41 episodes. Thirty-six of those were one hour long and the other five were all feature-length. What's particularly noteworthy as well, as that 41 out of the 60 stories that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about his most famous character were adapted for the Granada series.

While Jeremy Brett played Sherlock Holmes throughout, Dr Watson was played by two different actors -- first David Burke, then Edward Hardwicke. The series ended in 1995 after the untimely death of Jeremy Brett, who suffered from heart failure at the age of 61.

As far as things go, this series is probably the most faithful to Conan Doyle's stories and the series is also one of the few places that actually gets Dr. Watson's characterization right. Arthur Conan Doyle's Doctor isn't a bumbling fool.

Since the entire series has been restored and made available in a DVD box set, you'll be able to decide for yourself whether Jeremy Brett is the Sherlock Holmes. Be sure to watch the clip below!

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

Who is your Favorite Sherlock Holmes?

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