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The Best Sherlock Holmes Adaptations

Updated on July 30, 2015

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most beloved characters that has ever come out of classic literature. It's unsurprising that in the almost 130 years since the character's first appeared in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books, that there has been thousands of adaptations of this work into every possible media form you could think of. However as a Sherlock Holmes fan, it can be difficult to know where to start with these adaptations, as there is so much choice, and most of it is actually quite good. This article will serve as a guide, giving you a few tv shows and movies to start with, if you're looking for some good Sherlock Holmes adaptations.

Film Adaptations

1. The Hound of Baskervilles (1939)


IMDB: 7.6

The oldest piece of work on this list, but perhaps the greatest, The Hound of Baskervilles movie, which was first released in 1939, was the first in a series of 14 movies. To this day, this version of Sherlock Holmes is often considered one of the greatest, and Basil Rathbone one of the greatest Sherlock Holmes actors of all time. This movie was a brilliant adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story by the same name. Not only were the actors brilliant, but the writers got the characters completely right in this adaptation, creating some of the most realistic Holmes/Watson characters of any piece of work ever. Regardless of whatever else you watch on this list, this movie is a classic, and absolutely needs to be watched.

2. Mr. Holmes (2015)


IMDb: 7.6

This is the Newest Movie on this list, having only come out in 2015. However it's still a brilliant take on the Sherlock Holmes stories, doing something completely different from any other adaptation. This movie follows the story of a 93 year old Sherlock, retired and trying to remember his last case. Although this movie portrays Sherlock differently from any way he was ever written in the original books, it still manages to make a realistic character, who just seems to fit with his original imagine. Despite being a non-traditional take on the Sherlock character this movie is without a doubt worth watching.

3. Sherlock Holmes (2009)


IMDb: 7.6

This Sherlock adaptation is brilliant despite being completely non-traditional. This Holmes/Watson pair brings some comedy into the Sherlock Holmes tales, while still managing to stay true to the books in regards to their characters. The dynamics between this Holmes and Watson is brilliant, and possibly what makes these movies so incredibly entertaining. The story in this movie is interesting and will keep the viewer hooked the entire time, just to reveal the mystery at the end, like any other Sherlock Holmes tale. This is a movie that needs to be watched if you love Sherlock Holmes, and are looking for a fast paced, witty version of a classically brilliant Sherlock Holmes tale.

TV Adaptations

1. Sherlock (2010 - Present )


IMDB: 9.3

Let's be honest, this show is spectacular. Anyone who has watched it for even a minute will understand why this show is on this list, and any other list like it. Between perfect casting, writing which manages to weave a highly entertaining and addictive story line, and great acting, this show is worth watching and rewatching any day.

Benedict Cumberbatch seems to capture the Sherlock Holmes from the books in a way rarely managed before. Although there are some changes between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's version and this version of Sherlock, it's still the best rendition to this day. Martin Freeman's John Watson is a little more traditional, but still the best version that's been portrayed so far. Other than finding the perfect actors, and writing the perfect characters, the writers of this show have written a brilliant plot line, and developed their characters very well. The dynamics between Holmes and Watson is incredibly important to any Sherlock Holmes adaptation, and have been captured perfectly here.

Watch this show. No 'buts' or 'ifs', this show just needs to be watched because at the end of the day, you definitely won't regret it.

2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984 - 1994)


IMDb: 8.8

This was a great adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories. This tv show was the most true to the book of all adaptations, going to great lengths to remain as close to the original work as possible. Furthermore, unlike a lot of other adaptations, the plot of the show follows the individual stories from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original works. In the six seasons they filmed, they reproduced all but 18 of the stories from the original books. This series is absolutely amazing, especial if you're looking for a version of Sherlock Holmes which is very close to the books. The actors in this show were cast perfectly, and between them make a great Holmes, Watson duo.

3. Elementary (2012 - Present)


IMDb: 7.9

In all honesty, there was a lot of controversy surrounding this show, until it came out and everyone realised exactly how brilliant it was. The non-traditional female John (Joan) Watson made for a good change in the dynamics of this show, and somehow managed to put a good twist on an old story. This TV show is worth watching regardless of your feelings about Sherlock Holmes, but if you're looking for a good adaptation of the original characters then this is definitely worth considering.

Johnny Lee Miller, who plays Sherlock in this adaptation, is brilliant, possibly one of my favourite versions of Sherlock of all time. He's brilliant for the part, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, his co-star Lucy Liu is an absolutely brilliant version of the traditionally male John Watson.

This show is far from traditional when it comes to Sherlock Holmes adaptations. It's set in New York, instead of London, and one of the main characters has switched genders. However, this show is still brilliant, and if you're a Sherlock fan, it's without a doubt worth watching.

4. House (2004 - 2012)


IMDB: 8.9

The reason this is at the bottom of the list isn't because it's the worst adaptation, in fact this TV show is brilliant, and highly recommended. However this isn't a Sherlock adaptation in the strictest sense. This show actually contains characters who are loosely based on the original Sherlock Holmes characters but due to the brilliance of the show, was worth mentioning.
This show follow Dr. Gregory House, the character based on Sherlock, who solves medical mysteries instead of criminal ones. His antisocial personality, and bad people skills make him a perfect Sherlock adaptation, as well as his brilliant mind and keen observation skills. His sidekick, and best friend, Dr. James Wilson, is modelled after John Watson. He's the conscience of the two of them, often portrayed as the more human main character.

This may not be the traditional portrayal of Sherlock Holmes but that doesn't take away from the fact that it is a brilliant show, and is actually a very good adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.


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