Without a doubt, Sherlock Holmes lends countless movies the perfect protagonist.
Not only do Holmes—and his right-hand man, Watson—reveal improbably tangled plotlines; they also manage to keep audiences on the edge of their seats while doing so.
These Sherlock Holmes movies prove you need more than a hooky whodunnit to keep your audience riveted: you need an irresistible hero who’s every bit as alluring and mysterious as the cases he tackles.
The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
Director: Alfred L. Werker
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime
In this exciting movie, Holmes’ arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty, has set his eyes on a prize no less worthy than England’s Crown Jewels.
Holmes and Watson must balance the threat to their Queen’s treasure with a new case—a woman whose brother has received a death threat, just like her father did a decade before.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959)
Director: Terence Fisher
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime, Apple TV
The Baskerville line has long been haunted by a centuries-old legend—that of a fearsome hound, which foretells the death of anyone who sees it.
After the current lord Baskerville is murdered, a doctor contacts Holmes, fearing for the life of the youngest Baskerville.
Holmes and Dr. Watson set out to prove once and for all that this death was not caused by any ordinary hound.
The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Robert Stephens, Christopher Lee
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Where To Watch: Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
In contrast to most Holmesian films, this movie shows the more vulnerable, human side of Sherlock.
He struggles with his drug addiction at times, relies on the support of his friends and elder brother Mycroft, and has times when he is all too relatable.
The movie also explores the difficulties of being gay in the late 19th century, and how Holmes deals with those issues as well.
The Adventure Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)
Director: Gene Wilder
Starring: Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Where To Watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime
This spoof stars Gene Wilder as Sigerson Holmes, the unknown brother of the famous consulting detective.
While the real Holmes and Dr. Watson are visiting the continent for an important case, Sigerson races to solve a crime in England before they return, hoping to impress everyone with his own brand of genius.
Murder By Decree (1979)
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Donald Sutherland
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Where To Watch: Amazon Prime, Apple TV
In an interesting mash-up of well-known English legends from the Victorian era, Sherlock Holmes goes head-to-head with Jack the Ripper.
Unable to obtain any help through his normal Scotland Yard channels, Holmes turns to a psychic for some advice.
He then begins his investigation with his best friend Watson, venturing deep into London’s seedy underbelly to crack the case of a lifetime.
The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Director: John Musker, Ron Clements, Dave Michener, Burny Mattinson
Starring: Vincent Price (Voice), Barrie Ingham (Voice)
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV
Disney may be better known for countless other films, but The Great Mouse Detective stands up pretty well in their collection.
A mouse named Basil (in deference to Basil Rathbone) is a private detective, who must stop Professor Ratigan in his evil machinations to get rid of their beloved mouse monarch.
Without A Clue (1988)
Director: Thom Eberhadrt
Starring: Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Where To Watch: Apple TV
Flipping the script on the traditional Holmesian tale, this movie explores the theory that Dr. Watson is the real brains behind the operation.
It’s an angle quite a few Sherlock Holmes movies hint at in jest, but that rarely gets serious spotlight.
To perpetuate the myth of the great detective, he hires an actor to play Sherlock Holmes while Dr. Watson solves the crime behind the scenes.
However, the actor he hires is not the most reliable person. In fact, he spends most of his time inside a bottle, rather than living up to the mystique of his character.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
It is somewhat disconcerting for fans to see Sherlock Holmes as a rough and tumble boxer in an action movie, but it’s a refreshing take on the genre as a whole.
What’s more, it provides plenty of laughs—from witty one-liners, to the hilarious banter between Holmes and Watson.
The chase sequences in the film never stretch on for too long, and the all-star cast really sells the script.
Mr. Holmes (2015)
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Sir Ian McKellan, Laura Linney
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Where To Watch: Fandango, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV
A departure from other movies, this film follows Holmes long after he has retired.
It explores themes of aging and other difficult concepts, not the least of which is how to grapple with a failing mind that was once the sharpest in the country.
Unlike other Holmesian films, it focuses on the human side of the detective while he struggles to solve his very last case—one that has plagued him for so many years.
Enola Holmes (2020)
Director: Harry Bradbeer
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Helena Bonham Carter
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Where To Watch: Netflix
This upbeat movie follows Enola, the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, as she searches for her disappeared mother instead of attending the finishing school that Mycroft has consigned her to.
Despite the dangers of disguising herself as a boy and living in London alone, Enola is brilliantly resourceful. Her amusing asides with the audience are as charming as they are fascinating, providing fun insight into her character.
Sherlock and Mycroft do not play major roles in this movie, but it has all of the twists and turns that fans have come to expect from Holmesian mysteries.
Additionally, Enola Holmes provides a satisfying conclusion—one that opens the door for more films in the future.
Sherlock Holmes appears in no shortage of movies, each with their own spins on the famous detective.
These are the standouts, of course, but every Holmesian film has a few hallmark features: wit, intrigue, masterful deduction…and, at his heart, the character so many have come to know and love throughout the decades.