No character in the history of characters, actors, or words has been portrayed in film and TV more than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. It’s not even a contest. 14 actors have played Doctor Who‘s lead character between the two mediums, seven actors have played Batman, about 10 have played James Bond, and dozens have played Ebenezer Scrooge. 130 actors have played Sherlock Holmes dating all the way back to Károly Baumann in a Hungarian stage production and film in 1905. I mean, that’s a whole lot of sleuthing, especially considering Doyle wrote only 60 stories and not all of them were adapted into something.
The drawing power of Holmes is his intense intelligence, his attention to detail which serves him well in his detecting, and his friendship/partnership with Dr. John Watson. Holmes is a flawed hero, amazing in some aspects of his life but horrible at others. He traditionally has had an addiction to cocaine and is generally not the nicest chap on the best of days. But there’s still something that draws us to him, and actors to playing him. For over 100 years, there have been versions of the character out there that we can watch, even if they aren’t all available anymore (and some which are flatly not good).
To honor the century of crime solving superiority, I’ve compiled a gallery of 15 of my favorite and most famous/influential versions of the character. You could do far worse than curling up on the sofa and watching any of them smoke the pipe, wearing the deerstalker, and proclaiming, “Elementary!”
Images: BBC, CBS, Hammer Films, Miramax, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, United Artists, AVCO Embassy Pictures
Kyle Anderson is a film and television critic for Nerdist.com and an avowed follower of Mr. Holmes. Follow him on Twitter!