Sherlock Holmes In The Movies: Ranking 70 Feature-Length Films Starring The Iconic Detective [Part One]

(Months ago, writer Rob Hunter set out on a wild and dangerous case: he would watch and rank as many feature-length Sherlock Holmes movies as possible. This is part one of his investigation. Part two will run on Monday.)

Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes may not have been the first fictional detective – that honor belongs to Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Dupin from 1841's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" – but he's quite possibly the most well-known and ubiquitous in pop culture. He's a fascinating creation on the page and rarely less captivating on the screen despite the varied nature of his incarnations over the years.

If we consider both feature-length film and television movies (those 60 minutes or longer), there are roughly 110 adaptations and original adventures that have been produced since the early 20th century. Seeing them all is impossible as one or two have been lost to the ravages of time, but even in today's age of worldwide internet access, seeing the remainder is just as unlikely. Believe me, I tried, but with the time and resources allotted, I've had to call it quits at 70. The missing films consist mostly of non-English adaptations I was unable to find subtitled (or at all) and a handful of TV movies that remained elusive and out of my reach.

As mentioned, the beauty of Holmes on screen is often in the varied forms he takes. They range from the casual to the intense, the anti-social to the fun-loving, and the prick-ish to the unmistakably human, and everyone's bound to have their own favorite performer in the role. Some prefer portrayals in line with Doyle's writings while others are open to performances that a bit more flexible, and someone somewhere probably thinks Larry Hagman nailed it in his failed pilot from the 1970s.

70. Sherlock Holmes (2011)

The Case: A killer is killing women but it's the viewer who'll wish they were dead.

Doyle? No, but only because he rose from the dead and asked to have his name removed and credited as Alan Smithee instead

Holmes and Watson? Kevin Glaser and Charles Simon

Look, just because you have a digital camera doesn't mean you need to make a feature film with it. This "original" tale is actually a near remake of 1945's The Woman in Green brought into the modern day without any semblance of skill or talent. Performances are insulting to the senses, direction and editing are sloppy, music choices are... choices, microphones are usually turned on, and scene transitions in the form of poorly faked comic pages are just ugly. I did laugh, though, when a character pulled up a news site on his phone only to have the image be a picture of a newspaper – they faked a newspaper, took a photo, and pretended it was a web page. Anyway, it's pretty terrible.

69. Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow Watchers (2011)

The Case: Prostitutes are being killed while masked voyeurs watch from the shadows.

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? Anthony D.P. Mann and Terry Wade

You'd be hard-pressed to say this is better than the film above, but it edges itself out of last place by featuring an original story that's more than just a direct riff on an existing one. It's not a good story necessarily, and it's definitely not a well made one, but there are dark themes at play and some creepy mask imagery struggling to bring them to life. Mann also directed (and probably wrote) the film in addition to playing Holmes, and I hope he someday finds his true calling whatever it may be.

68. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)

The Case: Something is amiss and askew at the Baskerville estate.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

Holmes and Watson? Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

Sometimes a comedy comes along that doesn't seem to land for most viewers but that I find funny anyway. This is not that comedy. It's hard to argue with the cast as Cook & Moore are well-established funnymen and they're joined by a reliable supporting cast, but good gravy is this loose spoof of Doyle's popular tale an absolute bust. It's loud, aggressive, and constantly in your face without ever approaching the realm of "funny." The leads co-wrote the script with director Paul Morrissey (Flesh for Frankenstein, 1973), and they all failed to realize it's utter shite.

67. Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962)

The Case: Prof. Moriarty takes a fancy to Cleopatra's stolen necklace with deadly but fashionable results.

Doyle? Nein

Holmes and Watson? Christopher Lee and Thorley Walters

On paper, this German-produced entry looks like a surefire winner as it's directed by Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, 1958), written by Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man, 1941), and stars Christopher Lee as the famed detective. And yet... it's so damn boring and bland. Nondescript English dubbing (even over Lee) doesn't help, but the real culprit is a dull story severely lacking in energy and intrigue. It's ultimately made worse for all the talent that it wastes.

66. Holmes & Watson (2018)

The Case: Professor Moriarty has threatened to kill the Queen of England unless Sherlock Holmes can stop him.

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly

The immediate reaction to this movie is "What the hell happened here?" Ferrell and Reilly aren't necessarily infallible, but even their lesser efforts typically bring some laughs. The answer, though, rests with writer/director Etan Cohen who also made the abysmal Get Hard (2015). A couple moments here threaten to tease a smile from viewers' faces, but the vast majority just leaves us doubly disappointed in its waste of actors like Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald, and Ralph Fiennes. The trouble with an idiot Holmes is that we're left wondering why he's perceived as a genius in the first place, and Ferrell's doofus detective has no answers on that count.

65. Sherlock Holmes (2010)

The Case: Monsters are loose on London's streets and waterways, and a madman from The Asylum is controlling them.

Doyle? Ha, no

Holmes and Watson? Ben Syder and Gareth David-Lloyd

Look, the fine folks at The Asylum do what they do and there's an audience for it, but if you're not on their wavelength the films are little more than CG-filled journeys into dullsville. If the blockbuster Guy Ritchie film was too disrespectful for your tastes than this romp might just push you over the edge, and no amount of dinosaurs and dragons will change that. Yes, there are dinosaurs and dragons.

64. A Study in Terror (1965)

The Case: Jack the Ripper draws the curiosity and ire of the great Sherlock Holmes.

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? John Neville and Donald Houston

1979's Murder By Decree tackles the Holmes vs Jack the Ripper setup worlds better, but credit where credit's due for this film reaching the screen first. And that's the extent of the credit it earns. We get some bright blood to accompany the murders, but the bulk of the film is surprisingly lacking in energy. There's no wit about it, and neither Neville nor Houston seem all that excited by their roles – a feeling viewers soon share.

63. Murder at the Baskervilles (1937)

The Case: A visit to an old friend leads to murder and horse-napping.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of Silver Blaze" (1892)

Holmes and Watson? Arthur Wontner and Ian Fleming

Wontner's final outing as Holmes – well, final on the screen anyway as he returned to the role in 1943 for a BBC radio production – is the least thrilling of the batch. The return to the Baskerville estate is for reference only as the case here involves a couple murders and the search for a racehorse in time for its next race. It's not the most exciting ticking clock, and not even the return of Moriarty can spice things up.

62. A Study in Scarlet (1933)

The Case: Members of an exclusive club are dying and leaving no one to pay the dues.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on A Study in Scarlet (1887) and "The Five Orange Pips" (1891)

Holmes and Watson? Reginald Owen and Warburton Gamble

The producers of this feature only paid for the use of the novel's title – how is this a thing? – and not the contents, so the script is an "original" creation. It actually bears a very clear similarity to Doyle's "The Five Orange Pips" which was adapted better for 1945's The House of Fear, and it pales beside that superior film. Owen is fine as Holmes, but Gamble never gets a real hold on Watson resulting in a sidekick who's more annoying than helpful. The story itself remains lightweight but without the charisma of a captivating lead duo, and not for nothing, but it also wastes the great Anna May Wong with a too-brief appearance.

61. The Return of the World’s Greatest Detective (1976, TV)

The Case: An L.A. motorcycle cop obsessed with Sherlock Holmes suffers a brain injury and wakes up believing he's the legendary detective.

Doyle? No.

"Holmes and Watson?" Larry Hagman and Jenny O'Hara

Sherman Holmes is a terrible cop, but a little brain damage goes a long way apparently. This TV movie – a hopeful series pilot that NBC wisely declined to pick up – looks to be as inspired by 1971's They Might Be Giants as it is by Arthur Conan Doyle's canon, but it lacks that film's whimsy and heart. Sherman takes on a murder case and solves it with Holmes' usual deductive reasoning, but it all feels very flat and almost sitcom-like resulting in a harmlessly bland adventure. Hagman is entirely the wrong choice for the character as his performance is relentlessly one-note and feels more like imitation than acting.

60. The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002, TV)

The Case: A vampire is biting its way through the clergy... or is it?!

Doyle? No.

Holmes and Watson? Matt Frewer and Kenneth Welsh

The fourth and final film in the Hallmark Channel's Sherlock Holmes film series is the first to tell an original story. It looks quite good for a TV movie, and we get some creepy visuals involving blood, dead bodies, and bats, but Frewer and Welsh are not an exciting or interesting duo. Their accents are sketchy, and Frewer seems constantly on the edge of making some exaggerated facial expression or vocal styling leftover from his more comical roles. He feels like he's just about to laugh which in turn leaves viewers thinking something funny is around the bend in this non-comedy.

59. Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse (1983, TV)

The Case: Is it a curse, a dog, or poor British manners that threaten the heir to a remote country estate?

Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

Holmes and Watson? Peter O'Toole and Earle Cross (voices)

On the one hand an animated version of this tale means the glowing mutt can't stand out as a bad visual effect like it does in nearly every live-action version, but on the other it's still a pretty straightforward adaptation of a story we all know far too well. (No? Just me after watching a dozen versions of it?) Similarly, O'Toole as Holmes is a fantastic choice, but it's just his voice and Holmes is a supporting player in this tale.

58. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1972, TV)

The Case: A big dog and even bigger amounts of greed threaten the heir to a seemingly cursed estate.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

Holmes and Watson? Stewart Granger and Bernard Fox

The 70s and 80s saw more than a couple attempts at reviving Holmes for network television, and this stab at a new series of TV movies met the same fate as the rest – instant failure. This isn't the worst of the bunch as poor Larry Hagman's entry above earns that title, but it's not much better. Its only real advantage is the choice to stick with a familiar and beloved story, but it brings nothing fresh in the process and Granger's large, heroic stature feels wholly inappropriate for the curious detective. On the plus side the cinematographer is named Harry L. Wolf.

57. The Woman in Green (1945)

The Case: Women are turning up dead, each with a missing finger, and Sherlock Holmes is on the killer's case.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Final Problem" (1893) and "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903)

Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Serial murder with post-mortem mutilation has rarely been so dull. Rathbone and Bruce are their usually reliable selves, but the film reveals nearly everything early on leading to a slow rollout of Holmes' deductions. The focus on hypnosis also drags it down as it's a bland explanation removing culpability from everyone but Moriarty and the woman in green.

56. Hands of a Murderer (1990, TV)

The Case: Prof. Moriarty escapes his own execution forcing Holmes onto the hunt once again.

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? Edward Woodward and John Hillerman

Production design on this CBS television movie features decoration and detail standing apart from earlier TV productions, but pretty sets can only take it so far. Instead, it crumbles in two key areas – its story and its performances. The story is an original meeting of Holmes and Moriarty involving spies and deceptions, but details pile on despite none of them feeling all that interesting. Woodward is surprisingly bad as Holmes preferring to yell most of his lines, and Anthony Andrews' Moriarty somehow manages to be both dull and hammy. But hey, Hillerman makes a good Watson and it's not often that character is the highlight.

55. Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville (2012, TV)

The Case: A man who witnessed his father mauled to death by a large beast decades earlier believes the canine creature may be back for seconds.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

The most well-known of Doyle's stories gets a modern-day update, and the result is a woefully under-baked excursion into the English countryside and the weakest episode of the popular BBC reboot. (Is it already clear that I'm not the biggest fan of Doyle's most well-known Holmes tale?) The setup is familiar, but the effort to modernize the explanation falls flat leading to an embarrassingly bad CG hound that immediately knocks you out of the experience as you double over with laughter. It's a howler for all the wrong reasons.

54. Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

The Case: When garden gnomes throughout London go missing only the greatest gnome detective can crack the case.

Doyle? Gno

"Holmes and Watson?" Johnny Depp and Chiwetel Ejiofor (voices)

This sequel to 2011's Gnomeo & Juliet is a minor diversion to be sure with middling humor that rarely lands, but there are some nice beats on the Holmes front (despite him being voiced by Depp). We get a couple fun story twists, and the bits where we enter Holmes' mind to see him work through a problem are fairly inspired as they revert to hand-drawn animation and show real creativity with an MC Escher-esque segment as he retrieves a memory being a real highlight. It ultimately feels far too designed for consumption, though, rather than real enjoyment.

53. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)

The Case: Nazis are in pursuit of a talented inventor because they're Nazis.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" (1903)

Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Holmes' second foray into World War II action against the Nazis lacks everything that makes the first (The Voice of Terror, 1942) so damn great. Mystery and deductions don't really kick in until late, and even then they're minimal as the main thrust here is protecting the scientist from spies, the Gestapo, and Moriarty. Holmes is all about the disguises, though, so that's something, and Rathbone & Bruce remain a good time.

52. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1983, TV)

The Case: The American heir to a British estate finds it comes with a curse, a large dog, and some pesky quicksand.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)

Holmes and Watson? Ian Richardson and Donald Churchill

Originally intended as one of six television movies starring Richardson as Holmes it instead fell victim to being overshadowed by the superior series headlined by Jeremy Brett (aka the best actor to have ever portrayed Holmes). Only two were produced with this being the lesser of the pair as it doesn't bring much new or exciting to the story outside of the greatly charismatic Brian Blessed as a suspect in the mystery. It's perfectly serviceable, but Churchill's Watson is uninteresting which isn't good news for the story in which he's most active.

51. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

The Case: Years after Watson's death his papers reveal a story too scandalous to tell during Holmes' lifetime.

Doyle? Definitely not

Holmes and Watson? Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely

The normally reliable Billy Wilder seems set to take some mighty swings with this one – a bored Holmes, the suggestion that his drug addiction is fueled by an attempt to repress his homosexuality, the Loch Ness monster – but none of the elements come to strong conclusions. The monster bit at least offers up a mystery of sorts complete with little people, monks, and his brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee), but the rather bleak ending doesn't quite match the odd tone and humor of what comes before. Entire scenes were apparently cut from the film, and as it stands it's a bit lacking in flow and cohesion.

50. Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976, TV)

The Case: A boy close to Sherlock's heart and groin is abducted, and billions of dollars in gold bars have been stolen... could Prof. Moriarty be behind both crimes?

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? Roger Moore and Patrick Macnee

The biggest appeal here is watching Moore navigate the role of Holmes in a made-for-TV movie while he was in the middle of his theatrical run as James Bond. He seems to making an effort to play the role quite seriously while Macnee delivers an idiot Watson and John Huston hams it up as Moriarty. Charlotte Rampling plays Irene Adler, and it's her son – apparently Holmes' son too – who's kidnapped. There's mild fun here due almost entirely to the cast as the script itself fails to spark much in the way of life with its clash between Holmes and Moriarty let alone in the reunion of Holmes and Adler.

49. The Sign of Four (1932)

The Case: A woman targeted by villains asks Sherlock for protection but she's abducted anyway.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Sign of Four (1890)

Holmes and Watson? Arthur Wontner and Ian Hunter

Wontner's second outing, 1932's The Missing Rembrandt, is actually lost to time with no known copies of the film in existence, so this third feature is the current follow-up to Sherlock Holmes' Fatal Hour (1931). It's a step down in many ways as too much of time is spent with the villains – meaning less time with Holmes – and a good chunk of the third act is devoted to action rather than deduction. Both Holmes and Watson get in some good licks on the bad guys, and while Hunter (no relation) replaces Wontner's usual sidekick he's every bit as unmemorable as Ian Fleming. (How crazy is it that they found a second Ian to play Watson?)

48. The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935)

The Case: A mysterious murder made to look like a suicide piques Sherlock's curiosity.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Valley of Fear (1914)

Holmes and Watson? Arthur Wontner and Ian Fleming

The previous entry's (The Sign of Four, 1932) detour into action is no more as Holmes once again exists solely as a thinker, and while it's more traditional it also makes for a slightly better film. Slightly because Holmes and Watson still lack much in the way of chemistry with the latter feeling underwhelming at every turn. Moriarty is back too, both as a direct threat and the orchestrator of violence by others, but the film is hurt by a flashback that keeps Moriarty and Holmes off the screen for far too long.

47. Sherlock: The Six Thatchers (2017, TV)

The Case: A thief is breaking into homes and smashing busts of Thatcher's head, and the perpetrator leads Sherlock into Mary's past.

Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (1904)

Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

Part of the problem with the previous season's reveal about Watson's wife Mary's (Amanda Abbington) secret super-spy past is the contrivance that comes along with it, and that's nowhere more prevalent than in this, her final episode. It's bad enough they introduced the idea, but rather than leave it be the show felt compelled to return to it *immediately* for cheap drama and emotion. It doesn't work, though, and worse, the way she goes out is just annoying. No person, let a lone a top notch secret agent, would jump in front of someone to stop a bullet when they could just push that someone out of the way. Dumb.

46. Sherlock: The Empty Hearse (2014, TV)

The Case: A terrorist threat against the heart of London pulls Sherlock in one direction while attempts to reconcile with Watson pull him in the other.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903) and "The Story of the Lost Special" (1898)

Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

The biggest problem here is the episode's disinterest in actually explaining how Holmes faked his death at the end "The Reichenbach Fall" (2012). It's almost as if they know they wrote themselves into a corner with its structure and then decided to just brush it away. The lacking explanation could have been balanced by an intriguing story, but the bomb threat and time spent in the subway tunnel is equally underwhelming. The singular bright spot here is more time spent with the lovely Molly the mortician played by Louise Brealey.

45. The Spider Woman (1944)

The Case: A series of mysterious deaths point to a murderous woman with a penchant for poison.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" (1913), "The Final Problem" (1893), and The Sign of the Four (1890)

Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

The detective deduces a series of suicides are actually murder, and the prime suspect is a woman who's every bit as smart as he is. Their battle of wits and the games they play between them are pretty entertaining, but the film is hurt by two lesser decisions. Holmes' ploy at faking his own death is handled so quickly and ultimately feels unnecessary to anything, and even more unfortunate is his effort at an Indian disguise complete with "brown face" makeup. It hurts the film on rewatch, but viewers who can separate themselves from the times will find an engaging enough mystery here.

44. Sherlock: Case of Evil (2002, TV)

The Case: A young Sherlock Holmes still making his name as a detective suspects the recently deceased Moriarty is behind a series of murders.

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? James D'Arcy and Roger Morlidge

While its ambition falls prey to the budgetary restraints of a television movie this original tale manages a few inspiring moments in its production design, and its more energetic take on the famed detective is equally okay. D'Arcy is wide-eyed and plays Holmes as a man seeking attention and the love of the ladies before learning a hard lesson of the heart. Vincent D'Onofrio's Moriarty suffers from a rough British accent but makes up for it in smarm and swordplay, while both Gabrielle Anwar and Richard E. Grant co-star in smaller supporting roles. It's perfectly serviceable.

43. Sherlock: The Blind Banker (2010, TV)

The Case: A bank break-in sees nothing stolen but a deadly message left behind.

Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on "The Adventure of the Dancing Men" (1903)

Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

The initial setup is an interesting one as the motivation behind breaking into a bank but not stealing anything intrigues, and we also get a murder committed in a locked room, but the answers are never all that interesting. The character writing doesn't quite gel, an attempted murder sequence relies on Bond villain-like delays, and we don't get nearly enough of Gemma Chan.

42. Pursuit to Algiers (1945)

The Case: Sherlock is tasked with delivering a prince to his home country by ship while eluding assassins.

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

The premise is similar, but 16 Blocks (2006) this isn't. There's no real report between Holmes and his charge, and the thugs on their tail never feel like much of a threat. While something like Terror By Night (1946) works in its confined train space the ship doesn't enjoy the same building of suspense. Rathbone and Bruce are terrific as always, but they're the only real highlight of the film.

41. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

The Case: A toymaker has gone missing, and a mousy Holmes suspects the nefarious Professor Ratigan.

Doyle? Nope, it's based on a series of children's books which were in turn inspired by Doyle's creation

"Holmes and Watson?" Barrie Ingham and Val Bettin (voices)

To clarify, our heroes here aren't actually meant to be Holmes and Watson, but their rodent counterparts Basil and Dawson who live in the walls of 221 ½ Baker Street. It's an origin story of Dawson's first team-up with the great detective, and in addition to a one-legged bat and a rodent arch-nemesis named Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price!) we also get a frequently depressed Holmes in a kids movie. The animation is rough at times – a victim of budget slashing after The Black Cauldron (1985) stumbled at the box-office – but there's charm in the action and characters.

40. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)

The Case: Murders in a convalescent home leave Sherlock certain that greed is the motive.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" (1893)

Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Kudos to this entry for summarizing a key element of movie villains through the years with Holmes' conclusion that "Egomaniacs are always so much more chatty when they feel they have the upper hand." The core of the story sees a killer acting on greed resulting in a house filled with suspects, and Holmes explores some of usual trickery to crack the case including playing a game involving human chess pieces. Typical Sherlock.

39. Sherlock: His Last Vow (2014, TV)

The Case: An evil powerbroker leads Sherlock to a shocking revelation about Mary that leaves him with a bullet in his torso.

Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" (1904) and "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (1891) with the title a riff on "His Last Bow" (1917)

Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

There are two elements at play here, and neither works as well as they should. The villain is menacing at first before being quickly revealed to be something of a shtick whose vault of knowledge is actually a "mind palace" similar to Holmes'. Still, his M.O. is just interesting and threatening enough, but the reveal that Mary is an ex-super agent – hoo boy – this just lands clunkily. It feels so unnecessary, as if they just weren't sure what to do with a "normal" female character.

38. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1987, TV)

The Case: John Watson's great-granddaughter discovers a cryogenically frozen Sherlock Holmes in the basement of her family estate.

Doyle? Doyle-ish! Very loosely inspired by The Sign of the Four (1890)

Holmes and "Watson?" Michael Pennington and Margaret Colin

Yet another TV movie with hopes of becoming a series, this time for CBS, the specifics of the premise here are fairly interesting. It's Holmes in modern-day courtesy of cryogenic freezing – a technique that he himself invented! – and there's fun to be had in his "fish out of water" scenario. The pair are quickly drawn into a case involving conspiracy and murder, and Pennington does a good job with the infamous character balancing his wit, curiosity, and mildly dismissive nature.

37. Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)

The Case: An agent goes missing in America along with a top secret document sending Sherlock Holmes off to the New World.

Doyle? No

Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

The third of the series' overtly political efforts aimed at war-time audiences, this entry even ends with a plea for viewers to buy war bonds. It's also one with little mystery as we see the men responsible for the abduction and murder in the very beginning, and instead the bulk of the film is more action and suspense-oriented. It's fine but we don't get a lot of Holmes' deductive abilities and occasional moments where he's stumped for an answer.

36. Sherlock Holmes (1932)

The Case: Professor Moriarty escapes justice and targets his persecutors for death.

Doyle? Doyle! Based on the play Sherlock Holmes (1899) co-written by William Gillette

Holmes and Watson? Clive Brook and Reginald Owen

There's a somewhat unique setup to this entry as not only is Holmes heading into retirement but he's also engaged. To be married! He frustrates his fiancee by returning to detective work in order to re-capture the villainous Moriarty. Brook makes for a compelling Holmes selling both the intelligence and wit – his demonstration of a "motor-wrecking ray" to disable cars remotely feels both authentic and futuristic – and he spends most his time bantering with a child instead of Watson. It's an engaging thriller.


Check out part two of our ranking soon, where we count down the 35 best Sherlock Holmes movies.