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

(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 two of his investigation. Part one can be read right here.)

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 is still probably pining for a Nicholas Rowe/Alan Cox reunion.

35. The House of Fear (1945)

The Case: Members of an exclusive club are being killed in violent ways, but is that just the price of membership?Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Five Orange Pips" (1891)Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceThe action moves to Watson's homeland of Scotland which affords the film some attractive-ish scenery, but even as the story unfolds with bodies hitting the floor fairly frequently the resolution is a bit underwhelming. It's effective, to be sure, especially as the guilty parties overthink their plan in ways that backfire on them, but the resolution feels pretty light by the series' frequently more dramatic standards. It's the story, though, and the film does well enough with what it's handed.

34. Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (2004, TV)

The Case: A serial killer with a taste for stockings is targeting teenage daughters of aristocrats.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Rupert Everett and Ian HartEverett's Holmes is a bit more relaxed than many, and the script sees him acting more like an intense homicide detective than his usual pure observer as he works to catch the killer. Hart isn't quite as engaging, though, with a Watson who too often feels like a passerby instead of a sidekick. A young Michael Fassbender balances that out with his creepy, big-mouthed portrayal of the prime suspect. Side note and possible spoiler, while one of the more common refrains from the BBC's popular reboot sees Holmes saying "It's never twins" this other BBC production didn't get the memo.

33. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: The Eligible Bachelor (1993, TV)

The Case: The detective is tasked with finding a missing bride, but he's distracted by a series of troubling and possibly prophetic dreams.Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor" (1892)Holmes and Watson? Jeremy Brett and Edward HardwickeWhile most episodes in this Granada Television series stick very closely to Doyle's source material this final feature-length entry takes some pretty dramatic liberties, and they're not all equal additions. The elements that work best, though, give the story a more darkly satisfying back half than the somewhat underwhelming one found in the original short story. It's a minor drag getting there as Holmes' dream-fueled daze distracts from his more reliably entertaining antics, but as you've undoubtedly heard Brett is the absolute best version of the character.

32. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)

The Case: A teenaged Holmes finds a best friend, the love of his young life, and the truth behind a series of mysterious deaths.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Nicholas Rowe and Alan CoxThis Amblin production is something of a cult favorite, and it has a strong pedigree in producer Steven Spielberg, director Barry Levinson, and writer Chris Columbus, but I'm still going to make the bold claim that it's merely okay. It follows the prequel norm in trying too hard to explain so many elements about Holmes' character, interests, outfit, etc. It's as if his entire personality was defined by this one incident, and rather than be thrilling it's instead far too convenient. Still, performances are good, action beats are mildly exciting, and that stained-glass knight remains a pretty damn cool effect.

31. The Masks of Death (1984, TV)

The Case: The famed detective comes out of retirement to investigate some mysterious deaths and a missing prince.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Peter Cushing and John MillsCushing's final turn as Holmes came a quarter of a century after his first in The Hound of the Baskervilles, and while it lacks that film's atmosphere and energy Cushing remains a powerhouse of a presence. The film is an engaging enough mix of story turns and entertaining beats including the return of Irene Adler into Holmes' life and mind, but Cushing is its beating heart. He's old, frail, and cranky but still capable of displaying a twinkle in his eye as in the scene where he learns of Adler's presence... and later tells her he is "never beaten twice."

30. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

The Case: The devious Professor Moriarty is attempting to start a war in Europe, and that's not cool.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Robert Downey Jr. and Jude LawGuy Ritchie's sequel to his own blockbuster reboot brings more action to the screen, and while it can't touch the first film it's an entertaining adventure all the same. The story's less interesting as the focus here is Moriarty's greedy scheme to cause chaos and bolster his bank accounts — yawn — but Ritchie's eye for stylish visuals and the continued charm of Downey Jr. and Law go a long way towards making this worth a watch.

29. 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns (1993)

The Case: A cryogenically frozen Holmes awakes in modern day San Francisco and sets out in search of Moriarty's descendants.Doyle? NoHolmes and "Watson?" Anthony Higgins and Debrah FarentinoFailed television pilots about Holmes in the present day are something of a subgenre unto themselves, but while most are mild mediocrities I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a ridiculous amount of fun with this one. It's silly and Holmes purists would absolutely despise it, but it's also very funny — intentionally! — as Holmes riffs with his new lady doctor friend, interacts with the world, and stumbles through the malleable nature of definitions and social mores. The similarities to 1987's The Return of Sherlock Holmes are curious — same network, same cryogenics plot device, same female doctor sidekick — but writer/director Kenneth Johnson (creator of V) improves on the premise and delivers casually enjoyable entertainment in the tonal vein of Knight Rider or The A-Team. I would have watched this series.

28. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016, TV)

The Case: How could a woman shoot herself in the head,die, and then return to murder her husband?Doyle? No.Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanSetting an episode in Victorian times — Holmes' original time-frame — could easily have felt like a gimmick, but couching it in a "mind palace" excursion works to transport viewers back in time with minimal questions or concerns. The case and setting lend the show a terrifically gothic atmosphere, and there are a few legitimately creepy visual beats along the way. It's good fun with the weakest element being the end that brings us back into the present.

27. They Might Be Giants (1971)

The Case: The legendary detective, or at least the judge who believe he's Sherlock Holmes, investigates the latest scheme by Professor Moriarty.Doyle? No"Holmes and Watson?" George C. Scott and Joanne WoodwardThere are a few clear comedies among this list, but this is the only entry that counts as a rom-com. Its Holmes is a man so distraught with grief that he's come to believe he's actually the legendary crime-solver, and when his own brother tries to have him institutionalized a psychiatrist named Watson comes to his aid. The pair share an adventure through modern-day New York City alongside some other citizens of questionable mental acuity and find love along the way. It's odd and feels at times like a minor inspiration for Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King (1991). It's also quite good — that is, until its terribly abrupt ending sees it close on a disappointing beat.

26. The Pearl of Death (1944)

The Case: A fancy pearl is the target of ruthless thieves, villains, and murderers.Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (1904)Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceThis same storyline would be used again (and better) two years later in Dressed to Kill, but this take on the story has its charms. Chief among them is a character named The Creeper who goes against the grain of Holmes' typical villains in that rather than being incredibly bright and devious he's instead a monstrous brute. His calling card is a trail of snapped spines, so he makes for an interesting nemesis for the brainy detective.

25. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)

The Case: A woman has been kidnapped, but the bigger mystery may be Holmes' slide into addiction.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Nicol Williamson and Robert DuvallIt turns out Holmes' suspicions about Moriarty are the result of possible delusions caused by heavy drug use, so Watson arranges for the great detective to sit down with Sigmund Freud. What? Exactly. This adaptation of Nicholas Meyer's novel takes some interesting character turns while still managing to deliver a mystery for Holmes to deduce. It's far more of a character drama than a thriller, but it's engaging all the same.

24. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975)

The Case: With the real greatest detective out of town a minor case falls to his brother Sigerson.Doyle? No"Holmes and Watson?" Gene Wilder and Marty FeldmanRight off the bat, this movie should be far funnier than it is. Written and directed by Wilder, starring Wilder, Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, and Leo McKern as Moriarty —  and just a year after Young Frankenstein – this should have been a classic. It's unfortunately not as every gag that lands is followed by two that don't, but it's still a ridiculous and fun affair. Holmes and Watson are here as bookends, but the younger Holmes is the focus. For all its faults, though, 1970s Wilder is a madman in his prime resulting in some beautifully orchestrated chaos.

23. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: The Last Vampyre (1993, TV)

The Case: A man's arrival in a small rural village sets off a chain of death, misery,and fear that he's a vampire.Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" (1924)Holmes and Watson? Jeremy Brett and Edward HardwickeDoyle's detective fictions rarely dip into the supernatural and always find very human resolutions, and this tale of a supposed vampire is no different. Unfortunately, that resolution involves hypnosis of sorts which is never more than dull. Brett is obviously fantastic, though, as he works through the possibilities in his effort to dismiss the idea of the undead, and his turn along with some wonderfully atmospheric visuals are the highlights of an otherwise iffy tale.

22. Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall (2012, TV)

The Case: A modern update of the story where Doyle infamously "killed" Sherlock Holmes.Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on "The Adventure of the Final Problem" (1893)Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanThis series two finale is split so evenly between brilliance and disappointment that it makes its placement in this ranking difficult. The positives are made up mostly of Holmes' scenes with Moriarty as they crackle with energy, wit, and unpredictability. We get plenty of time spent between them, and it's almost always thrilling to watch. But woof to the mechanics of the plot. Trying to ruin Holmes is good, but Moriarty's ploy — Holmes is a fraud who hired actors and made up cases! — could be so easily fact-checked and proven wrong as to be annoying when no one does so. The ending is equally miserable in its ignoble end for Moriarty and the utterly convoluted nature of Holmes' faked demise, but damn, the elements that work well really, really work.

21. Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour (1931)

The Case: A diplomat is blackmailed into joining Professor Moriarty's gang.Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903) and "The Final Problem" (1893)Holmes and Watson? Arthur Wontner and Ian FlemingWontner's first go as Holmes shows him to be a solid fit for Doyle's creation. From his look to his mannerisms, he fits the character well as written, and he becomes the film's core strength. Its other highlight, though, and one that doesn't seem to get as much recognition, is Norman McKinnel's portrayal of Moriarty. His first appearance in particular is fairly intimidating with a scarf covering the lower half of his face, and his shift from restrained menace to fierce villainy is highly effective.

20. The Return of Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988, TV)

The Case: There's rumor of a hound. On the moors. By the old Baskerville estate.Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)Holmes and Watson? Jeremy Brett and Edward HardwickeAs is evidenced by its numerous appearances on this list it's safe to say that this is Doyle's most frequently adapted tale, and its ubiquitous nature has dampened some of its bite. Brett, as you may have heard, is the best Holmes and helps lift the film from a crowded field, but that only goes so far in a story that sends Holmes off screen for far too long. Still, familiarity isn't much of a negative meaning fans of the hound should be fans of this respectful adaptation.

19. Dressed to Kill (1946)

The Case: The theft of a music box is set to the tune of murder.Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (1904)Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceThe final Rathbone adventure is more of a suspense tale than a mystery as we know who's behind the thefts from early on. The fun comes in Holmes' journey to the truth, and his realization that a deviously talented actress (played by Ursula Eileen Patricia Augusta Fraser Morison) is behind it all comes with an intriguing display of respect for her abilities. He and Watson go out on a high point with an entertaining riff on a tale they've previously tackled (in 1944's The Pearl of Death) with slightly lesser results.

18. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

The Case: A curse, a hound, and the moors walk into a bar.Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901)Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceThis isn't the first adaptation of what is arguably the best known of Doyle's Holmes tales, but the Rathbone/Bruce pairing began here with positive results. Viewers knew immediately that they were in store for a more humorous and less competent Watson. A family curse and frightening canine attacks draw the duo to the countryside where they pursue the truth behind a recent murder and the promise of another, and it's an effective excursion into the fog-shrouded mystery that as usual with adaptations of this particular story only really suffers from less time with Holmes.

17. Mr. Holmes (2015)

The Case: An aging Holmes suffering from dementia struggles to recall his final case and a life built on fleeting memories.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Ian McKellen and Colin StarkeyMost of the films on this list understandably play like traditional Holmes tales, but a few give the formula a twist with appealing results. Here we're given a Holmes long since retired and facing the greatest threat to his legendary mental acuity — Alzheimer's. The film follows his attempt at recalling the details of his last case knowing only that he failed and it was the one that ended his career. It's a beautifully made film with an engaging story, and McKellen brings real heart and sorrow to the role.

16. The Return of Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four (1987, TV)

The Case: After years of receiving pearls from an anonymous benefactor a young woman is asked to meet, and she brings Sherlock Holmes along for the ride.Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Sign of the Four (1890)Holmes and Watson? Jeremy Brett and Edward HardwickeThe second of Doyle's four Holmes-centric novels has seen its share of adaptations, and each has made for nothing less than a competent telling of an intriguing tale. This version sticks closer than most to the book, and while that's a positive in theory it also leaves us with a healthy chunk of the tale told in flashback as well as the presence of a pointy-toothed native for better or worse. The story itself is still a strong one, though, and in case you haven't heard, Brett is the best Holmes and always worth watching.

15. Sherlock: The Sign of Three (2014, TV)

The Case: John and Mary's wedding sees Sherlock deduce a murder plot while giving his best man speech.Doyle? No. But it is named after The Sign of the Four (1890)Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanThe conceit of the episode eases viewers into the mystery at hand while seemingly focusing more on the characters' friendship woes. The pieces of the plot are dripped throughout, though, and while it makes for one of the easier cases in which to pinpoint the players — of course Watson's disgraced military friend is the target, obviously the photographer is involved, etc — the slowly rising tension successfully holds our attention and growing excitement.

14. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

The Case: Sherlock is forced to juggle both a recently acquitted Professor Moriarty and a woman whose life is in immediate danger.Doyle? Doyle! Based on the play Sherlock Holmes (1899) co-written by William GilletteHolmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceThe second Rathbone/Bruce feature is based on a play co-written by Doyle, and it features their first face-off with the legendary Moriarty. The film establishes duel plot lines destined to collide, and it manages some engaging set-pieces and sequences along the way. A big draw, though, is the always engaging Ida Lupino as the woman in trouble. It's also worth noting that at 85 minutes it's the longest of the series, and there's not a wasted frame.

13. Sherlock Holmes (2009)

The Case: A killer returns from the dead to threaten all of London.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Robert Downey Jr. and Jude LawGuy Ritchie has become something of a parody of himself in recent years, but his revisionist take on Holmes and Watson — they're still great thinkers but now they also kick ass — is a supremely entertaining affair. Downey Jr. and Law show great chemistry in their banter and interactions, and Ritchie crafts some fantastic action set-pieces as companions to scenes where Holmes' deductive efforts come to life. Hans Zimmer also turns in a terrifically lively score to round out the experience.

12. Sherlock: The Final Problem (2017, TV)

The Case: Sherlock has a sister, and she is as brilliant as she is nucking futs.Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual" (1893), "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs" (1924), and "The Adventure of the Gloria Scott" (1893)Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanThe final episode of the BBC's Sherlock Holmes reboot serves both a fantastic conclusion and a tease leaving viewers wanting more, and as is the case with other eps in the show it walks a fine line between strong style, affecting emotion, and a sloppy embrace of the illogical. The island prison is a great setting, and Holmes' discovery of the truth behind his sister Eurus (Sian Brooke) builds some impressive emotional beats en route to a highly satisfying end.

11. The Scarlet Claw (1944)

The Case: Someone or something is tearing out throats in Quebec, and only Sherlock Holmes has the stomach to catch the killer.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceThis is a darkly entertaining mystery that feels like a Scooby Doo episode infused with murder — a lot of murder as there's a solid body count this time around. None of that is a knock either as it's supremely entertaining throughout. Glowing creatures in the marsh, a killer who's a master of disguise, and some of Bruce's most amusing beats as Watson help make this a fun and thrilling watch. Canada also gets some kind words from the detective to end the film, and that's never a bad thing.

10. Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia (2012, TV)

The Case: Compromising photos threatening to scandalize the Queen lead Holmes into the presence of the first woman to truly catch his interest and who happens to hold the key to the pictures.Doyle? Doyle! Based on "A Scandal in Bohemia" (1891)Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanThe photos are something of a MacGuffin as the true core of the story is the budding dynamic between Holmes and Irene Adler. She's part genius and part villain, and while their fall into each other's fascination is perhaps a bit quick Cumberbatch and Lara Pulver make for an enticing pair. There are some fantastic back and forths between them as each moves a step ahead of the other, and while it mirrors his relationship with Moriarty in structure it exists with less vitriol and violence.

9. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)

The Case: Holmes works to identify a Nazi propagandist whose words lead to deadly attacks.Doyle? Doyle! Based on "His Last Bow" (1917)Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceHolmes' first foray against the Nazis (and first to be visibly moved beyond his usual time period) is a terrifically tense thriller that presents a deadly enemy and a slow reveal to their identity. There's real drama in the acts of sabotage taking British lives, and it gives Holmes' investigation a strong sense of urgency beyond the fate of merely one or two people. The voice itself also carries an unnerving element that most villains would kill for especially as action beats build in their intensity.

8. Sherlock: The Great Game (2010, TV)

The Case: A series of hostages wrapped in explosives test Sherlock's deductive abilities with life and death consequences, but the real puzzle comes in his realization that a single man is behind it all.Doyle? Doyle! Very loosely based on "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans" (1908)Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanHints of Moriarty's presence in previous episodes finally reveal the man himself here, and it was worth the wait. Andrew Scott's portrayal of the master criminal is as perfect a blend of charisma and evil as you could hope for, and he creates a tremendous counterpoint for Holmes. His appearance here is relatively brief, but he packs a punch in his actions and effect. Seeing Holmes knocked a bit off balance is equally worth the price of admission. It's lessened slightly by ending on a cliffhanger, but anything that brings viewers back for more can't be all bad.

7. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

The Case: Is the Baskerville family cursed by a fearsome hound, or is something more evil behind the stream of deaths?Doyle? Doyle! Based on The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901)Holmes and Watson? Peter Cushing and Andre MorellHammer Films are best known for their horror efforts with classic monsters and human killers, but one of their other efforts is also their sole entry into the Holmes canon. It's a shame as it's also one of the best adaptations of this story complete with terrifically atmospheric set-pieces, some fantastically Gothic beats, and another pairing of the great Cushing and Christopher Lee (as the new Lord Baskerville). We get the story we all know so well, but its talents and visual stylings put more meat on its bones.

6. Sherlock: A Study in Pink (2010, TV)

The Case: A rash of serial suicides have hit London with seemingly unrelated people taking their lives in the same way, but Sherlock suspects it's actually murder.Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on A Study in Scarlet (1887)Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanThis first entry in the BBC's much-ballyhooed reboot does a terrific job introducing the characters to each other, to viewers, and to the 21st century. The story is good with a final face-off between Holmes and the cabbie killer that truly highlights the detective's personality and ego, and the production style is energetic and lively. For viewers who like their Holmes playing host to all manner of diagnosable personality disorders the character brought to life by Cumberbatch is heaven-sent. The real draw, though, is the fantastic chemistry between the leads — both Cumberbatch/Freeman and Holmes/Watson. Their banter is smart, fast, entertaining, and increasingly emotionally charged offering a usually strong balance to the methodical nature of the cases and writing.

5. Without a Clue (1988)

The Case: Turns out Watson is the real genius while Holmes is a mere actor, and their success goes missing when the former fires the latter.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Michael Caine and Ben KingsleyThe conceit here is absolute genius, much like Holm–err, Watson himself, and it's brought to beautifully comedic life through the lead performances of Caine and Kingsley. Caine in particular is perfection as the drunken, womanizing, and nearly idiotic Holmes. The mystery itself is pretty straightforward with Moriarty running a counterfeiting scheme, but the laughs, action, and affection for the characters lifts it above the fray and make it a clearly superior inspiration for both 2009's Sherlock Holmes and 2018's Holmes & Watson.

4. Sherlock: The Lying Detective (2017, TV)

The Case: With John Watson still recovering from his wife's death Sherlock publicly accuses a well-known personality of being a serial killer.Doyle? Doyle! Loosely based on "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" (1913)Holmes and Watson? Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanThings are a bit wobbly early on for various reasons including the show once again having one of its leads see and talk with a dead person — Holmes did it previously with Moriarty — but the structure of the story forces things back in the right direction. Toby Jones is terrific as the accused killer, and the H.H. Holmes allusions are on point. It's good stuff made great, though, by the sheer power of emotion as these two friends, Holmes and Watson, find each other once more. The wrap-up ties various threads together beautifully with the show's best new villain arrival since Moriarty's in "The Great Game," and every element is moving in high gear here from the characters to the deductions to the emotional appeal.

3. Terror By Night (1946)

The Case: A fabled diamond is stolen while en route via train, and only Sherlock Holmes can catch the thief turned murderer.Doyle? Not really, but it does lift elements from "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903), "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax" (1911), and The Sign of Four (1890)Holmes and Watson? Basil Rathbone and Nigel BruceI'm an admitted sucker for train-set thrillers as the tight location moving at high speeds promises all manner of suspenseful delights, and dropping Holmes into such a situation works beautifully. It plays like an Agatha Christie mystery as we're locked in with a set number of suspects for the great detective to make deductive mincemeat of, and he doesn't disappoint against a motley group of passengers while the train hurtles down the tracks. Sure Bruce's Watson is still a bit goofy but he proves useful in addition to earning some smiles.

2. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: The Master Blackmailer (1992, TV)

The Case: A woman engaged to be married is blackmailed by a devious and greedy villain.Doyle? Doyle! Based on "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" (1904)Holmes and Watson? Jeremy Brett and Edward HardwickeI've said it before and I'll say it again if we ever meet in person, but Jeremy Brett is the best and most consistently exciting Sherlock Holmes. He played the role 41 times over a decade, and this entry is among his most enthralling in a rare story where Holmes' mental efforts stumble and force him into a corner relying solely on physical, morally suspect action. The villain is cruel, the threat is real, and seeing Holmes in distress raises the drama immensely. The episode ends with a defeated Holmes telling Watson not to record this adventure, saying "There are certain aspects of which I am not proud. Please, bury this case deep in your file." It's powerful stuff.

1. Murder By Decree (1979)

The Case: Holmes and Watson investigate a serial murderer known as Jack the Ripper, and the clues lead them to England's highest seats of power.Doyle? NoHolmes and Watson? Christopher Plummer and James MasonNo apologies here, but while you might expect an authentic Doyle adaptation and/or a colder Holmes portrayal to top the list there's just no way around this film's supremacy. Plummer and Mason are fantastic as Holmes and Watson, respectively, and both bring dramatic weight and real charisma to the characters even with the former being a more human detective than we often get. In addition to the expected Holmes-ian elements regarding his sharp displays of brilliance, the film also delivers conspiracy theories and a brutal conclusion that feels like a more literary take on 1970s conspiracy thrillers. It's not the first time Holmes faced the Ripper (see 1965's A Study in Terror), but it's easily the best, and knowing it's from the director of Black Christmas (1974), Porky's (1981), and A Christmas Story (1983) just makes it all the more impressive.