(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 Bruce

The 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? No

Holmes and Watson? Rupert Everett and Ian Hart

Everett’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 Hardwicke

While 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? No

Holmes and Watson? Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox

This 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? No

Holmes and Watson? Peter Cushing and John Mills

Cushing’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? No

Holmes and Watson? Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law

Guy 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? No

Holmes and “Watson?” Anthony Higgins and Debrah Farentino

Failed 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 Freeman

Setting 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 Woodward

There 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 Bruce

This 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? No

Holmes and Watson? Nicol Williamson and Robert Duvall

It 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 Feldman

Right 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 Hardwicke

Doyle’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 Freeman

This 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 Fleming

Wontner’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.

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