The Game Is Afoot! Favorite 'Sherlock Holmes' Adaptations To Solve Your Streaming Dilemmas

Picture shows Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) in the ruins of 221B Baker Street

Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) in 'Sherlock.'


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would probably be astonished and embarrassed at the manifestations of Sherlock Holmes on stage, the big and small screens, radio, comics, board games, and computer games. All over the world, audiences love Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, and the ink was barely dry on Sir Arthur’s page before adaptations were underway. Famously ambivalent about his creation, Sir Arthur’s detective was a literary equivalent of nuclear warfare in Oppenheimer, a monster that kept growing. Some believe the writer undermined his work with deliberate mistakes (ask any Holmes fans which leg Dr. Watson injured, and a debate will ensue). When Sir Arthur “killed” Holmes in the short story “The Final Problem,” the public outcry was so great he was forced to resurrect him. 

It seems extraordinary that the adventures of a pair of staid, white, middle-class Victorian gentlemen should conjure up wild fantasies and desires. Speaking of which, John Watson married at least twice, although as soon as he was widowed, he moved back into the bachelor pad at 221B Baker Street. For Holmes, of course, Irene Adler was always “the woman.”

Going further back, British-born American actor Louis Hector (1883–1986) made his TV debut in 1937 as the legendary detective, the first of a staggering 254 movie and TV portrayals. In 1905, Gilbert M. Anderson starred in the silent movie Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, aka Held For Ransom. Eille Norwood (1861–1924) was a British actor who starred as Holmes in forty-seven silent films (45 shorts and two features) between 1921 and 1923. Norwood taught himself to play the violin for authenticity’s sake. 

Later in the century, Basil Rathbone became one of Britain’s most famous Holmes, making 14 or 15 films (accounts vary) from 1939–1946, as well as portrayals on the stage and radio. (You can find many full-length versions of his movies on YouTube.) Germany, Spain, and Russia were just some of the countries that created their own series, with Vasily Ivanov’s first appearance as the great detective released in the USSR in 1979, portraying Holmes as a more laidback and less arrogant version of the detective.

Let’s look at some famous and infamous interpretations of Holmes and Watson!

'Miss Sherlock'

One of the more fascinating adaptations, Miss Sherlock was a co-production between HBO Asia and Hulu Japan. Starring Shihori Kanjiya as Dr. Wato Tachibana, arrives home in Tokyo after serving with Doctors Without Borders in Syria, only to witness her mentor’s murder. She meets eccentric private investigator Sara Shelly Futaba (Yûko Takeuchi), already on the case, nicknamed "Miss Sherlock" for her unorthodox methods and her obsession with the bizarre. 

The two join forces to solve peculiar and perplexing crimes in modern-day Tokyo in collaboration with the police. Created in 2018, the series was the first to portray Holmes as a woman, and it’s about time. (Warning: blood, squishy bits, and subtitles.)

Miss Sherlock is streaming on Max.

'The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes'

From 1984 to 1994, for viewers on both sides of the Atlantic, Jeremy Brett was Sherlock Holmes in the Granada period appropriate strictly by the book adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, done in collections just like the short stories, starting with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It was, Brett said, the hardest role of his career, and he created a 77-page document on the character as role preparation. Adventures was followed by The Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. It is the most comprehensive collection of Holmes stories committed to screen, and still today considered by fans as the definitive portrayal.

In May 2024, the UK’s BrettCon celebrated the 40th anniversary of the show and created this trailer. The series also starred David Burke as John Watson, who was later replaced by Edward Hardwicke in the later series, Rosalie Williams (Mrs. Hudson), Eric Porter (Professor Moriarty), Gayle Hunnicutt (Irene Adler), and Colin Jeavons (Lestrade). Forty years on, Brett’s acting style is more flamboyant and theatrical than that of modern interpretations, but it’s still worth the watch.

All four seasons of Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes are streaming on BritBox.

'Without A Clue'

Without a Clue is a movie that, according to many viewers and critics, is an embarrassment, although the initial idea is intriguing. Directed by Thom Eberhardt and written by Larry Strawther and Gary Murphy, it draws on the experiences of creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who became entrapped by his creation.

Ben Kingsley plays Dr. Watson, who is busy and successful as the chronicler of an imaginary London detective. He’s been so successful that his audience and editor at the Strand magazine (where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s originals were published) press him to produce the “real” Sherlock Holmes. He hires an unsuccessful actor, Reginald Kincaid (Michael Caine) to impersonate him, with disastrous results as Kincaid subverts and undermines Watson’s storylines.

Without a Clue is available on Apple TV.

'Mr. Holmes'

Starring Ian McKellan, the 2015 film Mr Holmes portrays the aging detective as he contemplates the end of his life, his fading memory, and loneliness. Watson has long gone. It’s 1947, and Holmes has returned from a journey to Japan searching for a rare plant that may restore his memory. He’s witnessed the devastation of nuclear war, adding to his despair. He lives in his Sussex cottage, tending to his bees, in the company of housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker).

However, Holmes is still haunted by his last case, which remains unsolved. Roger helps Holmes reconstruct and solve the case, putting his mind at rest and creating a graceful conclusion to the detective’s remarkable life.

Mr. Holmes is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.


Jonny Lee Miller (The Crown) is the Sherlock Holmes of Elementary, CBS’s popular and witty series that ran from 2012–2019, and co-starred Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. Holmes, the scion of a wealthy aristocratic family, has been banished from his home and London to fix his drug addiction. The topic of drug abuse is central to the story, with Joan initially hired as his sober companion. Their relationship is initially frosty and difficult, but changes to friendship and the acknowledgment of a sexual attraction. 

They form a crime-solving duo that cracks the NYPD's most impossible cases. Created/written by Robert Doherty (and a huge team of writers and directors), the series also stars Aidan Quinn (Captain Thomas Gregson), Rhys Ifans (House of the Dragon) as Mycroft Holmes, Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) as Jamie Moriarty and John Michael Hill (A Man in Full) as Detective Marcus Bell.

All seasons of Elementary are streaming on Hulu.

'The Seven Percent Solution'

The Seven Percent Solution, a witty and surprising 1976 film, is another examination of Holmes’s drug addiction, directed by Herbert Ross, and adapted by Nicholas Meyer from his novel of the same name. Dr. Watson (Robert Duvall) is becoming increasingly concerned about Holmes, played by Nicol Williamson (hailed as one of the upcoming actors of his generation, particularly for his groundbreaking Hamlet in 1969). Holmes’s cocaine use has led him to hallucinate that Moriarty, his brother’s childhood tutor, is a criminal mastermind. 

Watson persuades Holmes to travel to Vienna for a consultation with the young Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin). Holmes becomes involved with the disappearance of one of Freud’s other patients, Lola Deveraux (Vanessa Redgrave), and they set out to rescue her. Wild adventures ensue, including Freud driving a steam train (make of that what you will.) After the excitement and Lola’s rescue, Freud gets to the bottom of Holmes’s addiction. Sir Laurence Olivier stars as Moriarty

The Seven Percent Solution is streaming on YouTube.

'Enola Holmes'

Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is Sherlock’s teen sister in this fun and creative Holmes spin-off based on Nancy Springer’s novels of the same name.  When her mother, Eudora (Helena Bonham-Carter), goes missing, she sets off to find her and discovers her own powers of deduction, while leading her brothers when a dangerous conspiracy is revealed. 

Her brother Mycroft is played by Sam Claflin (Lazarus), and Henry Cavill (The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare) appears as an Absolute Unit of a Sherlock Holmes. Both Enola Holmes and the sequel, Enola Holmes 2, are directed by Harry Bradbeer (Fleabag) with the screenplay by Jack Thorne. (Fun fact: The Sherlock Holmes estate attempted to sue the franchise for giving Holmes feelings.)

Enola Holmes and Enola Holmes 2 are streaming on Netflix. Enola Holmes 3 is expected out in 2025. 

'Sherlock Holmes & the Baker Street Irregulars'

Not to be confused with the shortlived Netflix series The Irregulars, the 2007 TV series Sherlock Holmes & The Baker Street Irregulars is about a gang of clever street kids who run odd jobs for the great detective, and wind up saving Sherlock Holmes from an accusation of murder and help to foil an audacious robbery. Dublin stands in for London, and the costumes are terrific. 

The series stars Jonathan Pryce (Wolf Hall) with Bill Paterson as Dr. Watson, Anna Chancellor (Pride & Prejudice) as Irene Adler, and Michael Maloney (All Creatures Great & Small) as Inspector Stirling. Directed by Julian Kemp, the script is by Richard Kurtis and Bev Doyle. Just the presence of Pryce, Paterson, and Chancellor is enough to make this series a real treat. 

Sherlock Holmes & The Baker Street Irregulars is streaming on YouTube.

'Sherlock Holmes'

It’s loud, it’s fast, people fight each other, and things explode! It’s Guy Ritchie’s take on the classic Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. with an impeccable Brit accent and Jude Law as his crime-solving partner, Dr. Watson. In the first movie of the franchise, Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a practitioner of the dark arts, rises from the grave to pursue Holmes and Watson into a world of the occult and weird technologies. Rachel McAdams is Irene Adler, and the scripts for the franchise were written by Michele and Kieran Mulroney.

Downey, Law, Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade, Kelly Reilly as Watson's bride, Mary Morstan, and Geraldine James as Mrs. Hudson. reprise their roles in 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The movie introduces Professor Moriarty to the London criminal scene. The suspicious death of the Crown Prince of Austria is thought by Lestrade to be suicide. Holmes disagrees, and along with his brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry) investigates London's criminal underground and discovers Watson and his new wife are on Moriarty’s hit list. Noomi Rapace (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), in her debut English-speaking role, is Sim, a Roma fortune-teller, who joins Holmes and Watson to pursue Moriarty, whose ambition is to destroy European power.

Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows are available for rental on Amazon.

'Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Evil'

This 2002 made-for-cable movie was initially called Sherlock, but after a certain BBC series came out, it started going under the title Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Evil. The movie is an oddity, as it focuses on the young 20-something Sherlock Holmes, so if you always wanted to see Holmes as a drunk party boy who likes the ladies, you’re in the right place. Subversively, the movie opens with Sherlock (James D’Arcy) killing Moriarty (Vincent D’Onofrio). But his body disappears, and we all know what that means. 

This case brings Holmes together with pathologist Dr. Watson (Roger Morlidge) and the London police. Several crime lords are murdered, indicating that Moriarty is still alive and kicking, and Holmes, Watson, and Mycroft (Richard E. Grant) fight to prevent Moriarty’s plans to infiltrate London with heroin. Bucharest, Romania, stands in for London, and the cast includes many Romanian actors. The series is directed by Graham Theakstom, with a screenplay by Piers Ashworth.

Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Evil is currently streaming on FreeVee.


With only 13 episodes presented over a seven-year period, Sherlock is this generation’s interpretation of the classic. The series addresses how someone of Holmes’s talents and eccentricities could survive in modern-day London, and how everyone else would survive him. Quirky, fast-moving, and witty, the series stars Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a brilliant and charismatic high-functioning sociopath, and John Watson (Martin Freeman) as a troubled Afghanistan War veteran who becomes Holmes’s flatmate and collaborator. 

The rest of the cast is a who’s-who of acting brilliance: Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott), Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington),  DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves), and Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss). Gatiss and his former collaborator on Doctor Who, Steven Moffat, created and wrote the series.

All seasons of Sherlock will arrive on PBS Passport for members to stream on June 30, 2024.

Janet Mullany

Writer Janet Mullany is from England, drinks a lot of tea, and likes Jane Austen, reading, and gasping in shock at costumes in historical TV dramas. Her household near Washington DC includes two badly-behaved cats about whom she frequently boasts on Facebook.

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