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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Who’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes?

I’m off to see Sherlock Holmes again today with my geek gang, so this seems like a good day to ask this question, which comes from reader DangerMom: Who’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes? TV or film, whichever.

The IMDB has a loooong list of all the many actors who’ve played the world’s first consulting detective onscreen, and this is just a taste of the highlights among the names:
Robert Downey Jr.
Jonathan Pryce
Rupert Everett
Matt Frewer
Patrick Macnee
Jeremy Brett
Christopher Lee
Charlton Heston
Michael Caine
Peter Cushing
Ian Richardson
Tom Baker
Frank Langella
Christopher Plummer
Nicol Williamson
Roger Moore
John Cleese
Basil Rathbone
John Barrymore

The list goes back to 1905, when someone named Maurice Costello starred in a silent called Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

My favorite Holmes is still Jeremy Brett, in the Granada TV series of the 1980s and 90s, though we’ll see if that changes after another viewing of Robert Downey Jr.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE’S 19 FAVORITE is my favorite Sherlock Holmes because In 1927, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle selected what he regarded as his best Sherlock Holmes short stories for Strand Magazine of London. He set them down in descending order of merit with his all-time favorite listed as number one.

  • judy

    Robert Downey jr first….Jeremy Brett second!and ok I will have to add in Basil Rathbone at third for sentimental reasons.

  • Hank Graham

    Jeremy Brett!

    Though I didn’t think Robert Downey Jr was bad.

    Also, I think Rathbone was very good as Holmes, but Nigel Bruce was absolutely the worst Watson by a fair reach.

  • Ally

    I used to think Jeremy Brett would forever stay solidified a my best Sherlock Holmes ever, but after seeing Robert Downey Jr. take on the iconic detective, I no longer can say Mr. Brett is my favorite.

  • allochthon

    Still Jeremy Brett. But Robert Downey Jr. is working on stealing my heart…

  • H

    My favorite Sherlock Holmes is not on this list. It is russian actor Vasily Livanov. He was brilliant Sherlock. He really was. I will never forget his unique voice…
    I think he was honored by her Majesty Elizabeth II as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for portraing Sherlock Holmes on screen.

  • Dani

    Basil Rathbone is without a doubt the greatest.

  • Lexonas

    I really don’t understand why Vasily Livanov is not on the list, he was brilliant as Holmes, bus i still give my vote to Robert Downey Jr, he was just amazing.

  • LizeCK

    Nicholas Rowe, in 1985’s “Young Sherlock Holmes” is a sentimental fave.

    Charlton Heston? Really? This I gotta see…

  • Top rankings, of the ones I’ve seen:

    1) Jeremy Brett
    2) Robert Downey Jr. (although this may be he’s the current actor)
    3) Ian Richardson (rather nice Baskersville movie)
    4) Nicol Williamson (Seven Percent Solution)

    Matt Frewer played him?! Which movie?

  • misterb

    Well, since I haven’t seen Robert Downey Jr, I will reinforce the crowd – Jeremy Brett captured my own personal vision of Holmes, and I’ve been reading and rereading the canon since 1965.

  • Patti H.

    Basil Rathbone’s always been on the top of my list, followed by Jeremy Brett, but I can’t wait for Robert Downey, Jr. to play Holmes again!

    I would have loved to see Ian Richardson in the role! But I also liked Christopher Plummer’s interpretation in “Murder By Decree,” and Nicol Williamson’s portrayal in “The Seven-Percent Solution.” BTW, Robert Duvall gets top marks for his Watson in that film.

    (Paul, you don’t want to see that Matt Frewer version…)

    Thanks, MaryAnn, for using the question!

  • Colonel Sebastian Moran (Retired)

    John Guilgud portrayed Holmes on the radio, and was fantastic. He would be my first choice.

    On screen, Jeremy Brett will probably always be my favorite. his characterization was far richer than any I’ve seen. Plummer was fine in a great movie (though too old for the part at that time period). Downey was very entertaining, and much closer to the Doyle character than people give him credit for. He, the actor, is older than Holmes should be, but he plays him at the age that is appropriate.

    Arthur Wontner should be on this list as well.

    Clive Merrison and Carlton Hobbes are two other wonderful radio Holmes. I suggest you look for them if you’re a fan.

  • Barb

    Straight out Jeremy Brett. I believe he probable would have done more if not for his illness and then death.

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