The History of Sherlock Holmes in Television and Film

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)

Written by Chase bridges

Enola Holmes is releasing on Netflix on September 23, 2020. The trailer for the film already has fans excited to see a new adaptation of the famous mystery solver. This time in the form of Sherlock’s little sister Enola. Enola will not be alone in the film however, as Sherlock himself (played by Henry Cavill) is set to be a large part of the plot.

While most fans are very excited to see this adaptation, there is always a bit of confusion of how another Sherlock Holmes film or show is being released. In fact, since 2009 there has been five different adaptations of the famous character alone.

The reason we see Holmes so often, is due to it being one of the most iconic characters that live in the Public Domain. A list of copyright free properties that anyone can use for their novels, shows, or films.

The World’s Greatest Detective has shown up 52 times on the small or big screen over the past 120 years. Let’s take a look at the history of Sherlock Holmes in film and television.

Sherlock holmes baffled (1900)

Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)

The first appearance of Sherlock in the film medium came in the year 1900 with a one minute short comedy film.

sherlock holmes (1922)

The first American feature film starring Sherlock Holmes. This was a silent film with legend John Barrymore playing the lead role of Mr. Holmes.

sherlock jr. (1924)

The legendary silent film star Buster Keaton submitted his own take of the iconic character with an amazing feature length film full of his famous physical comedy.

Sherlock holmes’ fatal hour (1931)

After a slew of successful silent films, Sherlock finally found his voice. Fatal Hour was the very first Sherlock Holmes talkie film.

the hound of baskervilles (1939)

The Hound of Baskervilles was the beginning of a very important chapter in the history of Sherlock Holmes. This is the first film where Mr. Holmes is played by Basil Rathbone, who is considered by many to be the greatest on screen Sherlock Holmes.

terror by night (1946)

Terror By Night is the thirteenth and final film in the Basil Rathbone series. For seven solid years the face of Sherlock belonged to Rathbone, and this was the epic finale that shot the World’s Greatest Detective into the next generation.

Sherlock holmes (1954-1955)

The first ever television series based on the mysteries of Sherlock himself lasted for only one season, but paved the way for several more iterations for the small screen.

sherlock holmes (1964-1968)

After the first television series, the world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson was very quiet for almost a decade. Until BBC created a Sherlock show of their own. Lasting for four years, this show was quite successful, which is probably why this wasn’t the only time BBC rolled the dice on Sherlock. (But more on that later.)

the adventure of sherlock holmes smarter brother (1975)

Gene Wilder is one of the kings of parody in film. Along with long time collaborator Mel Brooks, Wilder wrote, directed, and starred in a hilarious take on Sherlock Holmes. By the year 1975 there had already been so many versions of Sherlock Holmes to parody and poke fun at, that this film is a highlight in the Holmes history.

young sherlock holmes (1985)

After a decade in the purgatory of TV movies, we finally got a fresh take on the great sleuth character with Young Sherlock Holmes. We got to follow around a teenage Sherlock while he solves a mystery only he could crack.

the great mouse detective (1986)

The very next year, Disney themselves dipped into the public domain once again to find their next great animated film. The Great Mouse Detective. This is probably one of the most famous versions of the character as it is a beloved Disney film and is currently available on Disney+.

sherlock holmes (2009)

The next twenty years the TV movies had ahold of our favorite crime solver once again! However, this time Sherlock came back to the big screen in a very big way. Starring Robert Downey Jr. hot off of his career resurgence thanks to Iron Man, and the always talented Jude Law. This film was a fantastic action/adventure film that audiences absolutely adored. They even followed it up with a sequel in 2011, and a third one on its way in the next few years.

Sherlock (2010-2017)

The most adored version of Sherlock Holmes arrived the very next year, in the form of a new BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch. This show skyrocketed in pop culture leading into a giant resurgence of Sherlock fandom. It also started the giant debate of who was a better Sherlock Holmes, Benedict or Robert Downey Jr.

Elementary (2012-2019)

The show that was heavily overshadowed by the BBC Sherlock, had it’s own solid twist on the iconic characters. Dr. Watson being played by Lucy Liu, which marks the first time that Dr.Watson was a female character. The show was actually quite successful going on for seven seasons until it’s cancellation.

enola holmes (2020)

Which leads us to the latest incarnation of the Sherlock Holmes world. The Netflix movie, Enola Holmes, is taking the baton and creating its own spin. Focusing around the younger sister of Sherlock, she goes head to head with her own genius brothers as she searches for her lost mother. This film is highly anticipated and looks to be one of the biggest Netflix releases of the year.

What’s your favorite version of Sherlock Holmes? Tell us about it!

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