In Pursuit of the Perfect Sherlock Holmes


The day before this heat wave began, we had an eerily dark and rainy day and it felt like just the kind of day to sit inside and watch a Sherlock Holmes movie. That decision set up another, more difficult one: Which Sherlock Holmes adaptation should we watch?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


Man, I love Rob, but this article is a little rough for me. First of all to imply that anyone who enjoys Sherlock has contemptible taste and politics is kind of shitty without at least giving us some context for why you think so, and then to say:

in an article (that you chose to write) about searching for a good Sherlock film/show seems a little weird.

The whole thing just felt a little bit hostile to me.


I, a true critic, unlike you, a rube, would never actually like anything.


Yeah, without further explanation that comment about liking Sherlock meaning you might have terrible politics is kind of strange. The only other piece I could think of that discusses that show as bad is hbomberguy’s Sherlock is Garbage and Here’s Why but the target of that piece is the show runner, not the viewer.

But to answer the question posed in Rob’s piece… I like the RDJ films because I’m contemptible garbage.


The Guy Ritchie ones are my pick for a spontaneous watch as well, because they’re just so easy to drop into. I like Sherlock (I guess I’m bad for that?) but those episodes can be exhausting to pay attention to.


Sherlock is Garbage and Here’s Why is the best Sherlock movie cause holy shit it’s a long youtube video.

Also I’m a sucker for references to Evangellion


i like SHerlock. its fun & looks nice and everyone looks like theyre having fun. fuck off



Any chance to dunk on Moffat is a chance I’ll gladly take


I think Sherlock, besides the casual bigotry in its attempts to stay true to the source material in ways it didn’t need to to capture it and be good (Moffat really does ruin anything he touches :stuck_out_tongue: ), really did suffer from the story arc length. Each one has a part about 2/3 through where all the pieces are in place and the audience understands what’s up/what the answers are but everyone just sort of spins their wheels for an extra episode’s worth of time. The first two stories especially had a lot of points where they fake out going off the rails in ways that would have actually been interesting but then they just…don’t to stay devoted to the originals as much as they can through a contemporary lens. I mean I see the appeal in it but the pacing was all over the place t me. Elementary is waaaaaaay better.

Of course this is a video game forum first and foremost, so I have to mention that the BEST Sherlock Holmes you can experience is Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments from 2014. This game got ported to pretty much everything and IIRC was a PlayStation Plus game for a while so you may already have access to it.

Anyway the great thing about the game is that you can complete it without catching the right person. Instead of having a singular bad guy you have to find, you instead piece together pieces of evidence to narrow down suspects. So it’s possible to complete a case and get someone arrested and sentenced and be the hero even though you caught the wrong person, which makes it interesting because the player’s profiling of the characters in each case ends up effecting what order/what way you connect evidence and possible motives in a way that can often mean you got an innocent person executed even though you’re playing as the great
Sherlock Holmes.

After each case you have the option of seeing who the actual perpetrator is, there’s no gameplay effect other than, whelp, you blew it and you gotta live with that.

Second best is of course the part in Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II where you hang out with Sherlock Holmes and then blow up massive aliens. :slight_smile:


sure okay dunk on moffat, but i can’t get on with any opinion piece that treats its opinion as fact. im not a worse person for glazing over while Sherlock blows by at a million miles an hour. I don’t turn to people who like the Guy Ritchie movies, which are objectively silly, fanciful movies, and say ‘your brain is fucking smooth for liking this trash and you are a danger to society’. that’s ridiculous. it’s just a movie. people like stupid shit sometimes BECAUSE it’s stupid, and we don’t give our peers the benefit of the doubt when wondering aloud why anyone in their right mind would like X or Y.

honestly the most disappointing part is how often “X is Bad” is a legitimate ‘take’ from this sector of intellectual games/media culture reporting. It starts as “I would never say something is simply bad because that is too thoughtless an assessment for me, but sarcastically, X is Bad” and then, over time, becomes simply, “X is Bad.” I wouldn’t normally assess something this way without considering all factors that result in this conclusion, and there are many angles of attack from which to approach this subject, but “X is Bad” is, itself, Bad, so therefore, so is this article


Right, and it just seems like a bad idea in an Open Thread asking for people’s opinions on a Thing to open by including a throwaway line like, “Oh P.S. if you like this one well-known version of the Thing you’re gross and bad.”

I mean, look, I’m sure there’s a reasonable argument to be made for what he’s saying there. You could actually even point to arguments that Doyle designed Holmes as a detective who could detect “passing” (as a result of his own suppressed racial anxieties) as a reason not to pay attention to the character at all. But on a site that spends so much time talking about how games shouldn’t include hot-button topics without actually discussing them, saying something like that without actually bringing it into the light and talking about what you mean by it seems pretty tone-deaf.


There’s always going to be people in any sector that purposely equate what you like to have on/play/whatever for entertainment with who you are as a person and what values you personally hold to get clicks.

So yeah, obviously there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging stuff that sucks about a thing, and of course one can still like something while acknowledging that there are things that suck about it - I have to agree 100% that I will never understand “people who like __ hugely popular mainstream thing are horrible” as anything other than either a cynical attempt to work the coldest take into a piece or as just a sign of genuine distance and lack of insight as to what qualities give a particular thing mainstream appeal in the first place.

Sherlock’s a great example of that too as much as I don’t like it, like you say, every frame of it looks pretty, the cast is legit great, and the relaxed pacing, while I hate it, makes it perfect background noise while you’re working on something/chill out programming.


Very happy to show up with the out-of-left-field answer which is that my favorite Sherlock is an anime that reinterprets most everything about the stories and places it in high school (in a story where the characters being teens is actually quite engrossing, no worries!) That anime is Hyouka, the lowest stakes Sherlock you could possibly imagine, but one of the most visually stunning and thematically resonant. There’s a lot of great stuff to say about how much better it is to watch a modern Sherlock where the main character is delightfully lazy instead of frustratingly misanthropic. Similarly, it’s neat to see a Sherlock where Watson confronts his jealousy and impostor syndrome.

Of course, a Sherlock is nothing without his mysteries and—rest assured—even with strong characterization, Hyouka presents the perfect mysteries. Low stakes, high school curiosities, sure, but presented with a verve that is rare in the mystery genre. And you can bet that every little clue needed to reach the final conclusion is indeed shown beforehand, making the epiphany that much more exciting.

So, yeah, high school Sherlock anime! If you’re not yet sold on trying it out, I always like to tell people about one of the arcs in the show that never fails to pique their curiosity. The main characters are invited to watch a student film by another club’s president. It’s a standard murder mystery, but then it ends abruptly, before the killer is revealed. Turns out, the screenwriter got seriously ill and didn’t get to finish the screenplay. So, in a high school mystery show without any murder, Hyouka lets its characters get in on that bloody Sherlock action by solving the mystery of who in this unfinished film’s plot is the real killer so that they can finish filming! Now that’s clever.


yes, but this is waypoint, and this is rob, and I expect better than this.

Objectivity is more interesting than subjectivity. Investigation is more interesting than introspection. Fine. But this version of this article is really “in pursuit of my favorite sherlock holmes”, and in keeping with this angle, could have done with some extremely minor edits that would convert any objective claims into the subjective claims that they actually are, and perhaps a marginal “really?” note from the editor about the “people are bad for liking sherlock” bit.

anyway my favorite sherlock interpretation is Detective Conan


Oh right, the actual topic! I think that right now for me it’s definitely Elementary, although admittedly I watch it more for Liu’s Watson than for Sherlock himself. The show feels like it works to be inclusive (neurodivergent characters, addicts who aren’t treated as hostile by the writers, polyamory, etc) which is nice even if it’s not always done flawlessly. I haven’t seen any of the older stuff that Rob talks about so I’ll have to look into that. I haven’t seen the RDJ films in a while (and I think I only ever watched the first one) so I should give that another shot at some point.


Seasons 1 - 6 of House are definitely my favorite Sherlock adjacent thing to watch. Though I haven’t watched it in years… I’m going to guess it hasn’t aged well.

My favorite Sherlock media of all time is the board game Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective which if you have any interest in board games, do yourself a favor and play this. It can be played solo and is especially good as a couples game!

As for the undercurrent of “people that like Sherlock are bad” in this piece, I assume this is in reference to the TV show? In which case, yeah it’s not the greatest show in any regard (particularly, it’s constant queer-baiting and making fun of its own queer fandom is not fucking cool), but there are elements of the show that were good and with my outsider perspective of the fandom, it seems many people found something in Watson and Holmes’ relationship (early on that is) that they weren’t getting in other media.

EDIT: and if you do want a detective show that is better at respecting the fandom around its characters, and don’t mind a lot of gore Hannibal has you covered!


I grew up with the Jeremy Brett version and still hold it to be the best filmed version of the character. He has a dry wit and an inner light in his eye when he’s on the case, a savage joy in detection that most of the others don’t get in their performances. Brett is also very good at showing disdain or contempt, seething like a temperamental yet talented child.

I’d put Clive Merrison’s take in the BBC’s radio adaptations somewhere in second place - he’s a bit more chill and dickish, but as the series covers the entire canon and some BBC original pastiches (which are quite good), he gets more room to grow and color in some nuance. You genuinely feel that his experiences post The Final Problem have transformed him, and the humanity of the character comes across strong in the more melancholic stories. And those BBC radio dramas love them some melancholy - the Further Adventures episodes are frequently downbeat. For real nerding out there’s a fair amount of meta-commentary in the series, including an episode with Holmes and Watson talking about William Gillette and the stage production based on their lives.

I didn’t like Sherlock very much, being a fairly stodgy traditionalist. The first episode was good, I thought, but as it went on the flashy camerawork and goofy CGI memory palace nonsense got real grating. Lots of buzzwords and amateurish attempts to psychoanalyze Holmes and Watson, and the Moriarty stuff was just embarrassing. It all felt a bit desperate and increasingly unhinged.

Elementary seems much better, both as an homage to the characters and as its own procedural drama. I should probably sit down and give it my full attention some time soon.

I didn’t hate the Ritchie movie (only saw the first) - the film score is pretty great and the setpieces and design are pretty fun. I accepted beforehand that they’d handle the actual characters with the subtlety and thoughtfulness of a frat boy in art class, so I was less disappointed than I was with Sherlock, a show many friends hyped up to me.

As for Watson, I’d probably pick Edward Hardwicke from the later part of the Brett series (surprise). He’s warmer and a bit more laid back than other portrayals, but I buy him as somebody Holmes would rely on. David Burke, the actor he replaced, is capable but a bit too stiff.

Among the older film versions…I dunno, Brett eclipses them all. Rathbone is very stagy and of his era, and I can’t stand the way they turned Nigel Bruce’s bumbling Watson into the butt of every joke. Apparently that was just how you portrayed him in stage and screen for decades. I seem to remember that the Jack the Ripper movie Murder By Decree was pretty good? It was directed by Bob Clark, the guy who somehow managed to also direct Porky’s, Christmas Story, and Black Christmas.

EDIT: Oh, shit, I totally forgot another favorite - George C. Scott in They Might Be Giants, a 70’s film based on a play about a psychiatrist whose patient believes he’s Sherlock. Its very much steeped in that era in terms of presentation and outlook, but I found it kind of moving.



Less in the vein of the mystery, but still as a part of the Hyouka recommendation, Hyouka is a great example of how to wrap up a show. The last two episodes have some of my favorite conclusions to character arcs in any anime.


If you only watch one Sherlocks Holmes movie, my vote is going to be the TV movie “The Hound of the Baskervilles” with Jeremy Brett. Superb, up-close rendition of the characters from the books, with no nonsense. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it, so I can’t recall if there are any moments of questionable politics to wince through. The 80’s nostalgia full of that for me these days.

On Sherlock , I mean, it’s hard. The first series came out with a style and take on a contemporary Sherlock that was worth paying attention to, IMO. Then the second series felt more than a bit indulgent and lost. Then Moffat arrived and and the third series was everything that drove me away from Dr. Who.