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The Best Actors Who Played Sherlock, Ranked

List RulesFilm and TV roles only.

Sherlock Holmes is always on the case, but which of these actors played him best? As one of the biggest literary characters in history, there have been dozens of different actors to don the checkered cap and pipe and set up residence at 221B Baker Street. Some were memorable, while others were downright forgettable.

Created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and first appearing in the 1887 novel A Study in Scarlet, Mr. Holmes has been reimagined and recreated numerous times over the years. And while there have been hundreds of different actors to play Sherlock Holmes either on stage or over the airwaves, this list is strictly focusing on all the Sherlocks from live-action movies and TV shows.

Ever wondered who was the best Sherlock? Well, now’s your chance to weigh in. Whether you prefer Benedict Cumberbatch’s version as Sherlock or prefer Robert Downey Jr. or even Will Ferrell's comedic portrayal, vote up all your favorite Sherlock Holmes actors.

  • Photo: ITV

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984–1985)

    The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1986–1988)

    The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1991–1993)

    The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1994)

    Peter Jeremy William Huggins (3 November 1933 – 12 September 1995), known professionally as Jeremy Brett, was an English actor. He played fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in all 41 episodes. His career spanned from stage, to television and film, to Shakespeare and musical theatre. He also played the smitten Freddy Eynsford-Hill in the 1964 Warner Bros. production of My Fair Lady.  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 61 (1933-1995)
    • Birthplace: Berkswell Grange, Warwickshire, England, UK
    • Characters: Dorian Gray, Basil Hallward, Capt. Yule, Count Karel Kinsky, D'Artagnan
    128
    44
    Was he a great Sherlock?
  • Photo: BBC One

    Sherlock (2010 - 2017)

    Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch (born 19 July 1976) is an English actor who has performed in film, television, theatre and radio. A graduate of the Victoria University of Manchester, he continued his training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, obtaining a Master of Arts in Classical Acting. He first performed at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park in Shakespearean productions and made his West End debut in Richard Eyre's revival of Hedda Gabler in 2005. Since then he has starred in the Royal National Theatre productions After the Dance (2010) and Frankenstein (2011). In 2015, he played William Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre. Cumberbatch's television work  ...more
    • Age: 45
    • Birthplace: London, England, UK
    • Characters: Toby Fisher, Jim North, Warren Reid
    165
    70
    Was he a great Sherlock?

    #30 of 243 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities In The World#73 of 643 The Best Actors In Film History#6 of 264 The Best (Male) Actors Working Today

  • Photo: 20th Century Fox

    The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

    Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)

    Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)

    Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)

    Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)

    Crazy House (1943)

    The Spider Woman (1944)

    The Scarlet Claw (1944)

    The Pearl of Death (1944)

    The House of Fear (1945)

    The Woman in Green (1945)

    Pursuit to Algiers (1945)

    Terror by Night (1946)

    Dressed to Kill (1946)

    Philip St. John Basil Rathbone MC (13 June 1892 – 21 July 1967) was an English actor. He rose to prominence in the United Kingdom as a Shakespearean stage actor and went on to appear in more than 70 films, primarily costume dramas, swashbucklers and, occasionally, horror films. Rathbone frequently portrayed suave villains or morally ambiguous characters, such as Mr. Murdstone in David Copperfield (1935) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). His most famous role, however, was heroic—that of Sherlock Holmes in fourteen Hollywood films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series. His later career included roles on Broadway, as well as self-ironic film and  ...more
    • Age: Dec. at 75 (1892-1967)
    • Birthplace: Johannesburg, South Africa
    • Characters: Major Brand, Mr. John F. Black, Caiaphas, Don Cesare Carelli, Carl Vandry
    96
    29
    Was he a great Sherlock?

    #74 of 220 The Greatest British Actors of All Time#83 of 117 The Best English Actors of All Time#339 of 1,883 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment History

  • Photo: Warner Bros.

    Sherlock Holmes (2009)

    Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

    Robert John Downey Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor, producer and singer. His career has been characterized by critical and popular notoriety in his youth, followed by a period of substance abuse and legal troubles, before a resumption of critical repute and resurgence of commercial success in middle age. In 2008, Downey was named by Time magazine among the 100 most influential people in the world, and from 2013 to 2015, he was listed by Forbes as Hollywood's single highest-paid actor. His films have grossed over $5.8 billion in North America and $14.4 billion internationally, making him the second-highest-grossing box-office actor to date both domestically and worldwide.At the  ...more
    • Age: 56
    • Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America
    • Characters: Patrick Pewterschmidt
    102
    63
    Was he a great Sherlock?

    20 Robert Downey Jr. Memes That Prove He's Actually A Real Person#97 of 392 The 100+ Funniest People Of All Time#6 of 219 The Greatest Actors Who Have Never Won An Oscar (For Acting)