Who is your favourite Holmes?

I once heard someone say on a documentary that "your first Sherlock Holmes is always your favourite". Similar sentiments have been expressed when it comes to other famous characters such as Doctor Who and James Bond or indeed any that have been portrayed by a number of actors. However is it true?

For me at least, the answer is no (and for all the examples).

The first Holmes I saw was Basil Rathbone's and I have considerable affection for him. I owe him my entire Sherlockian career (such as it is) as without him there is no guarantee that I would have become interested in Holmes at all. However I will never claim that he is my favourite or the best. As I pointed out in my earlier post, I consider his performance to have been damaged, if only a little, by that of Nigel Bruce.

For people who were children in the sixties a popular choice for best Holmes is Douglas Wilmer. This is an opinion shared by many in the upper echelons of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. For those of us who came along later it is difficult to judge Wilmer as his outings are simply not shown and are nigh on impossible to obtain (they are I believe available on DVD in the US). Those of us in the UK (without multi-region players) can only catch parts via Youtube (and this may be legally dubious). I have not watched much but while the scripts seem good they just don't work for me. The dreaded spectre of personal taste rears its head again.

For most of us born in the 70s and later the ultimate Holmes is Jeremy Brett. For me personally it is because I was already interested in Holmes when the Granada series first aired and also because he was the first canonically accurate Holmes I had seen. It was his performance that enabled me to finally get through the written canon. He unlocked the stories for me and that is no exaggeration.

For later generations the appeal of Brett lies in the fact that, alongside Rathbone, he is the Holmes to be repeated most often on television so he is a familiar face even to Holmes fans not yet born when the series first aired.

The absence of a proper Holmes series since then has made it hard for any other actor to really lay claim to the Holmes crown. The new BBC series is good and the performances of the two leads are excellent but, in my opinion, the crown for the best Holmes can only ever be worn by a canonically and chronologically accurate Holmes. Until we get another one of those I feel that Mr Brett's crown is secure.

Let me know what you think?


  1. up until Brett Peter Cushion was my favourite Holmes.To be honest with all of you Jeremy Brett is so far ahead of any other Holmes Im surprised there is even a debate on it.

  2. Jeremy Brett is my favourite above all others as he captivated the audience with his believable and charismatic performance. All other casting in the Granada series were spot on too.I did like Peter Cushing, and bought the DVDs recently to view the performance. However, the casting of other characters was lacking. Going off canon, the recent movie with Robert Downey jr also was enjoyable even though physically not resembling the physionomy of Mr Holmes.

  3. I too was raised on Basil Rathbone's Holmes, but I totally agree that Jeremy Brett is the quintessential Holmes!!! :D

  4. Jeremy Brett is definately the best, I think. He certainly made a huge impression on my sister and me when we were very young and his series was the perfect supplement to reading the stories. :)

    Before Brett I adored Peter Cushing, Basil Rathbone, and I even really enjoyed Christopher Plummer.

    I am so weak for Sherlock that I often find something I like in most actors portraying him, unless they really, really mess it up.

    All in all, though, Brett is best. :D

  5. Jeremy Brett is far & away my favorite. I remember very well the first time I saw him - A&E was running "The Abbey Grange" and the second he appeared on screen (to rouse Watson because "the game" was afoot) I went THAT is Sherlock Holmes! He was exactly who I'd been picturing while reading. When you add his incredible performance to the way the directors set up shots to resemble Paget illustrations, the performances from the other actors, and the way the scripts (with some prodding from Brett) stayed fairly true to ACD's writings, is it any wonder the Granada series is the definitive Holmes for many of us?
    That being said, I have a soft-spot for Ronald Howard as well. He was Holmes in a Sheldon Reynolds tv production from 1954-55. Some of the stories were based on ACD's writings but many were original. Howard played Holmes with more youthful energy and humor than Brett, and there is a sense of camaraderie in the scenes with Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade.

  6. i think,,BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH is the best actor that play as holmes. I always like sherlock holmes, and i'm a little bit dissapointed by robert downey jr when he play as holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch version is perfect as holmes from the posture or the way holmes thinking

  7. Jeremy Brett. He inspired me to write a series that I hope to have published one day. He is SO true to Holmes as written.

  8. Jeremy Brett is my fav TV Holmes. Robert Stephens my favorite movie Holmes.

  9. I was first exposed to Holmes through Young Sherlock Holmes with Nicholas Rowe, so he holds a special place in my heart. I like what I've seen of Jeremy Brett, though something in his voice is just... off to me. Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely brilliant.

  10. I, too, don't agree that "your first Holmes is _always_ your favourite."

    My first Holmes I had seen on screen was Vasily Livanov in the Russian SH series, but my favourite is Jeremy Brett--for canonical fidelity and other reasons. I had first encountered Holmes quite a few years before I ever saw him on the screen--it was through reading Conan Doyle's stories. So when I saw the Granada series, my first thought was "this IS Doyle's stories come to life." The Russian SH series, the 1954 US SH series, Rathbone and Bruce's series, and yes, the modern "Sherlock" version all have good points...but the Granada series will always remain my favourite.

  11. My favorite Holmes is Vasily Livanov (Vitaly Solomin is my favorite Watson as well). I am big fan of the canon and in my humble opinion, Livanov's Holmes is the closest to the canon.

    Jeremy Brett (in the first season) would be my next favorite, followed by Basil Rathbone and Rupert Everett.