The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes

By: Kamille Jude

Sherlock Holmes: the acclaimed fictional character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has become an iconic figure around the world. Sherlock is a London-based detective who solves crimes through his ability to acknowledge the smallest details and use deductive reasoning. Through Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, readers are able to imagine their own idea of what Sherlock may have looked like, but as Sherlock has been brought to life through the digital screen, an array of different faces have portrayed this character. Examples of this are seen through BBC’s Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and CBS’s Elementary (Jonny Lee Miller), which are both modern TV show adaptations of the original story. In contrast, Mr. Holmes (Ian McKellen) and Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) are both movies that take place in an older era, which is more accurate to the original Sherlock we came to know.

The myriad renditions of the tales of Sherlock Holmes, whether TV show or movie, has divided fans with the question: who does it best? Which actor portrays Sherlock and his quirks most accurately? Sherlock Holmes is a unique character to say the least; he can be described as a genius, addict, mad man, or in extreme cases “a high-functioning sociopath,” as quoted from Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. It’s the complex nature of this character that makes him such a challenging role to play, meaning the depiction of this character on screen has to be of a certain standard.


Junior Sofia C. says she “prefers BBC’s rendition of Sherlock the best, mostly because having read a few ‘cases’ (books, really) of Conan Doyle’s, [she] feels the BBC version is the truest to the character.” In her case, although the time period was not accurate, the expressions and mannerisms of the protagonist keep true to the stories, which is an important facet of a good adaptation. On the contrary, when asked about Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Sherlock, Sofia said it was “not her favorite portrayal.” Another junior, Bella S., thinks that “each different version has something to offer and it’s hard to say which one is better simply because they’re taken from such different angles.” However, her personal favorite is BBC’s version of Sherlock because even though “it’s set in modern times, the audience can still get hints of the older story while watching.”  Bella also thinks that it doesn’t “hurt to change stories and characters a little bit to suit a more modern audience.”

Despite popular opinion, the variations of Sherlock actors allows fans a wider breadth of choice in what they think best represents Conan Doyle’s character, as each actor has something special to bring. In effect, we can appreciate Sherlock Holmes of the past, present, and hopefully future.