Best Sherlock Holmes Actor?

Numerous men have lived behind the varied facades of 221b Baker Street, over the years. Television and cinema have produced several generations, and interpretations, of Sherlock Holmes for an ever growing fan base. Most would argue that the top contenders for the “Best Holmes” are easily enough to work out. Peter Cushing, Basil Rathbone, and Jeremy Brett have all delivered beloved interpretations of everyone’s favourite London Sleuth.

Within the modern generations of Holmes fans there are many who would say the best portrayal of was clearly the most recent by Robert Downey Jr. There is a large amount of differing qualities to consider when choosing a “Best Holmes”. Overall audience appeal is obviously important. Some would say most memorable is a prime factor. Others turn to direct interpretation of the original stories. These, seeming to be the most obvious angles to examine, are what will be used as qualifiers.

To viewers of many generations Peter Cushing is easily the most recognisable Sherlock Holmes. Though not the first to adopt the deerstalker cap and Calabash pipe. Cushing’s tenure as Holmes through both movies and television seems to be the one that viewers across all ages remember. Perhaps Cushing’s uniquely expressive face weighed so heavily on the minds of viewers as children. It’s literally the imagery of Peter Cushing that has has been nostalgically remembered ever since as the idealised version of Holmes, even where it contradicts the stories a bit.

On the qualifier of similarity to the books, there are several aspects of Holmes to consider. And it’s possible that some earlier actors are losing out here, as societal influences may not have allowed earlier broadcasts to depict some of Holmes’ predilections for what we recognise now as substance abuse. On these notes, as well as the substantial qualifier of realistically seeming to know every corner of London, Downey Jr. is the obvious pick. The reputation as a fierce boxer is served well by Downey Jr. as well as other action oriented elements, so this one isn’t too difficult.

On as far as audience appeal goes, it’s a tighter race, but ultimately Downey Jr. wins out again on a far simpler set of qualifications. Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett are both contenders here, it is the sheer force of modern technology propelling Robert Downey Jr. to the front of this line. By sheer size of fan base alone, the most modern Holmes sweeps this category as well.

Ultimately there probably isn’t a definitive answer as to the “Best Holmes!” It is simply a matter of choosing what the individual viewer finds the most important aspects of the Sherlock Holmes, and then enjoying it. By this simple scale of comparison, however, Robert Downey Jr. comes out far ahead.

Photo: Dorron

Useful Links

Sherlock Holmes Kit

Sherlock Holmes Society of London

Robert Downey Jr. fan site

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