Wherever Sherlock Holmes goes, his faithful friend Doctor John H. Watson must surely follow. Naturally, then, in the 300-odd films based around the Great Detective there have been quite a few iterations of the good doctor as well. From comic relief sidekicks to valuable co-protagonists, there has been every conceivable take on the character in the past a hundred or so years of TV and film adventures. After much deliberating, we’ve whittled it down to the ten greatest ever portrayals of Doctor Watson.
10. James Mason, Murder By Decree
This mash-up of fiction and history, that sees Sherlock Holmes on the hunt for Jack the Ripper, can be a bit grim at times – but the chemistry between Christopher Plummer and James Mason as the detective and the good doctor ensures there is a lightness to the film as well. Have a watch of the charming scene above to get a feel for the pair’s camaraderie.
9. Colin Blakely, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
An even stronger portrayal of the Holmes/Watson friendship can be found in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Colin Blakely is a great Watson, who can pull off both the comic and dramatic moments of this classic Holmes film. Above is the pair’s hilarious reaction to when rumours suggest they are closer than just roommates…
8. Vitaly Solomin, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
This Soviet series isn’t widely known outside of Russia (where it was a massive hit) but it is still considered one of the finest adaptations of Conan Doyle’s work out there – and Vitaly Solomin’s Dr Watson is one of the most successful elements of it. He is every inch Doyle’s intelligent, reliable hero, brilliantly sparring off Vasily Livanov as Holmes.
7. Ben Kingsley, Without A Clue
The great gimmick of this comedy movie is that Sherlock Holmes is just a cover from the real crime-solving genius, Dr Watson. As such, Ben Kingsley has a lot of fun playing the part of a very different Watson – and the scenes of him being paired with Michael Caine, as a dim-witted actor Watson hires to play Holmes, are a delight.
6. Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The recent Sherlock Holmes blockbusters take some liberties with the source material, but the strong performances of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law make up for that. The pair have an enjoyable bickering bromance and you have to feel sorry for Law’s Watson, as Downey’s Holmes repeatedly pulls him into dangerous situations.
No one’s gonna see this, but I think the guy who played Dr Watson ‘straight’, when Sherlock Holmes was being portrayed by a Jack Russell terrier deserves an honorable mention. For professionalism, being a good sport…something.
The terrier was Wishbone, from Season one, episode 8 “The Sloberry Hound”, in which Wishbone enters the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
No luck on finding the actor’s name, and he may be leaving this role off his resume, but I enjoyed the portrayal.