Best Actors Who Played John Watson, Ranked The Talks Today

The English detective featured in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books is named Sherlock Holmes. John Watson, Sherlock’s devoted comrade, will undoubtedly follow him anywhere he ventures. There have been several variations of the sleuth’s sidekick in the numerous movies based on their escapades. In the previous 100 or more years of television and cinema adventures, there has been every imaginable take on the character, from comic relief companions to crucial supporting characters.

Luckily for fans of Watson, he’s set to be getting his own series sometime in the future, per Deadline. Until then, here are some of the greatest interpretations of Sherlock’s beloved associate fans can review. It’s elementary, my dear Watson.


11 Raymond Francis — Sherlock Holmes (1951)

The detective programs Murder Bag, Crime Sheet and No Hiding Place starred Raymond Francis, a British actor, as Detective Chief Superintendent Tom Lockhart from 1957 until 1967. In this role, he played one of the first detectives on television who appeared repeatedly. Before landing the part that would make him famous, Francis appeared as Dr. Watson in the 1951 BBC Sherlock Holmes television series, opposite Alan Wheatley as Sherlock Holmes. According to Alan Barnes’ book Sherlock Holmes on Screen, this was the first collection of Sherlock Holmes tales to be televised.

10 Earle Cross — Various Animated Series

Watson Animated
Burbank Films Australia

Actor Earle Cross is best known for his roles in the 1970s and 1980s police-themed television series’ Home and Away, Patrol Boat, and Cop Shop. In a series of Australian television movies based on the Arthur Conan Doyle books of the same name, Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear, Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of Four, Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse, and Sherlock Holmes and a Study in Scarlet, Cross provided the voice of an animated John Watson.

9 Kenneth Welsh — Various Canadian TV Movies

sherlock watson welsh
Odyssey Network

The multifaceted villain Windom Earle from Twin Peaks, as well as his parts in the movies The Day After Tomorrow, Adoration, Survival of the Dead, and The Aviator, made Canadian actor Kenneth Welsh famous in both cinema and television. Welsh played John Watson in a few Canadian television movies based on Arthur Conan Doyle books from 2000 to 2002, including The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four, The Royal Scandal, and The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire.

8 Edward Hardwicke — Sherlock Holmes (1986-94)

sherlock watson hardwicke
Granada Television

English actor Edward Hardwicke had a successful theater and screen acting career, up until 2005 when he stopped acting due to health concerns. His most well-known performances are those in David Copperfield and Agatha Christie’s Poirot in addition to his portrayal of Captain Pat Grant in the British television series Colditz. Hardwicke was also well-known for his performance of John Watson in the 1986–1994 British television series Sherlock Holmes.

Related: Sherlock Holmes: Here’s Why the Hound of the Baskervilles Has Been Adapted So Many Times

7 Himesh Patel — Enola Holmes 2

enola holmes 2 patel

Tamwar Masood was a character played by actor, musician, and singer Himesh Patel on the BBC soap opera EastEnders from 2007 to 2016. He is particularly well-known for his roles in Don’t Look Up, Yesterday, and Tenet. His work on Avenue 5 and Station Eleven, both got him award nominations: a Primetime Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2022, he played Dr. John Watson in the end-credits of Enola Holmes 2, which continues the story of Sherlock’s younger sister established in Enola Holmes. Patel’s portrayal creates history as one of the rare instances that the role was not played by an older white gentleman.

6 John C. Reilly — Holmes & Watson

Holmes & Watson Trailer Has Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly on the Case
Sony Pictures

John C. Reilly, a comedian and actor, has a long list of acting accomplishments. His roles in movies like Days of Thunder, Boogie Nights, Chicago, Gangs of New York, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Guardians of the Galaxy, and many others have made him a household name. In the 2018 American movie Holmes & Watson, which takes a more comic approach to the characters in Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, Reilly played Watson opposite Will Ferrell, who played Holmes.

5 Stephen Fry — The Hound of the Baskervilles

Stephen Fry in The Sandman

Stephen Fry is an English actor, broadcaster, comedian, director, and writer. He originally gained notoriety in the 1980s when he and Hugh Laurie formed the comedy duo, Fry and Laurie. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Wilde, Gosford Park, and V for Vendetta are some of the films he has been in since then. Because of his unusual voice, which led to voiceover work, Fry gained even more notoriety. He is well known for reading all seven Harry Potter books for the UK version of the audiobook recordings. In the 2021 audio drama The Hound of the Baskervilles from Audible Originals, Fry provided the voice of John Watson.

4 Lucy Liu — Elementary (2012-2019)

CBS Television Distribution  

Lucy Liu is an American actress best known for her roles in Ally McBeal, two Charlie’s Angels films, Shanghai Noon, Chicago, Kill Bill: Volume 1, and the Kung Fu Panda franchise. She most recently provided Callisto Mal’s voice in the Disney animated movie Strange World, which was released in 2022. In the American drama series Elementary, which ran from 2012 to 2019, Liu played a distinctive take on the role of Watson. The show was a procedural drama that updated Sherlock Holmes for the modern day.

Related: Best Sherlock Holmes TV Series, Ranked

20th Century Fox

People most frequently recall Nigel Bruce for his roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films Rebecca and Suspicion as well as the Charlie Chaplin film Limelight. The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio program, which ran from 1940 to 1947, and a run of 14 films based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes tales, which were released between 1939 and 1946, both featured Bruce as Watson. He is recognized as one of the actors that helped most significant contemporary adaptations accurately portray Watson as a competent man of action.

2 Jude Law — Sherlock Holmes / Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Robert Downey and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes from Guy Ritchie
Warner Bros.

Jude Law is an English actor best known for his roles in the Fantastic Beasts movies as well as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Closer, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Law, one of the most well-known contemporary John Watsons, co-starred with the equally iconic Robert Downey Jr., who played Sherlock Holmes, in the British-American movies Sherlock Holmes in 2009 and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in 2011. Two HBO television programs set in the universe and a third movie starring the same cast have been announced, but no release dates have been confirmed as of the time of this writing.

1 Martin Freeman — Sherlock (2010-17)

Sherlock and Watson on the doorstep, played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

The Office, The Hobbit film trilogy, Fargo, Love Actually, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and The World’s End are among Martin Freeman’s most well-known performances. Additionally, he has received praise for his performance as Everett K. Ross in the MCU superhero movies Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In the forthcoming Disney+ series Secret Invasion, scheduled for release in 2023, he will reprise the role.

In the appropriately named BBC television series Sherlock, which ran from 2010 to 2017, Freeman played John Watson opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Sherlock Holmes. The series has received multiple nominations for accolades, including Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Emmy nominations, leading to wins of various awards in a wide range of categories.

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