This article is for the 1985 film. For the novelisation of the film see Young Sherlock Holmes (novelisation). For the 2010 series of novels of the same name see Young Sherlock Holmes (novels).
Young Sherlock Holmes
Original Film Poster
Film information

Directed by

Barry Levinson

Produced by

Mark Johnson
Henry Winkler

Written by

Chris Columbus

Music by

Bruce Broughton


Stephen Goldblatt

Editing by

Stu Linder


Amblin Entertainment

Distributed by

Paramount Pictures

Release Date(s)

4 December, 1985

Running time

109 minutes


$18,000,000 (estimated)

Gross Revenue

$19,739,575[citation needed]

Young Sherlock Holmes is a 1985 film directed by Barry Levinson, produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus.

In this film, the origins of the detective duo are re-imagined when a young Sherlock Holmes and John Watson meet at a boarding school, and the help each other solve a mystery involving hallucinogenic drugs and occult-related murders. This was the first film by Amblin Entertainment to receive a PG-13 rating in the United States.


Mr. Bobster, an elderly gentleman, is being followed by a cloaked figure. He stops in front of a pubs window. The cloaked figure raises a blow pipe and the gentleman is hit by a dart. After a slight confusion (from feeling the tiny darts sting) the gentleman continues and enters the pub.

While eating dinner Mr. Bobster experiences strange hallucinations: the bird he was just about to eat sprouts a croaking head, starts moving and attacks him. However, as suddenly as the bird appeared it vanishes again, leaving Mr. Bobster confused and scared. Not wanting to dine any longer Mr. Bobster hurries out of the pub, home and into his bedroom where the hallucinations continue.

After a terrifying illusion involving gas lamps, his coat rack and a lot of fire Mr. Bobster jumps out of his window screaming, dying on impact. The shadow of the cloaked figure moves over him and we can hear a soft tinging sound.


John Watson comes to the boarding school by carriage because his old school had closed down. There he meets Sherlock who deduces everything about him (except for his first name, assuming it's James instead of John) in a matter of seconds. After explaining how he knew and introducing himself they walk to chemistry class together.

During class - which turns out to be rather boring due to the teachers stuttering and slow speech - a young girl (Elizabeth) knocks on the window attracting Sherlocks attention and hands a note to him. Sherlock later explains to John that she came to school with her uncle after her parents death.

After class the two boys enter the library where Elizabeth is talking to another boy, Dudley, supposedly admiring Dudley's "expensive new" pocket watch that Sherlock reveals to be a cheaper model form Switzerland. Dudley's obviously interested in Elizabeth (something he has in common with Sherlock) and dislikes Holmes.

John who has climb up a ladder to get to the books on a higher shelf, slips and falls down interrupting Sherlock, who is about to kiss Elizabeth. Sherlock introduces John to her as his new friend as the honorable but clumsy Watson and helps him up. We can hear the soft tinging again and see a shadow leaving the upper part of the library.

Later on the three (Elizabeth, Sherlock and John) meet her uncle Rupert T. Waxflatter the retired schoolmaster, whom most people believe to be a lunatic because of his peculiar inventions (a flying cart that actually works till he crashes into a tree; he already had six failed attempts). Sherlock, John and Elizabeth help him carry the remains of the flying cart into his workplace - the schools attic that is full of books and machinery - where he lives with his niece and their dog.

Sherlock likes being here and shows a high esteem for the supposed lunatic ("He has taught me more than 10 schoolmasters together").

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  • Nicholas Rowe as Sherlock Holmes
  • Alan Cox as John Watson
  • Sophie Ward as Elizabeth Hardy
  • Anthony Higgins as Professor Rathe
  • Susan Fleetwood as Mrs Dribb
  • Freddie Jones as Chester Cragwitch
  • Nigel Stock as Rupert Waxflatter
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Inspector Lestrade
  • Earl Rhodes as Dudley
  • Brian Oulton as Master Snelgrove
  • Patrick Newell as Bentley Bobster
  • Donald Eccles as Reverend Duncan Nesbitt
  • Matthew Ryan as Dudley's Friend
  • Matthew Blakstad as Dudley's Friend
  • Jonathan Lacey as Dudley's Friend
  • Walter Sparrow as Ethan Engel
  • Nadim Sawalha as Egyptian Tavern Owner
  • Roger Brierley as Mr Holmes
  • Vivienne Chandler as Mrs Holmes
  • Lockwood West as Curiosity Shop Owner
  • John Scott Martin as Cemetery Caretaker
  • George Malpas as School Porter
  • Willoughby Goddard as School Reverend
  • Michael Cule as Policeman with Lestrade
  • Ralph Tabakin as Policeman in Shop Window
  • Nancy Nevinson as Hotel Receptionist
  • Michael Hordern as Older John Watson (voice)




Original 1985 trailer
Main theme


There is some talk of Paramount Pictures remaking Young Sherlock Holmes, with Chris Columbus as a producer and Evan Spiliotopoulos writing the screenplay.[1]

Allusions to Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  • The main plot seems to be inspired, albeit very loosely, by two Conan Doyle short stories, covering the first cases of the young (twentyish) Holmes: The Adventure of the Gloria Scott and The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual. Elements borrowed from the stories are pretty basic and include name change, ritual involvement, pyramid-shaped objects etc.
  • Deductions which Holmes makes while first seeing Watson are, obviously, different to those given in A Study in Scarlet, but they're still delivered in a very similar manner. Also the whole moment of Watson's first encounter with Holmes is very similar and they turn out to be roommates at the very start.
  • The use of a blow pipe with poisoned darts as a weapon was taken from The Sign of Four.


  • While obviously older, Holmes in Sherlock looks visually similar to Rowe's version with curly long hair and often dressed in a slim, black coat.
    • Also hallucinations in "The Hounds of Baskerville" and "mind palace" sequences (especially those in His Last Vow) are very similar to drug/poison-induced hallucinations seen in this movie.
  • Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes uses a cult with human sacrifices which is very similar to one, shown in this film.


  • "Elementary, my dear Holmes, elementary." is Mr. Waxflatters answer when Sherlock asks if rebuilding the entire machine wouldn't be too difficult.


A tie-in novel written by Alan Arnold was published in 1985.

Following the success of the film in Japan a video game Young Sherlock: The Legacy of Doyle was released in 1987 only for the Japanese market.

External links