Benedict Cumberbatch: In the BBC series "Sherlock," which comes to U.S. viewers via "Masterpiece Mystery!" on PBS, Cumberbatch plays a thoroughly modern incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, who makes liberal use of texting, the Internet and GPS devices to solve crimes. It certainly doesn't hurt that the actor is exceedingly easy on the eyes.
Robert Downey Jr.: Although they're set in the Victorian England of the original stories, Downey's two (so far) feature-film turns as Holmes bring a certain 21st-century sensibility to the tales, making them accessible to an audience raised on big-screen blockbusters.
Jeremy Brett: Many consider Brett's portrayal of Holmes in four seasons of a British series -- also seen here on PBS - the definitive screen Sherlock of its time, if not all time. He played the role in a total of 41 episodes from 1984 to 1994 and might have continued had he not died at the relatively young age of 61.
Nicol Williamson: His single performance as Holmes wasn't in an Arthur Conan Doyle tale. Instead, he played the detective in the 1976 mystery "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution," which was adapted from a novel by Nicholas Meyer and dealt with the character's cocaine addiction and treatment by Sigmund Freud ( Alan Arkin). While in Austria, however, he can't help getting involved in solving a crime.
Peter Cushing: As a regular in Hammer Films' horror tales, he played everyone from Dr. Frankenstein to Van Helsing, but Cushing seemed born to the role of Holmes. He made his debut as the sleuth in a 1959 adaptation of "The Hound of the Baskervilles," the first Holmes film made in color. He went on to star in the BBC series "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes" in the '60s and portrayed a geriatric Sherlock in the 1984 TV movie "The Masks of Death."
Basil Rathbone: The Jeremy Brett of the 1940s, the dapper Rathbone brought Holmes to life in 14 films - all but the first two set in the then-present day -- between 1939 and 1946. Rathbone also played Holmes in a radio series over the same period and reprised the role for an episode of the TV series "Suspense" in 1953.