Sherlock Holmes Movie Poster Image

Sherlock Holmes

Gritty, action-packed take on famous sleuth's adventures.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 128 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There are some power-hungry, murderous villains on the loose in London, and the city itself is presented as a fairly brutal, gritty environment. But the film also celebrates Holmes' eccentric genius and his close friendship with Watson. Though he's a cantankerous soul, Holmes clearly values his friend and even tries to save a former paramour despite the fact that she once double-crossed him.

Positive role models

They trade barbs and are feisty with each other, but Holmes and Watson always fight for the good -- and for each other. That said, they're so intent on capturing villains that they sometimes sacrifice their personal lives. Irene is a strong, capable female character, but she's also manipulative and self-serving.


Frequent violence, including gunplay, bloody fistfights (some in slow-motion, detailing each painful blow in wince-inducing fashion), and a few big explosions. Guns, knives, a rudimentary Taser, and poison are used in various face-offs; corpses are displayed (in dirt with maggots visible, singed to a crisp after being engulfed in flames, dead in bathtub water). Men are shown hanging from a noose; a woman nearly stabs herself. Animal carcasses are shown hanging and sawed in half; a frog is shown in mid-dissection; dead rats are seen.


A man is briefly shown naked and handcuffed to a bed, with only a pillow covering his private parts. He makes a suggestive sexual comment to the chamber maid. Some flirty banter between former lovers, and a few quick kisses exchanged between them. A woman undresses; her naked back is glimpsed.


Very little; extremely infrequent uses of words like "damn" and "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Holmes sometimes drinks to excess (and he isn't always picky about what he drinks to get there);  characters drink wine at a restaurant; Holmes smokes a pipe. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that director Guy Ritchie's take on the Sherlock Holmes legend -- which stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams -- presents an earthier, brawnier, and glossier version of the famous literary/cinematic detective than most of us are used to ... which is exactly why teens will love it. Gritty, late-1800s London is the movie's backdrop, and there's no shortage of action -- from brutal, slo-mo fistfight scenes (most with blood and broken bones) to gunplay and big explosions. There are also some fairly gory crime scenes (including shots of dead bodies, one with a few wriggling maggots), a brief scene of a naked (aside from a strategically placed pillow) Holmes handcuffed to a bed, references to the dark rituals of occult secret societies, smoking, and drinking. But there's no swearing to speak of, and the movie ultimately celebrates Holmes and Watson's close friendship.

What's the story?

Bloodthirsty British Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) -- who has a penchant for dark, occult rituals -- has turned serial killer, terrorizing late-1800s London. Enter Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s keenly observant detective, and his comrade-in-arms, Dr. Watson (Jude Law), who manage to capture Blackwood and get him thrown behind bars. But after he’s hanged, his body disappears from its crypt; it appears he's risen from the dead to come after Holmes. But with Watson about to get engaged and an old flame (Rachel McAdams) hounding him, what is Holmes to do? Can his deductive powers get him out of this dangerous scrape?

Is it any good?


This is entertaining, elementary fun. Guy Ritchie’s film is ostensibly about a detective, but in this version, it’s also about two buddies who've had a lifetime of adventure, making the friendship between Holmes and Watson seem both believable and relatable. Downey Jr. and Law are entertaining to watch, standing shoulder to shoulder; Law's Watson, in fact, is no sidekick here. Though Downey Jr.’s Holmes is clearly the genius, Watson is no afterthought -- and the film is so much better for that. And yet ...

SHERLOCK HOLMES has the sooty, gritty look and feel of bygone London, and Ritchie, no surprise, brings out the franchise’s pugnacious side. (And make no mistake, it wants to be a franchise -- the movie leaves off where a sequel could handily pick right up.) Yet although we appreciate the shot of adrenaline that the director of far-edgier movies like RocknRolla and Snatch brings to the Holmes legend, Ritchie seems to have decided to film a superhero movie instead. The quick cuts and frequent action sequences are photographed like an 1890s version of Iron Man. And Downey’s 'do (and we may literally be splitting hairs here) feels out of place, as do some of the dialogue and other camerawork.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this movie's take on Sherlock Holmes compares to previous ones. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to up the action and violence? How does that change the impact and appeal of the story?

  • How does Holmes arrive at his conclusions? Can you really deduct that much information from simple (albeit thorough) observation? Can you think of characters in current TV shows or movies who perform similar deductions?

  • What makes a good and lasting friendship? Are Holmes and Watson on an even level, or is Watson simply an assistant to Holmes?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 25, 2009
DVD/Streaming release date:March 30, 2010
Cast:Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Robert Downey Jr.
Director:Guy Ritchie
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:128 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material

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Teen, 14 years old Written byMissBlackShadow February 14, 2010

Perfect for everyone!

Being a life-long Sherlock Holmes nut, I went to see this film with high expectations. Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. I was reading the reviews posted previously, and I must admit I'm rather suprised at the number of people saying it's too violent or scary. I didn't think there was anything too scary in it, I even brought my 8 year old sister to it and she isn't scarred for life. Even if some scenes are a bit scary, the humour of it balances it out. I found this film a lot funnier than many comedies I've seen! Most of the jokes are perfectly appropiate, and although there are a few with double meanings, they'd usually sail right over the young 'uns heads. What I loved most about this film, however, is the friendship between Holmes and Watson. If anything, that makes the film worth seeing. The only itty bitty problem is that, although not directly shown in the film, is that Holmes is meant to be a drug addict. He doesn't take drugs in the film, though, the worst he drinks is something that Watson points out is "meant for eye surgery." I'd reccommend this film to anyone!
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 9 year old Written byMarcomMom December 18, 2009
For adults, this is a very engrossing movie, with Guy Ritchie's famously edgy directing style. It's not your grandmother's stodgy Sherlock Holmes story--it's very fast, full of action and interesting visual effects, and it's very dark. There's little sexual content, but the one visual you DO get is not over fast and is going to be hard to explain to kids. Lots of slow-motion takes of how Holmes fights his way out of sleuthing situations or his cage-fighting hobby (Yes! Really!), with blood and sounds of bones crunching. Again, for an adult, this is a very engaging story with a satisfying ending, but it is violent and dark.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 14 years old Written bydecemberbaby December 28, 2009

Amazing Movie

I loved this movie! Robert Downey Jr. is just amazing!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages