Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Movie Poster Image

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Master sleuth returns in entertaining but violent adventure.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 129 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

There's lots of iffy stuff going on here, but Holmes and Watson's friendship is a powerful example of loyalty. Also, Holmes continues to remind audiences to pay attention to even the smallest of details because the answers to our questions, big and small, lie in them.

Positive role models

Holmes' sharp mind continues to be admirable, his eccentricities notwithstanding. And Watson remains straightforward and forthright. The friends always fight for good, even if their methods are sometimes iffy. Watson's wife, Mary, has a bigger role in this film, proving herself equal to the task of crime-fighting.


The film is filled with highly choreographed fights and lots of other action violence. Bare hands, brass knuckles, poison arrows, knives, guns, bombs -- you name it, it's here. Holmes is also tortured in one scene, and there's a suicide. Some scenes are almost balletic because of how directed and maneuvered they are, but they're still bone-crunching and (sometimes) bloody -- and the slow-mo shots can sometimes make the anticipation of the impact even worse.


Lots of innuendo (much of which is likely to go over younger kids' head) and suggestive banter, flirting, and a kiss. In a scene that's intended to be comic, a man is shown naked from behind as he casually exposes himself to a woman. 


Swearing includes "damn," "hell," "bastard," and "my God" (as an exclamation).

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A man smokes a pipe (accurate for the era). References to how one character is hopped up on coca leaves. Social drinking -- Holmes likes his liquor.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, like its predecessor, this entertaining Sherlock Holmes adventure is filled with several scenes of action violence and mayhem. Though the fight scenes are very choreographed and stylized, they're bone-crunching and often brutal. And the slo-mo effects sometimes make the anticipation of the impact almost worse than the impact itself. Knives, guns, and bombs are all in use; there's also one scene of torture and a suicide. There's also a fair bit of innuendo, one scene of a naked man from behind, some mild language ("bastard" and "damn), pipe smoking, and social drinking. Holmes (again played by Robert Downey Jr.) dons women's clothing in one sequence.

What's the story?

The world has gone mad. Bombs are going off in Strasbourg and Vienna, an American mogul has dropped dead, and a prince has committed suicide. The events may seem random, a cacophony of chaos. But as the intrepid and eccentric detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) soon discovers, there's a brilliant and masterful villain on the loose: Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). And he's not just after power and wealth: He's after Holmes. He's also gunning for Holmes' right-hand man, Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), who's just gotten married but may not be quite retired from sleuthing.

Is it any good?


How can this franchise not be entertaining with the talented Robert Downey Jr. playing a historically fascinating lead (and Law as a gutsy Watson)? The film even looks entertaining: The tableau is drained of color, etched in charcoal, but still very stylized, which fits director Guy Ritchie's signature. He's assured another hit.

But is it great? Perhaps expectations are raised too high, but it feels like the bloom of the movie's specific visual and storytelling style is fading a bit. Ritchie's swift deconstruction of Holmes' thought process seem wasted on what-if situations instead of on actual detective work. And, yes, the bromance between Holmes and Watson is charming, but it's clear when Holmes faces Moriarty that the movie hungers for more of that type of confrontation. It's an iconic match-up, and it's too bad we don't spend much time with it and Holmes' other misadventures. Let the master detective detect!

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the new Sherlock Holmes movies' take on the famous detective compares to previous ones. Why do you think the filmmakers decided to up the action and violence in these films?

  • Why does Watson put up with Holmes' shenanigans, especially when they interfere with his relationship to his betrothed?

  • How does this film handle its good-versus-evil theme? Are the good and bad sides always clearly defined? Is that important?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 16, 2011
DVD/Streaming release date:June 12, 2012
Cast:Jared Harris, Jude Law, Robert Downey Jr.
Director:Guy Ritchie
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Book characters, Friendship
Run time:129 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material

This review of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was written by

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byJKB97 January 2, 2012

Still quite violent, lacks storyline but just what you'd expect from a 12A rated film

Guy Ritchie's take on the Sir Conan Doyle's classic is an action-packed thriller. I enjoyed the first film and love the slow-motion action sequences. I always find with these films is they lack in story and plot. Mainly, it's all about the action and Holmes' eccentric character and sharp mind. Except for Jude Law who plays Holmes' side-kick, Watson - I find the acting a bit weak from other characters. What families need to know is the film focuses a lot on the action: there is guns, brutal fights - basically anything you can expect from a 12A/PG-13 rated film. The language isn't that bad and the sexual innuendo is as you'd expect at a minimum.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 15 years old Written byRhian De Questa July 27, 2013

2 is better than 1

This is a fantastic movie that I saw before the first one and thought it was amazing. RDJ completely captures Holmes' quirky ways, and Jude Law plays the annoyed, exasperated, newly married Watson who just can't stay away from his brilliant friend. Violence (bombings, shootings, fistfights and bodies and blood), a partial nudity scene is what parents should watch out for, and the tragic death by poisoning of the roguish Irene Adler, as well as the fact that younger children may simply not understand the extensive story line. ALSO there is a very uncomfortable torture scene where the villain sticks an iron hook through Holmes' shoulder and swings him around. A villain to rival Holmes (the book's traditional villain) and a climactic and perhaps unexpected ending if you nothing about Sherlock Holmes, together with a lot of humor and superb cinematography (there's a long but fascinating slow motion scene of Holmes and Watson running through a forest) make this an absolute go for family movie night, if you don't have younger kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn December 18, 2011

Sloppy sequel is still fun, still very violent

Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows, just debuted into theaters on Friday, and already it looks like it could be yet another one of those big box office disappointments that have been ever so much populating this year as a depressing little fact that people utterly tired and exhausted of sequels, remakes, reboots and other films of the sort. People are just tired of it. We want new kinds of movies. Still, it actually managed to be a fairly decent sequel to a fairly decent movie, with a much better villain, good action sequences, and a almost exhausting amount of slow-motion sequences that will give you a sure headache by the time the whole thing is done and over with, but so far, it still appears that it is going to be a very average franchise. So: The usual content is here, just like the original: Frequent and very intense action violence, some grisly images of dead bodies, one very crude scene containing brief nudity, frequent drinking, smoking and one drug reference. Also, there is a bit more profanity than the original, but it is still very infrequent so that it barely matters. So, if you liked the original, definitely check this one out if you can get the chance to do so this Christmas season, Just don't expect the third one to be a masterpiece, either.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking