Young Sherlock Holmes



Exquisite idea, mediocre result, but OK for older kids.
  • Review Date: April 3, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 118 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Holmes is ever polite and fearless seeker of justice (even though it harmed
his own family; only the sketchiest details given). He and Watson (who
overeats and tries to smoke a pipe) are shown to be consistently smarter than the
adults, who are either oblivious (especially Lestrade of Scotland Yard) or
treacherous villains in disguise. The "exotic" depiction of Arab-Egyptian
culture (emphasis on the "cult" part) is pretty cartoony.


More PG than PG-13. One fatal shooting. Characters "mummified" non-explicitly
by hot wax. Mild wounds from sword-thrusts. Hand-to-hand fighting,
strangulation. Bloodless, hallucination-inspired mayhem and death include one
character who stabs himself in the chest, another getting run over by a
carriage, another besieged by rotting skeletons, another imagining little
monsters pecking and biting at him.

Not applicable

"Hell" and "damn," just about one time each.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Pipe-smoking by the young Watson and Holmes. Social drinking (but not by
underage characters).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that perils in this young-adult Sherlock Holmes drama
include threats of the heroine being sacrificially turned into an
Egyptian-style mummy, and kids being strangled and run through with swords. There's some potential nightmare imagery for young viewers -- scenes of demonic entities
and rotting zombies; it's made clear that these are only hallucinations, but
the chills are still vividly rendered. Young Watson tries tobacco smoking.

What's the story?

In a boys' school in Victorian-era England, two
students encounter each other who are destined to be illustrious
crimefighting partners in adulthood, the teenage Sherlock Holmes (Nicholas
Rowe), who is already a genius at logical deduction, and the pudgy
adolescent James Watson. Holmes' braininess is renown among the kids and
faculty, but that only makes him an easier target when a resentful
classmate frames Holmes for cheating on an exam. Meanwhile, a number of
aged London men have been dying under weird circumstances, in hysterics
from occultish hallucinations. When this bizarre curse strikes the
school's retired headmaster, Holmes sneaks back onto the grounds and
prowl's London's dark corners to solve the mystery, with Watson's

Is it any good?


YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES came out under the auspices of Steven
Spielberg's production company, when other Hollywood directors were
signing on to do Spielberg-like fantasies with the finest possible casts,
imagination, and special effects. The title alone suggested a
can't-miss property. And yet for all the high hopes, Young Sherlock Holmes
unfurls disappointingly, like old Indiana Jones. Yes, there's an elementary
change in scenery and accents, but the cliffhanger stunts, cartoonish
foreigners, black-magic stuff (all the more inconsequential because we
find out it's all delusions), ludicrous temple-of-doom that, just like the
Death Star, comes complete with a convenient self-destruct mode -- it
doesn't take a you-know-who to deduce it was all swiped from other
Lucas-Spielberg 1980s blockbusters.

Scriptwriter Chris Columbus was later
to make the first few Harry Potter movies, and the early school scenes
(complete with a Draco Malfoy-lookalike antagonist) do have a nice flavor
and potential, before the hand-me-down thrill rides and the way-silly
revenge scheme at the center of the mystery take over. Young Sherlock
not an awful movie; it just should have been so much better. Case

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the idea of Sherlock Holmes as a boy. How well is it

  • done here? This movie suggests that Holmes' intellect and penchant for

  • crime-solving backfired -- when he busted his own father for some unspecified

  • offense. Is being this brilliant a help or a hindrance for a kid? You might

  • compare Young Sherlock Holmes to other stories that portray youthful

  • mystery-solvers, including the "Encyclopedia Brown" series, and Eye of the Crow, Death in the Air, and other recent YA novels by

  • Shane Peacock that try to depict (in far more depth than this film) the

  • troubled childhood of Conan Doyle's great sleuth.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 5, 1985
DVD release date:December 2, 2003
Cast:Alan Cox, Nicholas Rowe, Sophie Ward
Director:Barry Levinson
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:118 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13

This review of Young Sherlock Holmes was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Big-screen teen sleuth is cute, if a bit bland.
  • Clever Sherlock Holmes tribute mixes wit, peril.
  • Just the right combination of fantasy and comedy.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old January 18, 2010


my mom made the mistake of showing this movie to me (12), and my two brothers (6 and 14). They were both scared. some scenes, like the mummifaction ceremony, are truly disturbing. also, i did not like it when the priest was killed. plus, it wasnt even a good movie. there are much better ones out there. not reccommended
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old February 6, 2010

Great Movie!

Its a great movie! I would reccomend it only for people that LOVE mystery/scary/adventure movies because this one has it all. The story is great but it may be scary to kids under the age of 11 or 10. Great movie!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byMovieLover4Lyfe June 2, 2010
My friends child (12) loved this movie! He's very into Sherlock Holmes and enjoyed this movie immensely! I recommend it for boys age 11-14.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide