Fans of the wittiest detectives of all time will be thrilled to get another Guy Richie installment out this December 16thSherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, has Robert Downey Jr. filling the shoes again and Jude Law back as Dr. Watson.  The two of them charm and badger London, Switzerland, Scotland Yard, or wherever they are, for clues all the while wining and dining the damsels in distress. Both of Guy Richie’s adaptations have been well received by fans and critics and pose interesting twists on the character from its original portrayal. Holmes is more like an Indiana Jones with a black belt doing Kung Fu, which is far from his original adaptation created by Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 1800’s.  And while fans may love Downey’s take on the new Holmes creation, the talented actor probably already knew he was following in some fairly big footsteps.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson span over a century of several plays, TV series, movies and have been done in Chinese, Japanese, and Russian – giving the characters a fairly broad range of portrayals.   Actors from Peter O’Toole to Michael Cain have donned the pipe and hat, yet the first to be released were a few black and white films during the 1930s and 40s featuring actors Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson). Here’s the rundown of Holmes history, from Rathbone to Downey Jr.:

Basil Rathbone

He’s the guy that any diehard fan of the Holmes will remember as the one who started the hype and defined the character through the 1930s and 40s. He WAS Sherlock Holmes and every actor since has pretty much copied his portrayal. The Hound of the Baskervilles definitely goes down as the most popular film he did as the character.

Jeremy Brett

An English actor, like Rathbone, who gained major stardom playing Holmes throughout the 1980s and early 90s. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was probably the best of all the series and films he did.

Peter Cushing

If you don’t know the name, you will know the face. It has graced major films for several decades, most notably in horror and old school vampire movies, but he did do some great work as Holmes starting with the The Hound of the Baskervilles in the late 1950s. He followed up with a Sherlock Holmes TV series in the late 1960s then again in the 1984 TV movie Sherlock Holmes and the Masks of Death. I like him because of his diversity and range as an actor. Check out his resume and you will see what I mean.

Michael Caine

Unless you are too young or have been living in a cave the past three or four decades, you should be familiar with Mr. Caine’s long list of acting accomplishments. He is probably best known today as Bruce Wayne’s wise butler, Alfred, in the Christian Bale driven Batman franchise. However, this English actor, who usually plays mentors or father figures, did a humorous stint as Sherlock Holmes in 1988’s Without a Clue. His character was basically a drunken guy posing as a detective while Dr. Watson really solved all the mysteries.

Roger Moore

Yes, the man who is most recognized as Sean Connery’s 007 replacement from many 1980’s Bond films, also did a stint as Holmes in the 1976 movie, Sherlock Holmes in New York. In this one, Holmes chases down one of his villains to the Big Apple. Was it a success? I’ll let you be the judge.

Christopher Plummer

This versatile actor also has a fairly complete resume following his predecessors, and in 1979 portrayed Sherlock Holmes classically in Murder By Decree. In the film, Holmes tracks down the infamous Jack the Ripper while discovering a conspiracy to protect the killer.

Rupert Everett

Probably most known for his voice as Prince Charming in the Shrek franchise, Everett starred in a 2004 made for television movie called Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking. Everett plays Holmes as a drug addled detective who comes out of retirement to catch a killer who is stalking teenage girls. It was a good twist on the classic character, as Everett ditched the hat, pipe, and cape for a slick black suit.

Christopher Lee

The actor most likely to go down in history as the one who immortalized Dracula in films spanning several decades, also did a few films playing the incredibly versatile Holmes. Two that come to mind are the 1992 TV movie, Incident at Victoria Falls (about Holmes traveling to South Africa to find a stolen jewel) and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in which Holmes searches for the… Loch Ness monster? Check it out!

Nicholas Rowe

Rowe played a young Sherlock Holmes in the 1985 film, Young Sherlock Holmes. He did a fine job, with Holmes as a young college student, investigating some mysterious deaths around campus.

Robert Downey Jr.

Everybody loves a comeback and nobody has done a better job than Downey at making one of the biggest comebacks in Hollywood history. Much of this recent success is owed to the highly talented actor’s ability to somehow stay respectable, while admittingly partying his “arse” off on the streets of Hollywood. There was a lengthy period of time it didn’t look like he was going make it back… but oh man did he ever. With hits like the Iron Man franchise and his reboot of the Sherlock Holmes character (without being British), Downey seems unstoppable. His portrayal of a self-indulgent Holmes must come from personal experience – as it seems all too familiar to the viewer. You aren’t fooling us, Mr. Downey, but bring us more!

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows opens in theaters this Friday.