Welcome to Movie DNA, a column that recognizes the direct and indirect cinematic roots of new movies. Learn some film history, become a more well-rounded viewer, and enjoy likeminded works of the past. This entry recommends movies to watch after Enola Holmes.
With adaptations and inspired works going back to the dawn of cinema, Sherlock Holmes is one of the oldest and most common IPs found in visual entertainment media. Yet the genetic core of Enola Holmes, which is the latest film with roots in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective fiction, is more a combination of star Millie Bobby Brown‘s breakout Netflix series, Stranger Things, and director Harry Bradbeer‘s work on the award-winning Phoebe Waller-Bridge series Fleabag.
Based on a franchise of YA novels by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes focuses on the younger sister (Brown) of iconic detective Sherlock Holmes (Henry Cavill) and the more-straightlaced eldest sibling Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin). Its story plays loose with Doyle’s groundwork (enough to spark a legal matter) as well as historical detail for a “fun, energetic family adventure,” which has easily become another hit for Netflix.
With such popularity comes a desire for the continued enjoyment of its characters or likeminded entertainments. Whether the streaming service greenlights a sequel and whether Brown has time for another franchise commitment is uncertain for the time being, but I can help with the latter interest by suggesting what to watch next, including other Sherlock films, similar young detective stories, and a few classics with a connective tissue of some kind.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Doyle’s literary legacy is so extensive as to provide multiple simultaneous movie and TV variations of his Sherlock Holmes property over the last 120 years. Most recently, this ubiquity included two ongoing film series based on the characters and their books, one on the small screen and set in the present, the other being a blockbuster movie franchise flashily helmed by Guy Ritchie. The first installment of the latter has often been namechecked as the closest Sherlock entity to Enola Holmes.
Starring another major superhero actor (Robert Downey Jr.) as the titular sleuth, Sherlock Holmes offers a more kinetic take on Doyle’s stories than has been the tradition, depicting the detective as an action hero as much as an investigator, but not so as to be unfaithful to the material. Not enough Sherlock adaptations show the physicality of Holmes alongside his more-familiar deductive wits. Brown’s portrayal of Enola delivers a similar spunk and also has a lot of fight in her.
The first of the (still so-far only two) Ritchie-directed Sherlock Holmes movies also manages to be very entertaining on a scene-to-scene basis while following a rather convoluted plot involving British lords and Victorian-era contexts that are certainly esoteric concepts for a wider international audience. That’s the case for Enola Holmes and its own vaguely addressed 19th-century political matters, as well. But perhaps they inspire fans to learn more afterward.
I do want to mention that the Sherlock TV series is also worth looking at in relation to Enola Holmes because it introduces a different younger sister character, Eurus Holmes, who also wasn’t ever part of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon. I even thought about including the 2017 episode “The Final Problem” since it’s a feature-length TV movie, but Eurus is seen and revealed in earlier episodes, and also Sherlock episodes aren’t exactly standalone films.
Fred Claus (2007)
The easiest (but often less interesting) kind of story about a relative of an iconic character is one that makes them the same as that more-famous character, like how Enola Holmes also turns out to be a brilliant detective, a la her brother Sherlock, and Cupid’s brother Ernie also makes people fall in love in the family film Ernie & Cerbie. But the funnier kind of story about a relative of an iconic character is one that makes them a screw-up compared to the successful famous hero.
Fred Claus is about Santa’s brother, whose jealousy of his literally saintly sibling has made him out to be sort of the opposite. Of course, Fred (Vince Vaughn) winds up at the North Pole at the invitation of his brother (Paul Giamatti), and the two of them clash, and when Nick/Santa is hurt, Fred has to take over delivering the presents on Christmas Eve. In a way, it’s a more predictable premise than the seemingly easier concept behind Enola Holmes.
Shanghai Knights (2003)
Sometimes it’s fine to just be an action-comedy set within a historical context and not worry about accuracies. This sequel to the Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson pairing Shanghai Noon mostly leaves the original’s Western setting for a Euro trip, as franchises are wont to do. Taking place just a few years after the events of Enola Holmes, Shanghai Knights also eventually centers on London and lords, and actually, its specific 1887 setting coincides with the year of Doyle’s first Sherlock story.
That’s not the only connection between Doyle and the fictional adventures of Chon Wang and Roy O’Bannon, however. The Sherlock Holmes creator is portrayed in Shanghai Knights as a Scotland Yard inspector named “Artie” (played by Tom Fisher), which is definitely not a truthful representation of the surgeon turned author. The movie also ignores facts with its appearances of Charlie Chaplin, Jack the Ripper, and other real-life figures and places because who cares?
Young Sherlock Holmes (1985)
Teenage sleuths are a dime a dozen these days, but there could have been more specifically linked to the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Young Sherlock Holmes should have spawned a franchise of its own, and its ending even teases a sequel, but for some dumb reason, it was a box office failure. Despite having Steven Spielberg’s name on the thing as a producer and a fun script by Chris Columbus and lively direction from Barry Levinson. Plus groundbreaking CGI for its time.
The movie reimagines the pairing of Sherlock and John Watson as beginning while the two are still teenage students at a boarding school, and with help from a young woman, they solve a mystery concerning a local cult. It’s very much a precursor to the adventures of Harry Potter (which Columbus would kick off in cinematic form as a director) while also reminiscent of Spielberg’s own Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which had come out a year earlier.
Young Sherlock Holmes is filled with a combination of action, fantasy, and romance that delighted me as a kid yet surprisingly didn’t resonate with others. Maybe Sherlock was too antiquated an IP at the time, even with all the creative license, advanced visual effects, and energetic pacing infused in order to reinvent the characters for a new generation. I will admit that the cast, particularly lead actor Nicholas Rowe, doesn’t have the right spark, unfortunately.
Speaking of Rowe, he may not have gotten a proper sequel as promised by the Young Sherlock Holmes end credits scene, but he does make a cameo appearance as an actor portraying Sherlock in the 2015 movie Mr. Holmes, which is sort of an unofficial follow-up and depicts the character as an old man (played by Sir Ian McKellen) in the late 1940s. That easter egg, as well as how the movie adapts a novel that continues Doyle’s legacy, makes it another worthy selection to watch next.
Another box office disappointment, one that I can understand a little more especially in retrospect, this superhero movie attempted to cash in on the success of the Christopher Reeve-led Superman franchise of the time. Helen Slater stars in the spinoff as the titular cousin of the Man of Steel, who hardly receives even a cameo to attract the built-in audience. Marc McClure reprises his role as Jimmy Olsen, however, because that’s obviously what the fans really want.
I recommend Supergirl for being another movie with a female protagonist who is a blood-relative to a more famous male character — as it turns out, Enola’s iconic brother is, interestingly enough, played by an actor best known for portraying Superman on the big screen. It’s also plenty watchable if you accept the high camp of the performance from Faye Dunaway as the villainous witch wannabe Selina. The movie is no worse than Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, at least.