When five women are murdered, Holmes and Watson thwart Lord Blackwood’s evil plot to murder a sixth and invoke black magic. While incarcerated, Blackwood assures Holmes that he will return from the dead and three more people will die, all of which will be on Holmes’ conscience. After his execution and burial, Blackwood is spotted walking around near his grave and, as promised,  people begin to die, seemingly with the help of Blackwood’s magic. Holmes and Watson have to muster their courage and cut through the superstition in order to establish the facts and finally bring Blackwood to justice.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Director: Guy Ritchie

Is Sherlock Holmes appropriate for kids

Rating: 12

Running Length: 128 mins

Starring: Robert Downey Jnr, Jude Law, Mark Strong

Genre: Thriller


Better known for directing comedy gangster movies like ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’, Guy Ritchie has turned his hand at adapting the works relating to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s eponymous hero, ‘Sherlock Holmes’. Bringing a great deal of pizzazz to proceedings, Ritchie manages to juggle the genuine feel of 19th Century London while making the movie feel fresh and modern. The audience feel all the twists and turns that are thrown at Holmes and Watson and, despite Holmes’ superior intellect and ability to see things that others can’t, he too is kept wondering how antagonist, Blackwood, is able to return from the dead in order to continue his evil plan.

Downey Jnr, as Sherlock Holmes is convincing as the charismatic and highly intelligent Holmes while Jude Law adds a good contrast as the brave and serious Watson. Holmes’ barely concealed frustration of anyone who isn’t as intelligent as him (in other words, everyone) is nicely contrasted with his dependency on Watson who is on the verge of leaving their shared flat due to being engaged to the lovely Mary. Holmes’ jealousy of Mary is very childish, making him a very human character. Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, oozes sexuality while being strong and a good rival to Holmes’ intellect and deviousness. The gripping story, coupled with the fun and well acted characters, will keep the audience watching, guessing and entertained until the end credits roll.


There are a few scenes where Holmes works out how he will incapacitate an opponent. He does this by deciding in advance which moves he will use. This results in slow motion shots of Holmes inflicting the injuries, including breaking someone’s ribs and breaking another character’s patella (kneecap). These moves are then acted out in quick succession. While there is very little blood or gore, these fights are quite brutal and realistic (with accompanying thumps and cracks in the soundtrack) which could be a little distressing for children.

The scenes of Lord Blackwood being in prison may be quite scary for children. The prison guards and fellow prisoners are all afraid of the black magic that he uses and one guard is seen writhing on the floor, choking and frothing at the mouth. The dialogue of another character tells Holmes ‘It’s like he’s burning from the inside out’. During a conversation between the two characters, Blackwood’s face suddenly appears behind Holmes’. His eyes are dark and his expression is very menacing while his dialogue mentions further deaths to come. When Blackwood is executed, a noose is tied around his neck and, from several feet away, the camera focuses on him dropping through the trapdoor and suddenly stopping.

Several action scenes are quite intense. One in particular starts with Holmes and Watson getting into a fight with several men. This scene culminates with Holmes being approached by a large, threatening man in a shipyard. He ends up trapped in the ruts where a huge ship is docked and as it starts to move, he is clearly in imminent danger. Watson rushes to help him but a large part of the ship detaches and rushes towards them. This is only a short moment but could be frightening for young kids. Another prolonged scene has Irene tied to a conveyor belt system designed to chop pig carcasses in half. Holmes and Watson try to save her but this proves difficult as she is constantly moving towards a long bandsaw at the end.

There are several deaths which are likely to be quite scary for children. One man is paralysed and he is unable call out for help. He struggles to save himself but is unable to, the camera then focuses on the fear in his eyes as he slowly dies. Another character is set on fire; he screams in pain and, in his panic, he falls out of a window and crashes down on top of a carriage. Another man is hung; the camera starts quite close to him (although he is only seen from behind) and gradually pans out until the body of the man is in the distance.

There are also a few mild scenes of animal cruelty. In a short moment depicting a ritual, a character deliberately cuts their hand deeply and lets the blood drip onto the carcass of a bird. Another scene shows Holmes searching someone’s home and comes across evidence of experiments. This then shows several quick shots of what Holmes believes has happened, including a dead frog which has been split open and has its innards on display. Another shot shows a character poking the innards with a knife. Also, Holmes and Watson have a dog called Gladstone. The dialogue indicates that Holmes regularly conducts non-painful experiments on Gladstone which usually result in him falling unconscious. However, he is always seen to be alright and does not suffer any lasting effects of whatever drugs Holmes has given him. While these moments are not graphic or too distressing, younger children who are sensitive to animal suffering may be upset by these scenes.



Sherlock Holmes’ is a fun, entertaining and enjoyable movie which has been designed with an adult audience in mind. While much of the movie will appeal to children, it is likely that the realism of the deaths and violence will be too much for the majority of young kids. We would therefore feel that ‘Sherlock Holmes’ should be suitable and appropriate for kids aged 10 and over.

  • Violence:  3/5
  • Emotional Distress: 0/5
  • Fear Factor: 4/5 (several intense action scenes)
  • Sexual Content: 2/5 (Irene undresses while talking to Holmes. She starts by wearing a towel which she removes while her back is turned to Holmes, she then moves behind a screen in order to get dressed. Another scene shows Holmes naked and tied to a bed with only a small cushion positioned between his legs)              
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (some mild curse words and blasphemy. The derogatory term ‘midget’ is used several times)
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (several mentions of injuries being inflicted, deaths and the use of black magic)  
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of dealing with facts rather than hearsay, concentrating on important detail, the equality of justice, corruption, black magic, and the power of intellect

Words by Laura Record

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