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Professor Moriarty

James Moriarty
Sherlock Holmes character
Professor Moriarty, illustration by Sidney Paget which accompanied the original publication of "The Final Problem".
First appearance "The Final Problem"
Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Portrayed by various
Gender Male
Occupation Criminal mastermind

Professor James Moriarty is a fictional character in some of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Moriarty is a criminal mastermind whom Holmes describes as the "Napoleon of crime". Doyle lifted the phrase from a Scotland Yard inspector who was referring to Adam Worth, a real-life criminal mastermind and one of the individuals upon whom the character of Moriarty was based. The character was introduced primarily as a narrative device to enable Conan Doyle to kill off Sherlock Holmes, and only featured directly in two of the Sherlock Holmes stories. However, in more recent derivative work he has been given a greater prominence and treated as Holmes's archenemy.


  • Appearances in works 1
  • Personality 2
  • Moriarty's personal history 3
  • Simon Newcomb and other real-world role models 4
  • Depictions and references 5
    • Radio 5.1
    • Film 5.2
    • Television 5.3
    • Theatre 5.4
    • Literature 5.5
    • Video games 5.6
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Appearances in works

Moriarty's first and only appearance occurred in The Adventure of the Final Problem, in which Holmes, on the verge of delivering a fatal blow to Moriarty's criminal ring, is forced to flee to continental Europe to escape Moriarty's retribution. The criminal mastermind follows, and the pursuit ends on top of the Reichenbach Falls, an encounter that apparently ends with both Holmes and Moriarty falling to their deaths. In this story, Moriarty is introduced as a crime lord who protects nearly all of the criminals of England in exchange for their obedience and a share in their profits. Holmes, by his own account, was originally led to Moriarty by his perception that many of the crimes he investigated were not isolated incidents, but instead the machinations of a vast and subtle criminal ring.

Moriarty plays a direct role in only one other Holmes story, The Valley of Fear, set before "The Final Problem" but written afterwards. In The Valley of Fear, Holmes attempts to prevent Moriarty's agents from committing a murder. In an episode in which Moriarty is being interviewed by a policeman, a painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze is described as hanging on the wall; Holmes remarks on another work by the same painter to show it could not have been purchased on a professor's salary. The work referred to is La jeune fille à l'agneau; some commentators[1] have described this as a pun by Conan Doyle on the Thomas Agnew and Sons art gallery, which had a famous painting[2] stolen by Adam Worth, but were unable to prove the claim.[1]

Holmes mentions Moriarty reminiscently in five other stories: The Adventure of the Empty House (the immediate sequel to The Final Problem), The Adventure of the Norwood Builder, The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter, The Adventure of the Illustrious Client, and His Last Bow. More obliquely, a 1908 mystery by Conan Doyle that was named "The Lost Special" features a criminal genius who could be Moriarty and a detective who could be Holmes, although neither is mentioned by name.

Viktor Yevgrafov as Professor Moriarty in Igor Maslennikov's TV series.

Doctor Watson, even when narrating, never meets Moriarty (only getting distant glimpses of him in The Final Problem), and relies upon Holmes to relate accounts of the detective's feud with the criminal. Conan Doyle is inconsistent on Watson's familiarity with Moriarty. In "The Final Problem", Watson tells Holmes he has never heard of Moriarty, while in The Valley of Fear, set earlier on, Watson already knows of him as "the famous scientific criminal".

In The Empty House, Holmes states that Moriarty had commissioned a powerful stage-managing the death of Birdy Edwards.[3]


Moriarty is extremely intelligent, cunning, calculative and manipulative. He is also incredibly ruthless, shown by his steadfast vow to Sherlock Holmes that "if (Holmes) was clever enough to bring destruction down upon me (Moriarty), then I shall do as much for you". Moriarty is categorized by Holmes as an extremely powerful criminal mastermind who is purely adept at committing any atrocity to perfection without losing any sleep on it. Moriarty's ruthlessness, lack of empathy, intellect and grandiosity make it fair to label him as a sociopath: he sees people as either pawns to be manipulated, or obstacles to be destroyed. As such, Moriarty will do anything to achieve his goals. It is stated in The House of Silk that Moriarty does not directly participate in the activities he plans, but he only 'orchestrates' the events. However, he is not at all a coward: he is willing to take matters into his own hands if his hand is forced, such was the case with Sherlock Holmes.

Moriarty is not without character flaws, as he suffers from a superiority complex: he is extremely arrogant, overconfident, precocious and condescending to a fault. Other than Sherlock Holmes, he sees no other man as his equal, and even with the latter he expresses his sense of superiority over him and his willingness to torment and threaten Holmes for as long as is required. Like most archetypes in Sherlock Holmes episodes, Moriarty is impeccably sophisticated, refined and reserved. He has an excellent sense of style, speaks in an intellectual, calm manner and has an almost extravagant sense of surroundings.

Moriarty has full respect for Holmes's intellect, but is also willing to kill Holmes should he oppose him any further. He has a fiery temper, furiously elbowing aside people in the railway station when Holmes escapes him, and pursuing Holmes to Switzerland to kill him for destabilizing his organization. When his men fail to kill Holmes, he pursues Holmes by himself; and when his agents fail to kill Birdy Edwards, Moriarty is implied to have done so. The only individual who appears to have Moriarty's complete confidence is his henchman Colonel Moran.

Holmes described Moriarty as follows:

He is a man of good birth and excellent education, endowed by nature with a phenomenal mathematical faculty. At the age of twenty-one he wrote a treatise upon the binomial theorem which has had a European vogue. On the strength of it, he won the mathematical chair at one of our smaller universities, and had, to all appearances, a most brilliant career before him. But the man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers. Dark rumours gathered round him in the University town, and eventually he was compelled to resign his chair and come down to London. He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organiser of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city...
— Holmes, "The Final Problem"

Holmes echoes and expounds this sentiment in The Valley of Fear stating:

But in calling Moriarty a criminal you are uttering libel in the eyes of the law—and there lie the glory and the wonder of it! The greatest schemer of all time, the organizer of every devilry, the controlling brain of the underworld, a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations—that’s the man! But so aloof is he from general suspicion, so immune from criticism, so admirable in his management and self-effacement, that for those very words that you have uttered he could hale you to a court and emerge with your year’s pension as a solatium for his wounded character. Is he not the celebrated author of The Dynamics of an Asteroid, a book which ascends to such rarefied heights of pure mathematics that it is said that there was no man in the scientific press capable of criticizing it? Is this a man to traduce? Foulmouthed doctor and slandered professor—such would be your respective roles! That’s genius, Watson.
— Holmes, The Valley of Fear

The "smaller university" involved has been claimed to be one of the colleges that later comprised the University of Leeds; [4] but in Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography, the "smaller university" is said to be Durham University.[5]

Conan Doyle's original motive in creating Moriarty was evidently his intention to kill Holmes off.[6] "The Final Problem" was intended to be exactly what its title says; Doyle sought to sweeten the pill by letting Holmes go in a blaze of glory, having rid the world of a criminal so powerful and dangerous any further task would be trivial in comparison (as Holmes says in the story itself). Moriarty appeared in only one book as the author felt having him constantly escape would discredit Holmes, and would be less satisfying. Eventually, however, public pressure and financial troubles impelled Doyle to bring Holmes back.[7]

A point of interest is that the "high, domed forehead" was seen as the sign of a prodigious intellect during Conan Doyle's time. In giving Moriarty this trait, already apparent in both Sherlock Holmes and the detective's brother Mycroft, Doyle may have intended to portray Moriarty as a man having an intellect equal to or greater than that of Holmes, and thus the only man capable of defeating him.

Moriarty's personal history

"Moriarty" is an ancient Irish name[8] as is Moran, the surname of Moriarty's henchman, Sebastian Moran.[9][10] Conan Doyle himself was of Irish Catholic descent, educated at Stonyhurst College, although he abandoned his family's religious tradition, neither marrying nor raising his children in the Catholic faith, nor cleaving to any politics that his ethnic background might presuppose. Doyle is known to have used his former school, Stonyhurst College, as inspiration for details of the Holmes series; among his contemporaries at the school were two boys surnamed Moriarty.[11]

The stories give contradictory indications about Moriarty's family. In his first appearance in "The Final Problem", Moriarty is referred to as "Professor Moriarty" — no forename is mentioned. Watson does, however, refer to the name of another family member when he writes of "the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother". In "The Adventure of the Empty House", Holmes refers to Moriarty on one occasion as "Professor James Moriarty". This is the only time Moriarty is given a first name, and oddly, it is the same as that of his purported brother; to wit The Valley of Fear (written after the preceding two stories, but set earlier), Holmes says of Professor Moriarty: "He is unmarried. His younger brother is a station master in the west of England."[12]

Simon Newcomb and other real-world role models

ln addition to the master criminal Adam Worth, there has been much speculation[13] among astronomers and Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts that Doyle based his fictional character Moriarty on the American astronomer Simon Newcomb. Newcomb was revered as a multitalented genius, with a special mastery of mathematics, and he had become internationally famous in the years before Conan Doyle began writing his stories. More to the point, Newcomb had earned a reputation for spite and malice, apparently seeking to destroy the careers and reputations of rival scientists.[14]

Gauss' portrait published in Astronomische Nachrichten 1828
George Boole
A gallows ticket to view the hanging of Jonathan Wild.

Moriarty may have been inspired in part by two real-world mathematicians. If the characterizations of Moriarty's academic papers are reversed, they describe real mathematical events.

  • The Final Problem
  • The Valley of Fear
  • Sherlock Holmes Public Library
  • Professor Moriarty at the Internet Movie Database

External links

  1. ^ a b John Mortimer (24 August 1997). "To Catch a Thief". The New York Times. . A review of THE NAPOLEON OF CRIME — The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief by Ben Macintyre
  2. ^ "A portrait of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough". 
  3. ^ Epilogue, The Valley of Fear.
  4. ^ Bowers, John F., "James Moriarty: A Forgotten Mathematician", 23 December 1989, New Scientist
  5. ^ Rennison, Nick. Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography. p. 68. 
  6. ^ Stashower, Daniel (1999). Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. p. 149.  
  7. ^ Miller, Ron. "Case Book: Doyle vs. Holmes". PBS. 
  8. ^ Daniel Jones; A.C. Gimson (1977). Everyman's English Pronouncing Dictionary (14 ed.). London, UK: J.M. Dent & Sons. 
  9. ^ Moran genealogy site; accessed 28 June 2014.
  10. ^ Moran profile,; accessed 28 June 2014.
  11. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Arthur Conan Doyle". Books and Writers ( Finland:  
  12. ^ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume 2. Random House. , p. 175.
  13. ^ Schaefer, B. E., 1993, Sherlock Holmes and some astronomical connections, Journal of the British Astronomical Association, vol 103, no. 1, pp. 30–34. For a summary of this point, see this articleNew Scientist, also from 1993.
  14. ^ For example, see Newcomb's animosity to the career and works of Charles Peirce.
  15. ^ Gauss, Carl Friedrich (1809). Theoria motus corporum coelestium in sectionibus conicis solem ambientium. Hamburg, Germany: Friedrich Perthes and I.H. Besser. , as described in Donald Teets, Karen Whitehead, 1999 "The Discovery of Ceres: How Gauss Became Famous", Mathematics Magazine, vol 72, no 2 (April 1999), pp. 83–93
  16. ^ "Ramanujan Psi Sum". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  17. ^ Kanigel, R. (1991).  
  18. ^ See, for example, the book by Kanigel, The Man Who Knew Infinity
  19. ^ MacHale, Desmond (1995). "George Boole and Sherlock Holmes". The Legacy of George Boole. Cork, Ireland. 
  20. ^ Stanford, Jane (2011). That Irishman: The Life and Times of John O'Connor Power. Dublin: The History Press, Ireland. pp. 30, 124–27.  
  21. ^ The Valley of Fear, The Oxford Sherlock Holmes, p. 181
  22. ^ Rich, Katey (28 December 2009). "Is Brad Pitt In Sherlock Holmes After All?". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 31 January 2010. 
  23. ^ "And In Other Film Deals...",, September 2010; accessed 28 September 2010.
  24. ^ In newer DVD and Blu-ray copies, as well as televised showings of the 2009 film, Harris's voice is dubbed over the original actor's.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Sherlock Hound". Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  27. ^ Rampton, James (15 November 2013). Sherlock has changed my whole career': Andrew Scott interview"'".  
  28. ^ Gelman, Vlada (1 January 2014). "Elementary Preview: Moriarty Returns With a 'Big Secret'… and a Joan Obsession?".  
  29. ^ a b Shinjiro Okazaki and Kenichi Fujita (ed.), "シャーロックホームズ冒険ファンブック Shārokku Hōmuzu Bōken Fan Bukku", Tokyo: Shogakukan, 2014, p. 13
  30. ^ "Sherlock Holmes" production team (Ed.), "NHK シャーロックホームズ推理ブック Mystery quiz book of Sherlock Holmes", Tokyo:Shufu to seikatsu sha, 2014, p. 57
  31. ^ "The Secret of Sherlock Holmes Play". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  32. ^ Dirda, Michael. An Open Book (p. 122). W.W. Norton & Company, 2004; ISBN 0-393-05756-9.
  33. ^ Langford, David. A Stout Fellow ... on Nero Wolfe. Million Magazine, 1992. Langford calls "the dread and highly respectable mastermind Arnold Zeck ... Stout's equivalent of Professor Moriarty."
  34. ^ "Martin Mystère: The impossible world of Sherlock Holmes". Retrieved 30 January 2011. 


  • In The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty is unmasked as the villain in the 16th and last mystery, but while his scheme is foiled, the Professor escapes when Holmes must focus on disarming a bomb inside the Big Ben clock tower.
  • In the computer adventure Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Holmes encounters Moriarty locked in a Switzerland mental hospital in 1895 (four years after "The Final Problem"), where the Professor has suffered severe brain injuries from the Falls. Not recognizing Holmes in disguise, Moriarty is tricked into thinking his nemesis is in the hospital lobby, and charges from his cell in a frenzy, giving Holmes a diversion so he may investigate the asylum's secrets further. By the opening of the sequel, Sherlock Holmes versus Arsène Lupin, or Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis, there has been no word of any mental recovery or escape attempts by Moriarty. Holmes remarks to Watson, "If there had, we would be on the way to Switzerland already."
  • In The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty is the main antagonist who tries to frame Holmes and create anarchy.
  • In Wizard101, the character Meowiarty is based on Prof. Moriarty.

Video games

  • T. S. Eliot, a fan of Sherlock Holmes fiction, used the phrase "the Napoleon of crime" in homage to describe Macavity in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. There are further likenesses between the two as T.S. Eliot talks of Macavity's virtues in stealth, his tall and thin stature with sunken eyes and a domed forehead. All of these descriptions are matched precisely to the Moriarty of Conan Doyle.
  • In Neil Gaiman's Hugo Award winning short-story A Study in Emerald, the Moriarty and Holmes of an alternate history reverse roles. Moriarty (who, although never named as such in the story, is identified as the author of Dynamics of an Asteroid) is hired to investigate a murder. The murder has apparently been carried out by Sherlock Holmes (who signs his name Rache, an allusion to Doyle's first novella starring Holmes and Watson, A Study in Scarlet, in which "Rache" — German for "revenge" — is found written above the body of a murder victim), and Dr Watson. The story is narrated by Colonel Sebastian Moran, given the rank of Major (Ret.) by Gaiman.
  • In Detective Comics 572, the fiftieth anniversary of Batman's first appearance, Batman and several other DC characters met descendants of Moriarty and Dr Watson. Prof. Moriarty appeared in a flashback sequence; a 135-year-old Holmes had a brief cameo at the end of the story.
  • In a 2006 comic book story featuring Lee Falk's The Phantom, the 19th Phantom has to fight Prof. Moriarty; the climax of the story features the Phantom and Moriarty falling down a waterfall in the Bangalla jungle. At the end of the story, Moriarty is shown to be alive, as he returns to London to find "a detective named Sherlock Holmes".
  • Dorothy Sayers's story The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba is consciously modeled upon "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House". Lord Peter Wimsey is apparently killed, only to return from the dead at the end of the story and reveal he had faked his death in order to trap a very dangerous super-criminal. The debt to the original Doyle story is explicitly acknowledged in Sayers' story, in a passage in which Wimsey refers to the criminal he is tracking as "The Moriarty of this gang".
  • In Nicholas Meyer's 1976 novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Prof. Moriarty is portrayed as Holmes's childhood mathematics tutor, a whining little man with a guilty secret. He is incensed to hear that Holmes, apparently under the influence of cocaine, has depicted him as a criminal mastermind. Due to Holmes's worsening condition, Moriarty threatens to tell the authorities about Holmes's addiction. Dr. Watson seeks the help of Sigmund Freud, who uncovers the truth behind Holmes's perception of "the Napoleon of Crime". This is one of many works to seize on the fact that Moriarty never actually shows his face in the Holmes canon. The novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, was made into a 1976 film and starred Laurence Olivier as a very different sort of Professor Moriarty.
  • In the 1979 novel, Enter the Lion: A Posthumous Memoir of Mycroft Holmes, written by Michael P. Hodel and Sean M. Wright, Jerrold Moriarty, the father of the Moriarty brothers, is Mycroft Holmes' immediate superior in the Foreign Office and plays an important part in a plot by former Confederate officers to involve the British government in a scheme to overthrow the United States government. His exposure by Mycroft and Sherlock leads to his suicide to avoid arrest, for which Professor Moriarty blames the Holmes brothers, and provides an explanation as to the antagonism between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. The Professor himself makes two appearances in the novel.
  • Michael Kurland wrote a series of novels in which Moriarty is the hero: his crime organisation is the method whereby he raises funds for his experimental physics apparatus. In the first book of the series, The Infernal Device, he foils a plot against Queen Victoria, reluctantly allying with Holmes.
  • Moriarty appears in Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Recruited from university by British Intelligence, he supposedly set up his criminal empire as part of an undercover operation to monitor crime in London which got out of hand, to the point where the 'cover' became more real to Moriarty than his role in British Intelligence. Having survived the encounter with Holmes, he went on to become head of British Intelligence under the code-name "M" but still maintained his criminal interests. He instigated the creation of the League as a covert ops unit with plausible deniability and used them to recover an anti-gravity mineral called Cavorite which had been stolen by his crime lord rival The Doctor. He used the Cavorite to bomb the East End of London in an attempt to destroy The Doctor but was thwarted by the League which had uncovered the double-cross. Following his supposed death (indicated, but not clearly portrayed, as he "falls" into the sky while clutching the Cavorite), he was ironically succeeded as "M" by Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother. In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, it is suggested that Jack Kerouac's Dean Moriarty (from On the Road) is his great-grandson, and the rivalry between the two criminals is continued by the fact that The Doctor's great-grandson is Kerouac's other creation, Doctor Sax. In the third volume, set more than six decades later, Mina Murray comes across his carcass, still holding onto the cavorite inside a block of ice floating through space.
  • Kim Newman's novel Anno Dracula depicts Moriarty as the spokesman of a league of villains drawn from popular fiction. In this Moriarty is a vampire and is no longer interested in criminal pursuits as he now has an eternal life which he can dedicate to intellectual contemplation. Newman has written a series of short stories about Moriarty, narrated Watson-style by Colonel Moran, in which Moriarty interacts with many of his fictional contemporaries. They have been collected in Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbervilles. One of the stories, "The Red Planet League", first appeared in Gaslight Grimoire. Another story, "The Adventure of the Greek Invertebrate" (a play on "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter", which introduced Sherlock Holmes's brother Mycroft), features Professor Moriarty's two brothers, also named James, the colonel and the station master, and offers an explanation for the lack of variety in their forenames. The last story, "The Problem of the Final Adventure", retells The Adventure of the Final Problem from the other side, revealing there was more going on than Watson (and perhaps Holmes) realised.
  • Nero Wolfe's prolonged struggle with powerful crime boss Arnold Zeck, Michael Dirda — book critic for The Washington Post — wrote "I was thrilled when Wolfe finally encountered his own Moriarty in the archvillain Arnold Zeck".[32] British author and literary critic David Langford noted that the relationship between Zeck and Wolfe may be seen as comparable to that of Moriarty and Holmes.[33]
  • Philip José Farmer's science fiction/steampunk parallel novel The Other Log of Phileas Fogg asserts that Moriarty and Jules Verne's Captain Nemo were one and the same person.
  • Moriarty appears in a short story by The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, set during Holmes's three-year fake "death", Holmes encounters Moriarty during his trip in Tibet, where he learns that Moriarty is actually "the Dark One", a former Tibetan mystic possessing great psychic powers who lost his memories in an attack on the Dalai Lama, only for his near-death experience on the Reichenbach Falls to restore his memory, albeit leaving him horribly crippled and disfigured by his injuries. He attempts to acquire a legendary crystal that would allow him to wield even greater power, but, although Moriarty acquires the crystal, boosting his powers and healing his injuries, he is defeated when it is revealed that Holmes is partly possessed by the spirit of the Dark One's old rival, allowing Holmes to wield similar powers to Moriarty's and delay him long enough for Holmes's ally, Huree Chunder Mockerjee, to knock the crystal away from Moriarty and into Holmes's hands, allowing Holmes to turn Moriarty's powers against him, vaporising his body and destroying him once and for all.
  • In The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King, an elderly Holmes and his protégée, Mary Russell, are pursued by Moriarty's middle-aged daughter, also an Oxford mathematics don, and a criminal kingpin in her own right, who threatens Holmes's remaining friends as she attempts to force Holmes to kill himself after signing a fake confession 'admitting' he framed her father as a criminal out of jealousy and that most of his cases were solved by others. The detective provokes her by noting that her father essentially committed suicide by confronting Holmes in such an isolated spot without any weapon, which results in her accidentally shooting herself while struggling with Mary Russell.
  • In the Italian comic book Martin Mystère Moriarty wasn't killed at Reichenbach Falls. Both he and Holmes survived and continued with their previous works. At the beginning of World War I, Moriarty stole a formula for poison gas from the British government. When he attempted to sell the formula to the Central Powers, he was discovered by Holmes, who killed Moriarty, but only after Moriarty managed to fatally wound Doctor Watson.[34]
  • In Anthony Horowitz' 2011 novel, The House of Silk, the first "official" (authorized by Doyle's estate) Holmes story since Doyle's death, a chapter is dedicated to Watson's meeting with a secretive criminal mastermind. This character is not definitively identified, however it is heavily implied that he is James Moriarty. Watson later states that he believes this to be the case, and in an appendix Horowitz states the identity of the character outright. Moriarty also appears as a corpse in the sequel to this novel, in which Pinkerton detective Frederick Chase is investigating the events that took place at the Reichenbach Falls. However it turns out at the end of the book that the corpse in fact belonged to a man murdered by Moriarty and that Frederick Chase is himself Moriarty in disguise.
  • In various books in David Weber's "Honorverse" series, the name Moriarty has been applied to a defensive weapon system developed by the Republic of Haven. The system is deployed as a missile fire control system, for system defense against naval assaults. The concept, while easily countered by "Mistletoe" missiles (a variation of the "skipper" missiles seen in the movie Wing Commander), is nonetheless the inspiration for the Manticoran development of the "Mycroft" defensive weapon system in A Rising Thunder.
  • In Artemis Fowl, the first book in the young adult Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, LEPrecon officer Jullius Root remarks about the criminal mastermind Fowl's criminal activities and his abduction of officer Holly Short: "Too much damned TV. Thinks he's Sherlock Holmes". Foaly corrects him, saying "...That's professor Moriarty ... Holmes, Moriarty, they both look the same with the flesh scorched off their skulls.'"
  • In Paco Ignacio Taibo II's "The Return of the Tigers of Malaysia", Dr James Moriarty appears as the mastermind behind the attacks on Sandokan and his friend Yanez.
  • In Emma Jane Holloway's Baskerville Affair trilogy of steampunk novels, the young James Moriarty is a junior professor of mathematics at Cambridge University who moonlights as a henchman for one of the steam barons, but has his own criminal agenda.
  • Peter Grant, protagonist of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, on several occasions wonders whether his own arch-enemy - the evil magician known as "The Faceless Man" - is equal to Moriarty in criminal cunning. After being the target of an especially audacious coup, which leaves Grant deeply hurt emotionally as well as physically, Grant concludes that The Faceless Man does indeed fully qualify as "a Moriarty".


  • In the Frank Keenan (1928), John Miltern (1929–30) and Philip Locke, Clive Revill and Alan Sues from 1974–76.
  • In the play Sherlock Holmes by Ouida Rathbone (wife of actor Basil Rathbone), which ran at the New Century Theatre in New York City for only three performances from 30–31 October 1953, Moriarty was played by Thomas Gomez.
  • Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke played Holmes and Watson in the Sherlock Holmes TV series made by Granada Television. Eric Porter played the professor. In the late 1980s, Brett and Hardwicke appeared in the stage play The Secret of Sherlock Holmes by Jeremy Paul, a regular contributor to the series. The only characters in the play are Holmes and Watson and it highlights many aspects of their relationship from their first meeting to the Reichenbach Falls. In the second half it is indicated that Moriarty never existed: he was a figment of the imagination of Holmes who needed a worthy enemy as much as he needed a devoted friend like Watson. In The Final Problem, Watson and Moriarty never actually meet in person.[31]


  • In the cartoon Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, Moriarty (voiced by Richard Newman) was the one behind nearly all the crimes. He had been cloned back to life by a rogue geneticist, requiring Holmes to be 'resurrected' as well in order to match him. The body of the original Moriarty was still covered in ice behind the waterfall he fell from during his battle with Holmes.
  • John Huston portrayed Moriarty in the made-for-TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York opposite Roger Moore's Holmes, attempting to rob the Bank of New York while threatening Irene Adler's son to prevent Holmes from investigating, although Holmes and Watson are able to rescue the son and solve the crime, regardless.
  • In the Soviet series of television films The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson by Igor Maslennikov, Moriarty was played by Viktor Yevgrafov and voiced by Oleg Dahl in the second film of the series.
  • In the Russian-produced Sherlock Holmes series by Andrey Kavun, Moriarty was played by actor Alexey Gorbunov.
  • A Data (rather than Sherlock Holmes).
  • Moriarty appears as a holographic character in the Futurama episode "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch", where he comes out of the Holoshed of the Nimbus with Attila the Hun, Jack The Ripper, and Evil (Abraham) Lincoln.
  • In The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It, Connie Booth plays Moriarty's granddaughter, Francine, who is disguised as the modern-day Mrs. Hudson.
  • In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Trials of the Demon!", both Holmes and Watson guest star. Watson mentions Moriarty, suggesting he might be the one responsible for stealing the souls of women (the real culprit is Jim Craddock). Holmes quickly ruled out Moriarty as a suspect based on the choice of weapon.
  • "Elementary My Dear Winston", the third episode for the 1989 season of The Real Ghostbusters, features Holmes, Watson and Moriarty by way of "belief made manifest": so many people believed in them that they became real. Moriarty now has supernatural powers and employs the Hound of the Baskervilles as his henchman. Holmes and Moriarty are both sucked into the Ghostbusters' storage facility while wrestling, in the same manner as the conclusion of "The Final Problem".
  • Anthropomorphic incarnation of Moriarty appeared in the anime series Sherlock Hound, voiced by Chikao Ōtsuka for Japanese and Hamilton Camp for English. During the series, Moriarty is the main villain behind every crime in almost each episode. As many characters were depicted as an anthropomorphic dogs, Moriarty himself is seen closely resembling wolf.[26]
  • James "Jim" Moriarty is played by actor Andrew Scott in the modern-day BBC adaptation, Sherlock, as a "consulting criminal" who develops a murderous obsession with Holmes.[27] In the Series 2 finale "The Reichenbach Fall", he frames Holmes and threatens his friends to drive him to suicide. He seemingly shoots himself to make sure Holmes commits suicide. However, at the end of "His Last Vow", his face appears on TV screens across the country as a mostly static image, only the mouth moving, similar to that of a ventriloquist's dummy.
  • Moriarty appeared in two episodes of the animated series BraveStarr.
  • In the US television series Elementary, Moriarty is equated with Irene Adler (played by Natalie Dormer). As with Moriarty, she is first mentioned in the twelfth episode of the first season ("M"). Holmes tracks an apparent serial killer who uses the name "M"; upon his capture, he is discovered to be Sebastian Moran, Moriarty's henchman, whose seemingly random murders were actually assassinations carried out for his employer, whom he claims to have never met. In the season finale, "Irene Adler" is revealed to be an alias created by Moriarty in order to get close to Holmes and observe him (a male voice who spoke to Holmes as "Moriarty" over the telephone is revealed to be a hired actor). The episode "We Are Everyone" reveals her true name as Jamie Moriarty and she continues to write letters to Sherlock from prison.[28]
  • In the Russian television series Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty is a mathematics professor (played by Alexey Gorbunov) who attempts to assassinate the Queen. He appeared as the head of a London-wide criminal network called "The Cabmen Gang".
  • In the NHK puppetry Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty is tall and blond deputy headmaster of Beeton School where Holmes and Watson study and live, and has a face with two different aspects: one of which looks calm but the other looks severe. Though he always behaves gentlemanly, he is strict with pupils especially Holmes who behaves at his own pace.[29] He usually calls a pupil by his/her given name and surname and Watson is called "John Hamish Watson" by him.[30] He is voiced by Masashi Ebara.[29]


  • Leo McKern portrayed a comedic Moriarty in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes's Smarter Brother.
  • Laurence Olivier appeared as Moriarty in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976). However, in this version he is not the story's villain, but merely a harmless man who becomes an increasingly paranoid victim of Holmes's delusions, based on the fact that Moriarty indirectly contributed to the death of Holmes's mother, who was his lover.
  • In Young Sherlock Holmes, Anthony Higgins plays Holmes's schoolmaster, Rathe, who turns out to be an evil mastermind. During the long credit roll at the end of the film, Rathe is seen walking to an inn and signs the ledger as "Moriarty", indicating he will become Holmes's archenemy. Higgins portrayed Holmes in Sherlock Holmes Returns, making him one of only two actors to portray both Holmes and Moriarty on film (Richard Roxburgh being the other; Orson Welles played both Holmes and Moriarty on radio programs.)
  • In the Disney animated film The Great Mouse Detective, the character called "Professor Ratigan" (the nemesis of Basil of Baker Street, the film's Holmes-trained hero) is an obvious parallel and tribute to the character of Moriarty. Basil also describes Ratigan as "The Napoleon of Crime", the same designation Holmes gave Moriarty in "The Final Problem". After his plan to replace the Queen fails, Ratigan is killed when he falls off Big Ben after a clash with Basil. Ratigan was voiced by Vincent Price.
  • Paul Freeman appeared as Moriarty in Without a Clue (1988); the film revolves around the premise that Holmes is a fictional creation of Watson, who is the real crime-solving genius. Moriarty is apparently aware of the deception, with 'Holmes's clearly terrified at the thought of facing him, although he shows his skills when facing Moriarty in a duel at the film's conclusion.
  • Anthony Andrews appeared as Moriarty in Hands of a Murderer.
  • In the anime film Case Closed: The Phantom of Baker Street, Professor Moriarty tells Conan that he trained Jack the Ripper when Jack was a street urchin. The professor gives the children a clue about the next victim, who turns out to be Irene Adler, Holmes's only love.
  • Vincent D'Onofrio appeared as Moriarty in Sherlock: Case of Evil.
  • In The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), the film adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore, Richard Roxburgh portrays the main antagonist named the Phantom, whose true identity was eventually revealed to be Professor James Moriarty, who also posed as the League's recruiter M; with a blackmailed Dorian Gray as his agent, Moriarty acquired samples from the League with the intention of duplicating their powers for his own goals. Three clues to the Phantom's real name were subtly slipped into the course of the film's dialogue. In the climax, Moriarty alludes that he somehow survived his confrontation with Holmes at Reichenbach. After a confrontation with Allan Quatermain ends with him stabbing Quatermain in the back while he is distracted, he is shot down by Tom Sawyer (with Quatermain's rifle) while trying to escape. Roxburgh also portrayed Holmes in the 2002 TV adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, making him one of the only two actors to portray both Holmes and Moriarty on film (Anthony Higgins being the other).
  • In the 2009 film, Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty appears as a shadowy, mysterious villain employing Irene Adler. The role is uncredited; director Guy Ritchie declined to reveal the actor who voiced the role.[22] Jared Harris played the role in the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.[23][24] In addition to his credentials as a mathematical genius, celebrated author and lecturer, he is described as a boxing champion during his school days at Cambridge, and a close friend and consultant of the British Prime Minister. Mycroft Holmes describes Moriarty as one of England's foremost intellectuals. During the film, he attempts to provoke a war using advanced weaponry that he has developed (Moriarty was perpetrating a similar scheme as the Phantom in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) while sending an assassin into a crucial conference using an early form of plastic surgery. With Watson having deduced his assassin's identity while Moriarty is occupied in a chess game with Holmes, Moriarty and Holmes clash, with the fight ending as Holmes pulls Moriarty over the edge of a balcony into a waterfall, knowing that he cannot defeat Moriarty in a direct fight due to a recent injury and wanting to protect Watson from Moriarty's revenge. Although Holmes is shown to have survived at the end, Moriarty's fate is left ambiguous.
  • In the 2010 Warner Brothers cartoon Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty (voiced by Malcolm McDowell) appears as a jewel thief and was assisted by some evil cats. A comparison to his role in "The Red-Headed League" is also made.



Depictions and references

The model which Conan Doyle himself cited (through Sherlock Holmes) in The Valley of Fear is the London arch-criminal of the 18th century, Jonathan Wild. He mentions this when seeking to compare Moriarty to a real-world character that Inspector Alec MacDonald might know, but it is in vain as MacDonald is not so well read as Holmes. It is averred that surviving Jesuit priests at the preparatory school Hodder Place, Stonyhurst, instantly recognized the physical description of Moriarty as that of the Rev. Thomas Kay, SJ, Prefect of Discipline, under whose aegis Doyle fell as a wayward pupil. According to this hypothesis, Doyle as a private joke has Inspector MacDonald describe Moriarty: "He'd have made a grand meenister with his thin face and grey hair and his solemn-like way of talking."[21]

Jane Stanford, in That Irishman, suggests that Conan Doyle borrowed some of the traits and background of the Fenian John O'Connor Power for his portrayal of Moriarty.[20]


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