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Why Doctor Strange Is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Best Role (& 8 Reasons His Sherlock Holmes Was Better)

With Benedict Cumberbatch having announced that he will be taking a short break from acting after Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madnessmany fans are glad to see the English actor carve out some personal time for himself. Not only has he spent the last six years dedicating his life to playing the iconic Doctor Strange, but, years before that, he had also spent a bit of time playing the world’s greatest detective in Sherlock too.

It’s not at all surprising to fans that he wants to take a break since these roles have been quite arduous and time-consuming. They have required Cumberbatch to push himself out of his comfort zone and explore himself creatively. However, fans will forever be grateful for his dedication since these roles have proven to be some of his best and most memorable. Other actors definitely have big shoes to fill if they decide to take up these mantles after him.


Updated on May 16th, 2022 by Kayleigh Banks: With news that Benedict Cumberbatch had almost played Malekith the Accused in Thor: The Dark World (via NME), many fans have been contemplating how different the movie could have been if he had taken up the role. While it’s likely that he would have done just as amazing in the role, there is a small part of fans that are kind of glad that he turned the role down since this would have meant he wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to play the memorable Doctor Strange. Just like his portrayal of Sherlock, fans cannot imagine anyone else playing the powerful MCU sorcerer. It is a role that perfectly suits him well.  

Table of Contents

Why Doctor Strange Is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Best Role

Wears His Heart On His Sleeve

Doctor Strange and Christine in hospital, Doctor Strange film

While Sherlock and Doctor Strange share many of the same character similarities, what makes the former Sorcerer Supreme different is his ability to still empathize. In the beginning, audiences think he’s a jerk and narcissistic (much like Sherlock). But Sherlock is this way due to his inability to understand human emotions.

Doctor Strange changes after his accident and comes to see the world a bit differently. The loss of his career and his most prized possession has him feeling distraught. But, he had a soft spot for his love interest that shows more than Sherlock. He learns the ways of magic and comes to realize his new purpose is to protect the other realms and humanity.

The Visuals Help Bring The Character To Life

Doctor Strange Learning Magic in Doctor Strange film

Cumberbatch is often described as being the only actor who could have brought to life the character of Doctor Strange. Besides his superb acting skills, what made the film so dynamic was its visuals. It’s even more impressive to see behind-the-scenes shots of Cumberbatch embodying the role in front of a green screen.

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The movie had an array of filming locations, like Kathmandu, where Doctor Strange was trying to find the Ancient One. The characters wouldn’t be anywhere without the use of editing to make their magic come to life.

The Tie To A Grander MCU Story

Strange with Iron Man, Hulk and Wong in Avengers: Infinity War

Cumberbatch’s first time on screen as Doctor Strange was only the beginning of his involvement in the MCU. This is what made his role so riveting.

Audiences knew that the introduction of this character could lead to new possibilities to interweave multiple storylines with different characters. It was a treat to see Cumberbatch not as the comic book character alongside others in things like Avengers: Infinity War.

A More Mature Character

Strange and time stone in Avengers: Infinity War

When comparing the characteristics of Doctor Strange and Sherlock, Sherlock tends to be more immature. Cumberbatch manages to show this immaturity well on screen with Sherlock not liking people’s inability to do simple tasks.  When it comes to Doctor Strange, there’s a level of maturity that’s admirable that Cumberbatch is also able to display.

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While still having his wits and tricks while learning magic, he takes things seriously and is willing to learn. He’s also open to the help of others like Wong (Benedict Wong) and understands that things can’t be done alone. He also understands the gravity of his and others’ actions.

He’s More Susceptible To The Impossible

Strange learning from the ancient one in Doctor Strange

A vast difference between how Cumberbatch plays Sherlock and Doctor Strange is their world views. In terms of Sherlock, he believes in logic and absolute, which is why Cumberbatch plays him so stoic and to the point. At one point in the show, Sherlock says the line, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

What makes Doctor Strange so intriguing to watch in comparison is that he leaves logic and facts behind. Once he enters the world of magic, his basis for reason is the impossible. It’s a radical shift in character development. Doctor Strange was once so materialistic and believed in facts and comes to be the guardian of the realm on Earth.

Friendship With Other MCU Characters

An image of Doctor Strange, Iron Man, and Peter Parker looking at the ceiling in Avengers Infinity War

While John and Sherlock will always have one of the most memorable friendships on TV, the dynamics that the MCU set up are far more intriguing to the world. With the likes of Multiverse of Madness introducing new characters, such as Xochitl Gomez’s America Chavez and Charlize Theron’s Clea, the MCU’s growing roster gives actors a chance to work with people they may have never crossed paths with before.

There are also a lot of unpredictable friendships that can be formed in this universe too, with Cumberbatch’s Strange having struck up a memorable dynamic with Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, and Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. If fans are desperate to see Cumberbatch work with another actor, then the MCU can give him the opportunity to do so.

The Movie Allowed Him To Try A New Genre And Test Himself

An image of Doctor Strange using his powers in Multiverse of Madness

With Cumberbatch having already made a name for himself for playing ‘famous geniuses’ (as seen by Sherlock, The Imitation Gameand Hawking), there was a small risk that he might have begun to typecast himself in this role since they were all quite similar.

However, when it comes to Doctor Strange, Cumberbatch did get the opportunity to push out of his comfort zone and experiement with a new genre (which, in turn, made him a much more rounded actor).

Doctor Strange Is A Lot More Relatable/Flawed

An image of Doctor Strange looking concerned in the movies

Considering that several episodes are told from the perspective of John Watson, sometimes it can be hard to emotionally connect with Sherlock due to the fact that the story can leave out key bits of information. However, this does not occur in the Doctor Strange movies.

Throughout the 6 movies he has appeared in, the directors always let the viewers know what Strange is thinking at all times. They can see when he is struggling, they know what he is planning, and they are able to get a lot more insight into who he is as a person. Although Sherlock does have his flaws, Stephen Strange is just a bit more relatable.

Why Sherlock Holmes Is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Best Role

More Mystery To The Character

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock in BBC show

In Doctor Strange, audiences and fans get the backstory of how he came to be. He was once an arrogant and renowned surgeon who loses his ability to have steady hands after a car crash. He then goes on a journey to discover himself and learns the ways of magic. It was just so straightforward.

However, Benedict’s Sherlock is more mysterious. Fans only really know the character because of his notoriety from the acclaimed books and other adaptations. In the show, little is originally known of Sherlock and only small tidbits about his complex mind come to light.

His Unique Ability For Crime Deductions

Sherlock Holmes and Watson season 1 of Sherlock

Sherlock and Doctor Strange are both highly intellectual in their own fields but Cumberbatch’s Sherlock takes the cake when it comes to his ability to solve crimes and its thrill. This is one of the reasons why the show is so much more fun to watch. It’s a journey into the complex mind of Sherlock and how he is able to see what others can’t.

Cumberbatch’s ability to portray this on-screen is also why it’s so entertaining. While many know that the level of deduction is hard to come by in real life, Cumberbatch makes it convincing on-screen and even at times has viewers in awe.

There’s A Different Form Of Complexity

Sherlock Holmes in red suit in BBC Sherlock

While Doctor Strange’s complexity comes from the fact that he thrusts himself into the world of magic and alternate dimensions, Sherlock’s complexity comes from his mind. Fans know that in order for Strange to be able to do magic, he has to control his mind.

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For Sherlock, his mind is his biggest advantage and worst enemy. Sherlock’s ability to access his mind leads to complexity when solving cases but also to his overall persona. Since his mind is so advanced, it leads to social issues as well as possible issues with substance abuse. At times, he goes down the rabbit hole into the dark corners of his mind and is unable to quiet the noise. Cumberbatch portrayed this in an incredible way that had fans applauding him.

A Much Darker And Aloof Character

Sherlock and Molly played by Louise Brealey in BBC Sherlock

An aspect of Sherlock Holmes that Cumberbatch nailed were his social issues as well as the inability to show empathy for others. Sherlock is a good detective but doesn’t understand the concept of why others are upset at things he does or says.

Cumberbatch’s portrayal of this took things to a new level that wasn’t seen before and nor is it seen in Doctor Strange. There’s a cold chill to Sherlock because he sees himself as intellectually superior to others. But it’s also comical as he makes jokes about social cues that annoy him. There’s the moment when his friend finds a head in the fridge and Sherlock is indifferent to it. The aloofness of the character comes from Sherlock doing what he pleases without regard for others.

The Power Play Between Sherlock And Others

Sherlock as Watson's wedding in BBC Sherlock

The power play between Doctor Strange and Sherlock are different in certain aspects. Doctor Strange has a unique power over the other Avengers because he has the ability to use magic, the time stone, and see alternate dimensions. However, Sherlock’s power play is different and Cumberbatch executes it swimmingly.

It’s what makes the character more fun to watch as he disregards certain people like Anderson because his mere presence annoys him. Unlike Doctor Strange, Sherlock takes control of a situation no matter what and twists it to his fancy. Often leaving others unable to do anything. His intellect also plays a role because no one surmounts to his level unless it’s Moriarty (Andrew Scott).

Each Episode Allows For More Character Growth And Creates New Challenges

An image of Sherlock looking into a restaurant while John has a drink in the BBC Series

Although Stephen Strange has appeared in 6 movies so far (not counting his TV appearances), some fans have felt that his character development has been limited. Other than the fact that he’s not so arrogant anymore and has become a mentor for several MCU characters, Strange hasn’t really had much of an impactful storyline.

RELATED: 9 Times Sam Raimi Went Full Evil Dead With Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness

However, this is not the case with Sherlock. When it comes to Sherlock, the audience got to see Cumberbatch’s character overcome new challenges/cases every week (which, in turn, allowed the viewers to see other sides to his personality be explored). They saw him go head-to-head with Moriarty, the writers develop his long and arduous friendship with John, and they were also given insight to Sherlock’s childhood. The viewers also got to connect with Sherlock on a personal level too, with his storylines showing that the detective was just as flawed and humane as everyone else. This role did make for a much better character study.

His Character Is A Lot More Memorable In Comparison To The Others

A collage photo of Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes smiling in the movies

Up to now, Benedict Cumberbatch is the only actor to have portrayed Stephen Strange in a live action movie. While Cumberbatch does put in a unique performance as one of MCU most powerful sorcerers, many fans would agree that it isn’t as memorable as the one he gives in Sherlock due to the fact that there have been plenty of iterations of the fictional detective before.

With Peter Cushing, Robert Downey Jr., and Johnny Lee Miller having all provided a memorable performance as the world’s best detective, it is a testament to Cumberbatch’s acting that he is considered to be the “greatest” (via Digital Spy). Maybe it is because he manages to capture Holmes’ intelligence perfectly, brings a new type of snark to his interactions, or simply because each season allows viewers to work out the cases alongside him, Cumberbatch’s portrayal just felt more enjoyable.

He Isn’t Overshadowed By Other Aspects/Elements

An exhausted Sherlock looking at someone offscreen in the BBC Series

Although the Doctor Strange movies are quite enjoyable due to the fact that they are full of action, engaging storylines, and some fresh dynamics between characters, there is just one problem. Sometimes, the audiences aren’t really paying attention to the actors’ performances because there is so much going on (which, sadly, proves the case with Cumberbatch’s role).

However, in Sherlock, it is the opposite case. Since the show is heavily focused on realism and drama, there is not much need for CGI (which means that the actors’ performances are in the forefront of the audiences’ minds). Cumberbatch was truly able to shine in this role.

NEXT: All Doctor Strange Variants In Multiverse Of Madness, Ranked


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