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This Villain was Headlined on September, 2014.

He is a man of good birth and excellent education, endowed by nature with a phenomenal mathematical faculty. At the age of 21, he wrote A Treatise on 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 rumors gathered around 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, the organizer of half that is evil and nearly all that is undetected in this great city...
~ Sherlock Holmes about Professor Moriarty in "The Final Problem".

Professor James Moriarty is the main antagonist of the Sherlock Holmes franchise. He is a high-level crime lord in London, Sebastian Moran's boss and the archenemy of Sherlock Holmes, being famously described as the "Napoleon of Crime" and the most dangerous enemy Holmes has ever faced. While he only played a major role in two novels (technically one, since the other novel has him only mentioned as the Big Bad), Moriarty gained popularity from fans and critics alike for being Sherlock's most dangerous enemy to date and said popularity integrated him as the main antagonist of the greater Sherlock Holmes media, most notably in films and television.

Moriarty is widely considered to be the greatest fictional archenemy in fictional history. He was portrayed by the late George Zucco (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Jared Harris (A Game of Shadows) and most recently Andrew Scott (Sherlock).


It seems a pity, but I have done what I could. I know every move of your game. You can do nothing before Monday. It has been a duel between you and me, Mr. Holmes. You hope to place me in the dock. I tell you that I will never stand in the dock. You hope to beat me. I tell you that you will never beat me. If you are clever enough to bring destruction upon me, rest assured that I shall do as much to you.
~ Professor Moriarty in "The Final Problem".

Professor Moriarty's past is vastly unknown and even the parts that are known are debatably untrue. He is noted to be of good birth and excellent education and was a scientific and mathematical genius. He is introduced in the series as someone who is publicly worshiped for his accomplishments in science and technology and is a mathematics professor at a famed university. It is explained in one particular adaption that he grew apart from his family because of his diabolical ambitions. He has at least one brother, a colonel also called James.

Moriarty was eventually put into contact with several criminals in Britain and quickly realized that they lacked any organization or precision, which as a mathematical genius, he would be perfectly capable of reading with tactical magnificence. He was already renowned as extremely accomplished, having written works on the Binomial Theorem that have been internationally acclaimed. However, underneath his mask of benign and benevolent professorship at the university, he was actually a cunning and formidable figure in the criminal underworld.

He operated as follows: he organized burglaries, heists, extortion and so forth on a regular basis, but with a certain sophistication that lacked brutality or unnecessary bloodshed. If one of the people working for him was caught in their crimes, then Moriarty would anonymously place a substantial amount of money to pay for their defense in court. The money was not only to enable him to go free, but also to subtly order him not to expose the identity of his employer.

Meeting Sherlock Holmes

My dear Watson, I write these few lines through the courtesy of Mr. Moriarty, who awaits my convenience for the final discussion of those questions which lie between us. He has been giving me a sketch of the methods by which he avoided the English police and kept himself informed of our movements. They certainly confirm the very high opinion which I had formed of his abilities. I am pleased to think that I shall be able to free society from any further effects of his presence, though I fear that it is at a cost which will give pain to my friends, and especially, my dear Watson, to you. I have already explained to you, however, that my career had in any case reached its crisis, and that no possible conclusion to it could be more congenial to me than this.
Indeed, if I may make a full confession to you, I was quite convinced that the letter from Meiringen was a hoax, and I allowed you to depart on that errand under the persuasion that some development of this sort would follow. Tell Inspector Patterson that the papers which he needs to convict the gang are in pigeonhole M., done up in a blue envelope and inscribed "Moriarty." I made every disposition of my property before leaving England, and handed it to my brother Mycroft. Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow. Very sincerely yours, Sherlock Holmes
~ Sherlock's letter, predicting the results and consequences of him meeting Moriarty, and his final farewell to Watson.

Professor Moriarty's incredible methods of organizing crime on such a great scale eventually attracted the attention of the detective Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes made a series of inquiries and personal missions into the investigation of Moriarty's gang. He eventually succeeded in exposing certain high-ranking members of the gang to the police, provoking Moriarty to personally take matters into his own hands. He visited Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street, where they both established both of their respect for the other's intelligence and accomplishments.

During this confrontation, Moriarty established that Sherlock's continuing investigations into Moriarty's operation has left Moriarty with no other alternative but to personally rain hell on the detective. He declared that, if he didn't cease to pursue Moriarty, Moriarty would destroy him in the worst possible way. Holmes, though being scared and extremely nervous around Moriarty, calmly refused to stop his investigation, rebuking Moriarty's threat by daring him to try and destroy him, and to reap the consequences that followed. Unable to persuade Holmes, Moriarty left.

However, throughout the rest of the day, Moriarty made it abundantly clear that he was not to be trifled with at all. He organized three attempts on the detective's life: firstly, one of his men tried to drop a brick on Holmes's head, which missed by the breadth of a hair. Later on, another of his men tried to run him over with a speeding hansom. Thirdly, Holmes arrived back at Baker Street only for a thug to ambush him with a bludgeon. Holmes overpowered the thug and arrested him, but Moriarty anonymously paid for his release as per his code of honor. These were not meant to kill him, as it turns out, but to intimidate him into relinquishing his investigation, which he did not.

In an apparent attempt to flee from the ruthless megalomaniac, Holmes and Watson travelled to Switzerland for the week, specifically to Meiringen, the village residing next to the famous Reichenbach Falls (A colossal waterfall dropping into a frothing and violently churning whirlpool). Moriarty used the last remaining member of his gang, Sebastian Moran, to hunt down Holmes and to manipulate people into diverting Watson out of the equation, leaving Moriarty to face Holmes himself.

The two men met one final time on a ledge atop the Reichenbach Falls. Holmes took his time to write a farewell letter for Watson to find, expressing that he was about to confront Moriarty and that, one way or another, Holmes had rid the world of any terrible effects his gang may have had in the future. He also sorrowfully expressed the belief that he would not survive the confrontation with Moriarty, and his excruciating acknowledgement of how it would affect Watson. He later left the note along with his deerstalker for Watson to find, and turned to face Moriarty. The two men engaged in a climactic fight, in which they were both a painfully even match. However, lost in the intensity of the struggle, the two men fell from the precipice and plummeted down the Falls.

The two men separated during the fall, and Sherlock survived when he hit the whirlpool. It is as yet unknown if Moriarty survived, but, him being Holmes's arch-nemesis, fans widely theorized that he had.

Moriarty is mentioned but not seen in the novella The Valley of Fear, which is set before The Final Problem. Here he is depicted as running a "criminal consulting agency," which liaises with various criminal organizations. Moriarty arranges the death of John Douglas, a former Pinkerton detective, as a favour for the Vermissa Valley Gang, a group of corrupt union officials who had been arrested by Douglas. Moriarty's men killed Douglas in spite of Holmes's attempt to save him, an act which puts Holmes forever at odds with Moriarty.

Anthony Horowitz's spin-off series

In the widely acclaimed book Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, Professor Moriarty appears as the titular main protagonist. However, his identity is not revealed until the very end. He introduces himself as American detective Frederick Chase. In the book, he works alongside Detective Inspector Athelney Jones of Scotland Yard, who has appeared briefly in an actual Conan Doyle work. Athelney Jones has been indirectly humiliated by Sherlock Holmes in the past, and this has rendered him unhealthily obsessed with Holmes' methods so that he could one day be worthy of the Great Detective.

Throughout the book, the two of them are tasked with hunting down an American criminal mastermind named Clarence Devereux, whom Chase claims to have been hunting down throughout his life. They are hunted across London by Devereux's henchmen, named the Mortlake Brothers, as well as a juvenile sadist named Perry and the mostly unseen Sebastian Moran. A violent game of cat and mouse erupts between Chase and Jones, versus Devereux, right up until they are captured by Devereux and nearly killed. Devereux is planning to replace Moriarty as the criminal mastermind of London. The two men escape and Devereux is captured.

After being sentenced, Chase and Jones transport the man via a Black Maria coach. However, Perry and Moran appear and ambush the coach. Chase or Moriarty is forced to kill Athelney Jones, a decision he admits he regrets inside. Moriarty then tells the reader about the events of The Final Problem, as he was in fact on the run from Clarence Devereux due to Devereux had moved from America to take Moriarty's empire all for himself. Moriarty deeply disliked Devereux: The American's methods were sadistic, brutal and extremely violent, not at all like the calculated, subtle 'sportsmanship' that Moriarty utilizes. At the same time, he was in danger of being overthrown by Sherlock Holmes.

He arranged to hunt down Sherlock Holmes, sending assassins after him throughout The Final Problem to exert pressure, to hurt, not to kill, each of which Holmes had overcome. It turns out that Moriarty had planned the events surrounding his conflict with the detective right down to their final fight. When they finally met at Reichenbach and fought, Moriarty and Holmes fell but they both escape. Holmes remained unaware of Moriarty's survival, but Moriarty knew Holmes survived but wouldn't bother him if he thought he was dead. Then, Moriarty changed his appearance and identity to become Detective Frederick Chase.

At the end of the novel, Moriarty takes Clarence Devereux prisoner and plans to interrogate the American until he exposed every location, identity and strategy in his organization so Moriarty could start another criminal empire in America. He then plans to murder Devereux in recognition of the difficulties the American put Moriarty through.

Other Media

Sherlock Hound

Main article: Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Hound)

In this anime adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty is an anthropomorphic canine, specifically a wolf. Unlike his original humble, rarely appearing counterpart, this depiction is comical with delusions of grandeur. He is the self-proclaimed mastermind behind overly complicated schemes that ultimately fail due to his short-sightedness or incompetence of his two bumbling henchmen, Smiley and Todd.

The Real Ghostbusters

Moriarty appeared in an episode of The Real Ghostbusters "Elementary, My Dear Winston".

Professor Moriarty was once an academic genius who resigned from his position at a college. He relocated to London and became a criminal mastermind responsible for at least half the crime in the city. Moriarty met his end when he and the titular detective fell to each other's deaths in a battle at Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland (though it was later revealed that Sherlock actually survived). Even though none of the characters in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels were real, many fans believed them to be real, which caused ghostly versions of them to manifest. James Moriarty's ghost went to New York with the Hound of the Baskervilles in search of evil energy, which would enable him to solidify into a real person.

Moriarty went to the Containment Unit and attempted to open it to absorb the evil energy of the ghosts imprisoned within it, but he retreated when he heard the Ghostbusters coming. He then went on to absorb evil energy from various items often associated with evil, such as weapons at the Museum of Crime uptown and crime novels at the New York City Public Library.

He then decided to return to the Firehouse and succeed where he had failed. He opened the Unit and began to absorb the evil energy, but was foiled because the Ghostbusters had also met Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson's ghosts. Holmes went into the Unit with Moriarty, mirroring their climactic battle. Watson then went into the Unit with the two. Moriarty was last seen in the Containment Unit covering his ears as Holmes played the Ghostbusters theme song on his violin.


Main article: Jamie Moriarty

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Professor Moriarty in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

In Alan Moore's series The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Moriarty serves as the main antagonist of Volume 1. In this iteration, Moriarty states that MI5 hired him out of university and had him pose as a crime lord so that the British government could control and monitor the criminal underworld. After his battle with Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls, Moriarty quickly ascended to the rank of director while his minions took care of his criminal organization. After a rival crime lord named The Doctor stole the Cavorite, an anti-gravity metal, from MI5, Moriarty had his underling Campion Bond assemble Mina Murray, Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde and Hawley Griffin to get it back for him, and went under the alias "Mr. M" to avoid suspicion (the League ironically believing that "M" was Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's brother). After having the Cavorite returned to him, Moriarty subsequently used it to power his War Chariot and began bombing London't East End in an effort to kill both The Doctor and the League (the latter to avoid having witnesses).

However, the League caught wind of Moriarty's plan and assaulted his War Chariot. Moriarty was ultimately foiled when Murray smashes the container holding the Cavorite, which starts to float towards the atmosphere. Refusing to lose such a potent part of his plan, Moriarty clings to the Cavorite and subsequently drifts into outer space. In a later volume, Century: 1910, Moriarty is found frozen solid in space while still clinging to the Cavorite.

Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes

In this cartoon movie, Moriarty is behind some diamond thefts which are done by three cats. When Tom, Jerry, Tuffy and Sherlock Holmes' client Red are following the cats while Holmes and Watson follow false clues, Red tries to hide herself and the others at the house of a family friend. This friend actually turns out to be Moriarty, who waited for Red who got the diamond the cats have just stolen.

Moriarty explains his plan: using all the mirrors placed in London, he uses the diamonds for a laser canon to burn a hole into the Tower, planning to steal the jewels. After stealing the jewels and being followed by Holmes and Watson, Moriarty finally falls into the River Thames, then he's arrested by Droopy, along with the Cats. Like in A Game of Shadows, Moriarty's got a beard in this movie.

This characterization is voiced by Malcolm McDowell.

Sherlock Holmes video game series

Moriarty appears in the Sherlock Holmes series developed by Frogwares. In Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, Holmes encounters Moriarty locked in a Swiss mental hospital in 1895 (four years after "The Final Problem"), where the Professor has suffered severe brain injuries from the Falls. Not recognising 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.

In 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."

Moriarty returns in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, as the main antagonist. He is plotting to create anarchy using a poison that induces madness, mass-produced by Scheilman and mixed into Prince Woodville's soup carts, feeding it to the poor of London to make them riot and kill anyone in their way before succumbing to the poison, causing the deaths of thousands. Moriarty also plots to remove the Queen from power, creating mass hysteria and a power vacuum that the newly popular Prince Woodville would fill, while Moriarty will control him and, in turn, the British Armed Forces. He also aims to discredit and frame Holmes, because he is the only one who can stop him and wants revenge for how Holmes used him in Switzerland, and hired three Russian brothers that have made bombs that will go off via radio transmitter, at key locations including Scotland Yard. Holmes also learns that Moriarty is not in control, but is merely a puppet of Scheilman. They use a newly acquired bomb to destroy the poison-making factory, killing most of his henchmen and badly burning Moriarty. He returns, brandishing a gun at Holmes and Watson in his quarters. However, Scheilman, affected by his own poison, attacks and savagely bites Moriarty. He shoots him in response, but is too late to save himself. With his dying breath, Moriarty, asks Holmes to take care of his daughter, saying he is the only one worthy to teach her.

In Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter, Moriarty's death continues to haunt Holmes due to the fact that Sherlock adopted Moriarty's daughter Katelyn and is living in fear of her discovering the truth about her father and following in his footsteps. After Kate is kidnapped, Holmes discovers Moriarty's crypt and a message he left for Kate where it is revealed Moriarty anticipated both his death and Kate's adoption, he attempts to convince her to turn against Holmes and continue his work.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Main article: James Moriarty (A Game of Shadows)

This version of Moriarty appears in an obscured and uncredited role in the movie, a genius math professor and an author at Cambridge University, but secretly he is operating as a crime lord and a terrorist. He is also Sherlock Holmes' archenemy and portrayed by Jared Harris, who also played Mac McGrath in Mr. Deeds, and David Robert Jones in Fringe.

Holmes & Watson

This version of Moriarty appears to be the father of Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of the house 221B Baker Street in which Sherlock lives and serves as the secondary antagonist of the film while his daughter is the main antagonist.

This characterization is portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, who also played Rameses in The Prince of Egypt, Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise, Barry in Dolittle, Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon, Raiden the Moon King in Kubo and the Two Strings, Hades in Clash of the Titans, Dennis "Spider" Cleg in Spider, and Amon Goeth in Schinder's List.

Sherlock (TV series)

Main article: Jim Moriarty (BBC series)

He is a consulting criminal and the archenemy of Sherlock Holmes, and can be considered as the primary antagonist of the whole series.

This characterization is portrayed by Andrew Scott, who also played Max Denbigh in Spectre and voices Obake in Big Hero 6: The Series.

Sherlock Gnomes (2018)

Main article: Moriarty (Sherlock Gnomes)

In this movie, he was voiced by Jamie Demetriou, but unlike his original Serious Criminal Mastermind version, he appeared as an insecure but also a psychopathic terrorist that was a pie company mascot who very enjoys his show of crimes.

House MD

Main article: Jack Moriarty

In this TV series he appears as a loose, realistic, unique, and more sympathetic on the character. With him being an ordinary man simply seeking vengeance against Dr. Gregory House (this series' adaptation of Holmes) for inadvertently causing his wife's suicide.

This version was portrayed by Elias Koteas.

Powers and Abilities

  • Genius-Level Intellect: Moriarty holds extremely high levels of intelligence that at the very least equals, if not, exceeds that of Sherlock Holmes's own, with even Sherlock describing Moriarty as having a brain of the first order.
  • Mastery of Criminal and Terrorizing techniques: Moriarty was a criminal genius of such unparalleled skill that Holmes called him as The Napoleon of Crime. He possessed such phenomenal levels of skill and talent for organizing criminal activities to perfection throughout a city as powerful and widespread as London while effectively keeping his identity anonymous that he impresses even Sherlock, who is not easily impressed and was easily able to remain completely unsuspected as the world's only consulting criminal and the most dangerous of all of Sherlock's foes while creating plans for criminal activities that were flawless.
  • Polymath: Moriarty also had phenomenal knowledge and competence in many fields of academic study. He was a particularly phenomenally gifted and knowledgeable mathematical genius, having been the Professor of Mathematics at a university and managing the career so effectively he was considered the most brilliant that university ever had. He had particular exceptional proficiency and knowledge in the Binomial Theorem, with him publishing a treatise on the subject that was globally acclaimed at the young age of 21 as well as in using mathematics on astronomical problems and astronomy itself, having published the Dynamics of an Asteroid, a book filled with such esoteric and complex mathematics that even Holmes was impressed by and it was even said that no man in the scientific press was capable of criticizing it. He was also highly advanced in technology and science, highly praised for his achievements in both fields.
  • Martial Arts: Although an older man with a frail and aging appearance, and often preferring to deal with problems using his brains rather than fighting head on, Moriarty proved to be entirely willing to resort to hand-to-hand combat despite considering it as an extreme measure when pushed, and displayed himself to be surprisingly an excellent and physically fit brawler with considerable levels of experience and skill in martial arts, able to evenly match the highly skilled and peak conditioned Sherlock when they fought atop the Reichenbach Falls, both blocking and landing solid blows that inflicted pain on Holmes despite his physical resistance and withstanding Sherlock's blows and eventually only being barely defeated by Sherlock sacrificing himself with a swift Jujitsu maneuver to knock both himself and Moriarty to their doom.
  • Marksmanship: Despite often preferring to stay in the shadows, Moriarty displayed proficiency in using firearms.



  • Professor Moriarty is widely considered to be the first supervillain ever.
  • Professor Moriarty was famous for being the villain that Sherlock Holmes fought and apparently fell to his doom within The Final Problem. However, due to a large public backlash Arthur Conan Doyle was forced to retcon these events so that both Holmes and Moriarty did not die as was originally planned but rather miraculously survived so that the series could continue.
  • In the 1899 stage play Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts, co-written and authorized by Conan Doyle, Moriarty is given the first name Robert. He is first referred to by the name James in the 1903 short story "The Adventure of the Empty House".
  • In William Baring-Gould's The Annotated Sherlock Holmes one of the theories used to explain historical inconstancies in "The Adventure of the Empty House" was that Holmes had dissociative identity disorder and Moriarty was another personality. This idea was expanded on in the short story "The House that Jack Built" in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Original Stories by Eminent Mystery Writers


           Sherlock Logo new.png Villains

James Moriarty | Sebastian Moran | Charles Augustus Milverton | Irene Adler | Jonathan Small | Mr. Jack Stapleton | Hound of the Baskervilles | James Windibank | Baron Adelbert Gruner | Culverton Smith | Jack Ferguson | Maria Gibson | Count Negretto Sylvius | James Winter | Josiah Amberley | Mortimer Tregennis | Von Bork | Clarence Devereux

Young Sherlock Holmes: Eh Tar | Mrs. Dribb
The Great Mouse Detective: Professor Ratigan | Thugs (Fidget & Felicia)
Sherlock Holmes: Lord Henry Blackwood | Lord Coward | Irene Adler
Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes: Tom & Jerry | James Moriarty | Tin, Pan & Alley
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: James Moriarty | Sebastian Moran
Sherlock Gnomes: Moriarty | Reggie and Ronnie | Irene Adler
Holmes & Watson: Mrs. Martha Hudson | James Moriarty

Sherlock: Jim Moriarty | Eurus Holmes | Culverton Smith | Irene Adler | The Black Lotus (General Shan) | Jeff Hope | Dr. Bob Frankland | Lord Moran | Miss Wenceslas | The Golem
Elementary: Jamie Moriarty/Irene Adler | Sebastian Moran | Charles Augustus Milverton | Natalie Gale | Lisa Hagen | Margaret Bray | Beth Roney | Dana Powell | Marla Ridgely Moore | Laura Lyons | Beth Stone | Gail Lundquist | Dr. Sepi Chamanara | Hannah Gregson | Marilyn Whitfield

See Also
House MD Villains

           Tom and Jerry Logo.gif Villains

Alley Cats | Arthur Slugworth | Barney Bear | Bulldog | Butch Cat | Butch Dog | Captain Kiddie & Squawk | Cat Guards | Devil Jerry | Dr. Applecheek | Dr. Malevolent | Dr. Zin | Drizelda | Ferdinand | Flappy | Flying Monkeys | Freddie | Joey | Invincatron | James Moriarty | Jeannie | Jerry | Joseph Walters | King of the Cats | King Thingg | Lackey | Lickboot | Mechano | Mr. Salt | Nome King | Nomes | Prince John | Pristine Figg | Sheriff of Nottingham | Simon Legree | Spike | Squirty | Straycatchers | Terrance Mendoza | Tin, Pan & Alley | Tom | Tom's Owner | Wicked Witch of the East | Wicked Witch of the West | Winkie Guards | Ginormous | Wolf

Leatherface (OG)
Edward Hyde
The Chairstealer
Walter Sullivan
Vlad the Impaler
Audrey II
Albert Wesker
Dominic Greene
Chase Young
Benjamin Willis
Randall Flagg
Alex DeLarge
Count Dracula (Book)
Jerome Valeska
Lord Shen
Bill Cipher
Tate Langdon
Oogie Boogie
Dr. Venom
Krampus (Krampus)
Santánico Pandemónium
Judge Doom
Scorpion (MK)
Gendo Ikari
Victor Krane
Napoleon (AF)
Tony Montana
Candyman (CM)
Skeletor (H-M)
Immortan Joe
Walter White
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