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James Moriarty

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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 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 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, 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 archenemy of Sherlock Holmes and is often considered one of the first supervillains in fiction - he appeared in only two novels and despite rarely encountering Holmes personally he is considered the main antagonist of the entire Sherlock Holmes series, being famously described as the "Napoleon of Crime".

Moriarty is widely considered to be the greatest fictional archenemy in fictional history. He has been portrayed by 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.

Moriarty was eventually put into contact with several criminals in Britain and quickly realized that they lacked any organisation or precision, which - as a mathematical genius - he would be perfectly capable of reating 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 in fact a cunning and formidable figure in the criminal underworld.

He operated as follows: he organised burglaries, heists, extortion and so forth on a regular basis, but with a certain sophistication that lacked brutality or unnecessary bloodthirst. 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 defence 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, and death

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 - 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 organised 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 Meirignen,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, the misanthropic expert marksman from the British Army - 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 excrutiating 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 favor 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.

It's also depicted that he has obsession for technology. In the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, he tricks the league and builds a war airship using the technology he got from his enemies, like Fu Manchu for example. He also brings with him a specially designed Air Rifle that is disguised as a cane and is perfect for sniping.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Let us not waste any more of one-another's time. We both know how this ends.
~ Professor Moriarty's most famous quote

Moriarty appears as the main antagonist in the 2011 film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. He is portrayed by Jared Harris. He made a previous appearance in Sherlock Holmes, as the Bigger Bad main antagonist and his role was complete uncredited, so he is the true main antagonist of the films.

This version, complete with beard, bears a strong resemblance to purported Moriarty inspiration Adam Worth. During the film, Sherlock Holmes comes into conflict with Moriarty after he poisons Irene Adler to death, deeming her expendable after she succumbs to her feelings for Holmes. During his inquiries into Moriarty's criminal activities, Holmes learns that the professor had managed to "buy, scheme or murder" his way into various businesses, including arms and chemical weaponry, without leaving any criminal evidence that could be traced back to him. In order to create a demand for his vast supply of weaponry, Moriarty attempts to provoke a world war using bombs and by sending an assassin into a crucial conference using an early form of plastic surgery. At one point in the film, Moriarty captures Homes and tortures him while singing the German song "Die Forelle" by Franz Schubert.

With Dr. John Watson having deduced his assassin's identity in Switzerland while Moriarty is occupied in a chess game with Holmes, Holmes reveals to Moriarty that he had managed to steal the professor's personal diary containing all the information on his empire and investments. Having cracked the code needed to decipher his handwriting, Holmes had sent the diary back to London for his colleagues to work on, reducing Moriarty's enormous fortune to practically nothing.

A furious Moriarty responds by telling Holmes that he will kill both Watson and his wife in retaliation for what Holmes has done to him, but Holmes realizes that he cannot defeat Moriarty in a direct fight due to an injury in his shoulder sustained during his recent torture by Moriarty. Wanting to protect Watson from Moriarty's revenge, Holmes instead grapples Moriarty over the balcony and they both tumble into the Reichenbach Falls, while a horrified Watson watches from afar. Holmes is later shown to have survived the fall, presumably due to having taken his brother Mycroft's oxygen breathing apparatus with him, while Moriarty is presumably dead.

However, Sherlock Holmes has recently announced a third film, implying that Moriarty could return.

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: he was in fact on the run from Clarence Devereux - 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 escaped - Holmes remained unaware of Moriarty's survival, but Moriarty knew Holmes survived but wouldn't bother him if he thouht 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 organisation 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.


Sherlock (TV series)

See: James Moriarty (Sherlock)

Moriarty is also a recurring villain in the BBC update, portrayed by Andrew Scott. Here, he is a consulting criminal, paralleling Sherlock's role (Benedict Cumberbatch) as a consulting detective, assisting various other crooks by sponsoring, offering advice, or generally scheming. We first hear of him in "A Study in Pink", when Sherlock tortures his name out of the dying serial killer, and smuggler Shan talks with him online in "The Blind Banker" before she is assassinated by one of his operatives. He finally appears in "The Great Game" as "Jim from IT" and Molly's boyfriend, while in secret, he places hostages in suicide bomber vests, forcing Sherlock to solve certain mysteries within a time limit. Near the climax, he kidnaps John Watson and uses him as a hostage in the pool confrontation, telling Sherlock that he will "burn the heart out of [him]". The episode ends on a cliffhanger, only resolved when Moriarty receives a call from Irene Adler ("A Scandal in Belgravia").

Jim norush

"No rush." Jim Moriarty posing with the Crown Jewels.

In the second season, Moriarty advises Adler in how to deal with Sherlock and his brother Mycroft, with his only compensation being the chance to cause more trouble. He later appears at the end of "The Hounds of Baskerville", arrested and later released by Mycroft for unknown reasons. In his last episode, "The Reichenbach Fall", he allows himself to be arrested after simultaneously breaking into the Tower of London, opening the Bank of England's vault, and unlocking the cells in Pentonville Prison. He stands trial, but is later released after threatening the jury, and later pays Sherlock a visit, claiming that he owes him.

Moriarty then sets about ruining Sherlock's reputation, first by abducting the children of the British Ambassador to the US and traumatizing the girl to make her terrified of Sherlock, making it seem like he staged the kidnapping, along with all the other crimes he'd solved. He then sets himself up as Richard Brook, an actor that Sherlock supposedly paid to be Moriarty, feeding information Mycroft gave him during interrogations to a journalist whom Sherlock had scorned to create a fake exposé.

With no choice left, Sherlock stages a final meeting on the roof of St. Bartholomew's Hospital to discuss the solution to their "final problem". There, Moriarty tells him that there was no key, simply bribery, and that Sherlock must commit suicide, otherwise his assassins will kill John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade. When Sherlock realizes that Moriarty must have a failsafe to call his men off, he commits suicide, ensuring that he has no choice. (This ultimately fails, as Sherlock somehow manages to survive his apparent suicide.)

In the third series, Moriarty appears in the first episode in numerous flashbacks and imaginary sequences concerning how Sherlock may of faked his death.

In the third episode of series 3 'His Last Vow' when Sherlock is shot by Mary Watson, Moriarty is seen in his 'mind palace' inside a cell in a straight jacket. Moriarty begins to taunt Sherlock and tells him to die, but Sherlock manages to pull through. At the end of the episode, images of Moriarty appear around London saying repeatedly "Have you missed me?" implying he may of faked his death as well.

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 villain of Volume 1 where he deceives the League through Campion Bond into stealing the Cavorite that he uses to power his great warship. He engages The Doctor (Dr. Fu Manchu) in a sky battle over Limehouse.

He is foiled when Murray smashes the container that holds 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, he 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 her boyfriend's house. This boyfriend 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 whole into the Tower, planning to steal the jewels. After stealing the jewels and being followed by Holmes and Watson, Moriarty finally falls into the Themse, then he's arrested along with the cats by Droopy. Like in A Game of Shadows, Moriarty's got a beard in this movie. 

Interestingly, he also invented a glove that fires electrical energy blasts as his weapon of choice which quite reminiscent with Iron Man's signature repulsor blasters.

The Real Ghostbusters

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

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 climatic 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.



  • Professor Moriarty was famous for being the villain that Sherlock Holmes fought and apparently fell to his doom with in The Final Problem - however due to a large public outlash 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".

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