The Many Literary Voices of Benedict Cumberbatch (All of Which Are Beautiful)

Posted by Sarah Fox

Photo by Dmitry Demidov from Pexels

You have scrolled through his endless memes. You know the deep, velvety voice. The world cannot get enough of Benedict Cumberbatch, and it is easy to see why. The man is a literary chameleon; his roles range from a geeky student to a gold-loving dragon. While this list does not cover all his book adaptations (that is all the man seems to do), here are our favorites.

Starter for 10

Maybe it was because we were nerds in high school, but we love this adaptation of the David Nicholls’ novel. Cumberbatch plays Patrick, the arrogant head of the University Challenge team (a team that competes by answering Jeopardy-style questions). Patrick wears hideous sweaters and talks with deep affectation. When he gets in a fight with Spencer (a typical tough bad boy), he fights by slapping at him in an ineffectual way. While the move is delightfully comic, it only gains him a black eye.  This injury does serve to give him street cred when he says, “Let’s take these mothers out” before going into a match.



In this adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel, Cumberbatch plays Paul Marshall, a man who made his wealth off of chocolate. This role is by far his creepiest; he has a sketchy mustache and he likes to tell young women to eat chocolate sexually (making us unable to eat chocolate for a week after seeing the film).  There is absolutely nothing redeemable about his character, making this by far his most despicable role.



While Sherlock is more of a mini-series, Cumberbatch's role in this Arthur Conan Doyle adaptation made us fall in love with him. Whether it is the deep voice, the long trench coat, or the incredible intelligence, Cumberbatch is mesmerizing as Sherlock Holmes. He strikes the perfect balance of arrogance with occasional moments of poignancy and humanity. We cannot also forget the wonderful onscreen chemistry with his crime-solving partner, Watson (played by Martin Freeman).


The Hobbit

While these movies were undoubtedly terrible (a love triangle with two elves and a dwarf?), Benedict Cumberbatch is a bright spot as Smaug. He effectively transform his voice into a dragon’s hiss, and almost makes the word “precious” sound as creepy as Gollum's. Another highlight of the movie is the Cumberbatch and Freeman reunion, albeit less friendly than their usual interactions.


The Imitation Game

Cumberbatch veers into the world of nonfiction when he plays Alan Turing in this movie based on Andrew Hodges’ biography, Alan Turing: the Enigma.  Cumberbatch successfully conveys the brilliance of the cryptanalyst and the tragedy of the criminal prosecution for his homosexuality. He was nominated for multiple awards for his portrayal. Do we really need to say more?


What is next for the David Bowie of book adaptations? We have no idea, but we hope he doesn’t play a mime or a monk who has taken a vow of silence. 

Sarah Fox

Sarah Fox

Sarah Fox is an editor, writer, writing consultant, and pop culture enthusiast. Besides regularly contributing to Quirk Books’ blog, she has published an edition of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and Pembroke Welsh Corgi. You can find her online at