Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a 2011 period mystery action film directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin. It is the sequel to the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes and features the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The film's screenplay was written by Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law reprised their roles as Holmes and Watson, respectively, alongside Noomi Rapace as Simza, Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes, and Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty. Rachel McAdams reprised her role as Irene Adler in a cameo appearance. Although the film follows an original premise, it incorporates more closely elements of Conan Doyle's short stories, including "The Final Problem" (1893) and "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903). In the film, Holmes and Watson travel across Europe with a Romani adventuress to foil an intricate plot by their cunning nemesis, Professor Moriarty, to instigate a major European conflict.
Though the film received mixed reviews from critics, it was commercially successful, with a worldwide gross of over $545 million. A third film was originally set for release on December 22, 2021, with Downey and Law set to return, although its status is uncertain.
In 1891, Irene Adler delivers a package to Dr. Hoffmanstahl, payment for a letter he was to deliver. Hoffmanstahl opens the package, triggering a bomb that is prevented from detonating by Sherlock Holmes. Holmes takes the letter while Adler and Hoffmanstahl escape. Holmes later finds Hoffmanstahl assassinated. Adler meets with Professor Moriarty to explain the events, but Moriarty, deeming her compromised, poisons and kills her.
Dr. Watson arrives at 221B Baker Street, where Holmes discloses that he is investigating seemingly unrelated murders, terrorist attacks and business acquisitions that he has connected to Moriarty. After meeting with his brother Mycroft at Watson's bachelor party, Holmes meets with a Roma fortune-teller named Madame Simza, the intended recipient of the letter he took from Adler, sent by her brother René. Holmes defeats an assassin sent to kill Simza, but she flees before Holmes can question her. After the wedding of Watson and Mary Morstan, Holmes meets Moriarty for the first time. Moriarty indicates he will kill Watson and Mary if Holmes interferes. Moriarty taunts Holmes about murdering Adler, and Holmes swears revenge.
Moriarty's men attack Watson and Mary on a train to their honeymoon. Holmes throws Mary from the train into a river, where she is rescued by Mycroft. After defeating Moriarty's men, Holmes and Watson travel to Paris and locate Simza. Holmes tells Simza that she has been targeted because René is working for Moriarty and may have told her his plans. Simza takes the pair to the headquarters of an anarchist group to which she and René belonged; the anarchists have been forced to plant bombs for Moriarty.
The trio follow Holmes' deduction that the bomb is in the Paris Opera. However, the bomb is in a nearby hotel; its explosion kills a number of businessmen. The bomb was a cover for the assassination of Alfred Meinhard by Moriarty's henchman, Sebastian Moran. Meinhard's death grants Moriarty ownership of Meinhard's arms factory in Germany. Holmes spies on Moriarty, learning he is travelling to Germany. The trio follow him there.
At the factory, Moriarty captures, interrogates, and tortures Holmes while Watson fights Moran. Holmes spells out Moriarty's plot, revealing that the Professor acquired shares in multiple war profiteering companies and intends to instigate a world war to make himself a fortune. Watson uses the cannon he was hiding behind to destroy the watchtower in which Moran is concealed. The structure collapses into the warehouse where Moriarty is holding Holmes captive. Watson, Simza, and an injured Holmes reunite and Holmes deduces that Moriarty's final target will be a peace summit in Switzerland, creating an international incident.
At the summit, Holmes deduces that René is the assassin and is disguised as one of the ambassadors, having been given radical reconstructive surgery by Hoffmanstahl. Holmes and Moriarty meet on a balcony to discuss their plans over a game of chess. Watson and Simza stop René's assassination attempt; René is then killed by Moran. Despite his war being averted, Moriarty remains confident in his victory, warning Holmes that the nations of Europe will go to war with one another regardless of Moriarty's manipulations. Holmes reveals that, while being tortured by Moriarty, he replaced the professor's personal diary that contained his plans and financing with a duplicate. The original was sent to Mary, who decrypted the code using a book Holmes had noticed in Moriarty's office, before passing the information to Inspector Lestrade, who seizes Moriarty's assets and donates his fortune to anti-war charities. Holmes and Moriarty anticipate a fight, and both realise that Moriarty will win due to Holmes' injured shoulder. Out of options and with Moriarty vowing to kill Watson and Mary, Holmes grabs Moriarty and lunges backwards over the balcony and into the Reichenbach Falls below. Both are presumed dead.
Following Holmes' funeral, Watson and Mary prepare to have their belated honeymoon when Watson receives a package containing a breathing device of Mycroft's that Holmes expressed a liking for before the summit. Realizing that Holmes may still be alive, Watson leaves his office to find the delivery man. Holmes, having concealed himself in Watson's office, reads Watson's memoirs on the typewriter and adds a question mark after the words "The End".