Hercule Poirot on screen – the many faces of Agatha Christie’s detective

As David Suchet returns to exercise those little grey cells, we look back at the history of Poirot on film and TV


David Suchet


Twenty-five years after he took up the challenge of playing Poirot, David Suchet returns tonight in Elephants Can Remember, the first of five cases that will end his time as the pernickety Belgian sleuth. He’s the man who’s inhabited the role like no other actor and fans can expect to see Poirot reunited with comrades Hastings, Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon before that tenure comes to a close. Here they all are in their first episode together – The Adventure of the Clapham Cook.


Peter Ustinov

Purists may prefer David Suchet’s interpretation but few can deny the high camp appeal of Peter Ustinov’s outings in the role. Who can forget Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith sparring in Evil Under the Sun? Or Angela Lansbury’s tango from Death on the Nile? True, the made-for-TV affairs from the mid-80s aren’t quite as memorable (even with Suchet playing Inspector Japp in Thirteen at Dinner), but Ustinov is still able to lift even the most perfunctory line of dialogue with the odd twinkle and ad-lib.

Albert Finney

Murder on the Orient Express is the most atmospheric Christie film adaptation thanks to its keen eye for period detail and that terrific final reveal. But Finney’s performance is, by turns, unintelligible and slightly creepy. Yet he remains the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for playing Poirot, though he didn’t win.

Ian Holm

A real curiosity this: in Murder by the Book, Agatha Christie (played here by Peggy Ashcroft) is preparing to publish her final novel, which features the death of her most famous character. So the last person she expects to show up at her door to investigate this impending murder is Poirot himself. Back in 1986, much was made of the attempt to make Ian Holm resemble W Smithson Broadhead’s illustration of Poirot from the March 1923 issue of The Sketch. But despite the success of the recreation, Holm was soon eclipsed by David Suchet, whose first episode would air just three years later.


Tony Randall

This is Poirot played mainly for laughs in 1966’s The Alphabet Murders. With Margaret Rutherford’s Miss Marple having met with cinematic success, MGM decided to mine the Christie back catalogue and bring to life her other great detective. However, Randall’s miscasting proved to be a problem and not even a cameo from Rutherford could enliven proceedings.

The anime Poirot

How’s this for a concept? Miss Marple’s great niece Mabel West becomes Poirot’s junior assistant, thus connecting Agatha Christie’s two most famous sleuths. In all, 39 episodes of the series were made by the Oriental Light and Magic Studio between 2004 and 2005, with repeats still continuing to air in Japan.


Alfred Molina


And finally…the sacrilegious 2001 TV movie that not only updated Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express but also had Poirot searching for clues on a laptop! We couldn’t find the English-language version so this dubbed excerpt will have to suffice. Thank heavens for small mercies.