Every Saw movie, ranked! From the original Saw to Spiral. Saw traps ranked

I Saw Every Saw So You Can See Which Saw Should be Seen: A Ranking Including Spiral

The Saw franchise is one which kind of compels one to keep consuming each subsequent entry, wherever the reasoning falls between “I want to see what happens because I’m invested in the plot” all the way over to “I want to see what happens because why the hell not.” Look: nobody goes to see a Saw movie to fill in their Best of the Year list. We see Saw because it’s Saw: creatively gruesome violence, generally campy acting, and discovering how the writers will bullsht their newest twist into the overall Canon. Binging the series makes it even better.

I love this franchise. It is, for its majority, very flawed. But damn it if it isn’t a ton of fun. Freshly vaccinated and prepared to give Chris Rock and Lionsgate that AMC IMAX money, I decided to revisit every Saw film chronologically to prepare for Spiral, and rank them, to include Spiral once I’d watched it. No other website in the world is ranking the Saw movies to celebrate Spiral, so I’m pretty excited about this.

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This is also the first time I’m revisiting these movies since their theatrical releases, so this ranking will be wrought from a combination of nostalgia, hindsight, and age.

Saw IV

God, I love lists so much. I love them so much! I love organizing things, ranking them, and working through why. But if there’s one thing I hate, it’s lists. I get so wrapped up in what the real right ranking is, and making sure I don’t contradict myself. So it is with much pain and indecision that I state that Saw IV is the worst Saw. However, ask me again in a month and I will experience a sudden and significant anxiety spike and probably a new ranking.

I’ll be honest: Saw IV is almost so forgettable, I watched the whole thing without taking notes and the only thing I remembered vividly off-hand was Donnie Wahlberg getting his noggin crushed between two blocks of ice. One thing I had forgotten is the opening autopsy of Jigsaw himself, rendered in excruciatingly painstaking, gory detail as the dead serial killer is carved open. It is nasty and one hell of an opener to a movie that never rises back to that level of intensity.

The game, though: it essentially boils down to punishing a SWAT leader for wanting to save everyone. Sure, the guy might be obsessed with Jigsaw, but he also takes his job seriously and will selflessly dive headfirst into situations to save whoever he can. The fact that he’s punished for this, the under-utilization of Donnie Wahlberg, and the backstories of some of the other victims, makes Saw IV overall just unpleasant.

Saw V

I warmed up a bit on Saw V after rewatching it, but not by much. It’s badly paced, there’s not really any major “twist” to speak of (ironic considering the movie’s tagline was “You won’t believe how it ends”), and the events and ramifications of the plot are relatively contained to the movie itself. The individual elements aren’t especially bad: the “game” finds several scumbags, in an escape room style series of traps, screwing each other over multiple times through traps that culminate in a predictable and satisfying reveal that they could have all been working together the whole time to save a great deal of suffering.

On the other side of things, the police are hot on the trail of a new Jigsaw copycat killer, who was revealed in Saw IV to be Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Saw V pits Detective Strahm (Scott Patterson) against Hoffman, and their part of the story is basically their cat-and-mouse exchange. It’s a decent plot thread to see them pitted against each other, but the conclusion isn’t especially satisfying.

There’s also an irritating narrative element where at every junction of Strahm’s investigation he gets a voice-over of his thoughts. It’s an awful failure of conveying how he discovers new information. This one I just really didn’t have fun with.


Jigsaw boasts a visual slickness that dispenses with the anemic color palette and chaotic editing of most of the franchise and exchanges it for a surprisingly sharp visual style courtesy of the Spierig Brothers (Daybreakers, Predestination). However, you could employ the finest cinematography and technical polish of Joaquin Phoenix taking a dump, but that won’t affect the fact that you’re not enjoying the view.

The twist that plotlines presented in a linear fashion are actually occurring at two separate times was pretty cool in Saw II, but you can’t keep pulling that out and expecting the same reaction. Jigsaw even ripped off another stale twist from the franchise by presenting—surprise!—the fact that a main character was actually another Jigsaw apprentice! By this point it’s a pretty boring and unremarkable reveal, and this one doesn’t even really have that much bearing on the overall franchise Canon or add anything to Jigsaw’s legacy. Jigsaw feels like a movie dipping its toe in the water to gauge interest in revitalizing the franchise, but it is neither innovative enough to work as a comeback, nor willing enough to unshackle itself from the past to work as a continuation. Not the worst movie in the series, but probably the least interesting/essential.

Saw: The Final Chapter

As “final” as any “chapter” in a horror franchise would ever be, Saw 3D (as it was in the theaters) makes a strong case to end the series, not in terms of narrative, but of quality. This movie is trash. But it’s hilarious. This is prime material for bunch of friends and a bigger bunch of alcoholic beverages. Cary Elwes, back for the first time since the original, hams it up every chance he gets. A large swath of the remainder of the cast don’t even possess porn-level acting chops, with highly amusing results.

The traps are absolutely uproarious at this point in how campy they are. Chester Bennington plays a white supremacist who gets superglued to the seat of a car set to tear his friends apart when the timer expires unless he tears himself off to reach forward and pull a lever (I dunno, maybe move the seat forward instead?). Moments later, a woman slaps a guy across the face and he falls onto a sea of upturned, running lawnmowers—both of them had been holding onto jagged bars cutting into their hands. One has to wonder how they actually got into that trap, since you can’t exactly wake up to discover you’re holding onto barbed wire above a bunch of lawnmowers. Logic absolutely does not matter here; you’ve watched every Saw movie so far and by god, you’re going to watch this one too, so who cares?

In fact, I have to wonder whether The Final Chapter’s full-bore absurdity has something to do with the writers wanting to use their “last” chance to absolutely blow the doors off this thing and explore every crazy idea they have. This is a bad movie, but I’m pretty sure, revisiting it now, that it knows exactly how stupid it is. One of the teaser posters depicted a construction project erecting a massive momument of Jigsaw himself. Gibson mentions that Jigsaw’s wife looks “crazier than a sack of cats,” which…doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but is spectacularly on-brand with the rest of the movie.

Ultimately, The Final Chapter surprisingly rescues itself from the bottom of the pack purely on how ridiculous and entertaining it is: a woman in a trap is told that raising the decibel level in the room will hasten her death via spears into the neck, and she immediately starts screaming bloody murder. And when she is inevitably killed by the trap, main character Bobby (Sean Patrick Flannery) angrily yells “WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST SHUT THE FCK UP?”

At this point, the movies had been, for a few years, an annual event (I recall TV Spots growling “If it’s Halloween…it must be SAW”) so for the series to “go out” on such a level of excess doesn’t excuse that it’s still a really bad movie, but might explain why it’s so absurd and indulgent.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

Stupid subtitle notwithstanding, I enjoyed Spiral quite a bit as my first trip back to the movies. Chris Rock’s concept for a new direction for the franchise works well: a Jigsaw copycat killer is targeting the corrupt cops of a precinct, with the traps focused solely on punishment rather than rehabilitation.

Spiral feels more like something along the lines of Se7en than a standard Saw movie, operating much like a mystery-thriller with some ultra-violence sprinkled throughout. That’s not to say there is any shortage of violent traps—in fact, a couple of these factor among the more squirm-inducing of the franchise, and they’re spaced out just enough to balance well with the thriller elements.

Chris Rock is a great addition to the franchise. Rock brings his trademark comedic observations to the deeply cynical Detective Zeke Banks, and in the first half of the movie has some darkly funny lines. For his disappointingly limited screen time, Samuel L. Jackson is also a great presence as always, and his chemistry with Rock is excellent. This doesn’t make Spiral a comedy—while there are some laughs in the first half, the final stretch is as suspenseful and serious as anything in the series—though, truth be told, Darren Lynn Bouseman is back in the director’s chair, and as is not uncommon, there are definitely some moments intended to be serious that end up face-planting hilariously.

That twist, though: weak and completely obvious if you pay close enough attention to the cadence of the plot events (or, like, watched the trailer). However, the way everything ties together is far more satisfying than the twist itself, making for an ending that is still very effective. It was also pointed out to me that the true reveal doesn’t actually kick off until Charlie Clouser’s iconic “Hello Zepp” kicks in, which suddenly makes a lot of sense—the reveal is pretty obvious, but when the opening bars of “Hello Zepp” make themselves known, the final moments of Spiral effectively emulate the helpless surprise of the original film.


Saw III was where the series really started leaning into the nastiness of the traps, and indeed features some of the most inventively painful and cruel scenes of violence in the entire franchise. However, it’s also one of the most engaging in terms of the core conceit of the game, forcing a grieving father, Jeff (Angus McFayden) to confront each person connected to the case and choose whether to forgive them. One of his most important tests is to immolate his son’s treasured toys—toys which drove a rift between him and his daughter, as he forbade her to touch any of her brother’s belongings. Having the majority of the choices to be made coming from an emotional as well as a visceral place is a great idea and adds an additional layer of nail-biting tension: the victims, suffering through their trap, are bargaining, apologizing, and begging for mercy; Jeff, confronted with the anguished cries of the victim, their life in his hand, struggles to overcome his deeply rooted pain to forgive them. These moments are driven home by sudden flashes of old photos of Jeff’s son. In terms of intensity, Saw III wins by a country mile.

On the other side of the plot, we have Jigsaw on his deathbed, and how Amanda is reacting to her mentor on the verge of death. The way Jigsaw and Amanda interact is really interesting: Jigsaw has had an effect on Amanda and how she approaches her mortality, and clearly cares for her. Likewise, Jigsaw appears to be the first and only emotional anchor and father figure Amanda has ever had, and her emotional breakdowns as she grapples with Jigsaw’s final hours really cement their relationship. Out of all of the Jigsaw apprenticeships, hers is the most impactful: Jigsaw and Amanda have a genuinely and perversely nurturing relationship. The series so far has pulled no punches in showing that Amanda, as well as her mentor, are monsters, but seeing her fall apart watching Jigsaw slowly die oddly builds empathy for both of them—almost immediately before another flashback challenges those feelings. Saw III is just really well-paced, eventful, and thematically gripping—and that means something given how memorable those elements are alongside the most gruesome moments in the franchise.

Saw II

It’s very likely that the only trap more iconic than the original Reverse Bear Trap is the pit of needles. I will never not cringe at the moment when Amanda is hurled into the pit and emerges, screaming, with syringes poking out of her skin. It’s a squirm-inducing sequence and a standout trap in a terrifically-designed escape room-esque house of horrors. On the one hand, the format of placing two or more people in an enclosed space and watching them unravel is some of the best stuff in the series, but on the other hand, the fact that this isn’t the format in every single movie makes times like this all the more impactful and entertaining.

Saw II soars on the momentum that is Jigsaw himself, actively toying with with the cops—despite being in their custody, Jigsaw makes it very clear that he holds all of the cards. Dude’s got serious BDE, and is still revealed to be in control after getting his ass beat by Donnie Wahlberg. And to see Tobin Bell get significant screen time chewing the scenery is just sublime. It was such a good decision to follow his reveal at the end of Saw by making him a central FOCUS of the sequel. It is abundantly clear that he holds all of the cards, and confining him in a room with a bunch of powerless cops is delightfully tense.

Saw VI

Saw VI suffered from some of the lowest box office numbers of the franchise, owed to the overall disappointment that was Saw V. It’s very much undeserved, as Saw VI is by far one of the most entertaining entries in the entire series. The movies so far have, to varying degrees, taken aim at one social issue or another, but Saw VI is searingly focused on the healthcare industry.

Insurance executive Willaim is so proud of the formula he devised to make a choice on coverage—and, as Jigsaw puts it—makes to get the choice of who lives and who dies. As such, his game and its choices are focused on that choice. Each victim is a coworker complicit in their role in the healthcare industry, and each choice will end the life of one while sparing the other—with that choice involving William suffering severe physical and mental anguish. VI has some of the best traps of the entire series, mainly due to the schadenfraude of seeing these scumbags subjected to a twisted effigy of their own careers. And yet, these people know each other well enough that the decisions made and their effects have genuine impact. Director Kevin Greutert dials back the frantic pace of these traps in favor of tension, really drinking in his characters’ reactions to their situations.

Saw VI does a lot of other things right as well: the rivalry between Strahm and Hoffman has come and gone, with this entry finding Hoffman trying to stay one step ahead of the Jigsaw copycat investigation. The walls are closing in and part of the fun is seeing where the story actually goes now that Jigsaw himself is physically, definitively gone and the less meticulous, more impulsive and sloppy Hoffman has taken the reins.

It also has enough amusingly dumb moments that help counterbalance some of this entry’s heaviness: in the Pound of Flesh trap, a heavyset guy rips his shirt open to start carving into his belly fat, while the other victim starts to do the same only to react in dismay upon finding that she is too thin to be able to carve herself up. It’s hilarious to watch her look bizarrely surprised to find that she is extremely in shape with no belly fat to spare. Finally, it has one of the best pair of twists in the entire series, using surgically ambiguous phrasing to turn expectations on their head. It’s not impactful in terms of the overall Canon, but on its own merits is a terrific series of unpredictable reveals that falls directly in line with the spirit of Saw.


The OG is the best, right? Big Sawprise. Look, you’re not reading a Saw franchise ranking to see someone disagree with TRUTH. (Although I’d be lying if I said the final three entries on this list were not seriously neck-and-neck-and-neck).

For the first time in a decade, I rewatched James Wan’s original Saw. With the knowledge of what happens in the next few movies, I suspected I wouldn’t be terribly impressed. However, Saw remains, in its absolute own right, a really great thriller. For the first film in a franchise named as the advent of the modern “torture porn” subgenre, Saw is surprisingly light on gore, and much heavier on tension and mystery. Even if you remember all of the plot beats, the way the movie unfolds is still completely effective thanks to James Wan’s engrossing direction.

The premise is beautifully simple: two men are shackled to the pipes in a dingy bathroom. Where the escape room-esque story could go from there is delightfully unpredictable, owed to the creativity Wan and writer Leigh Whannell were forced to employ on a shoestring budget. It also feels in line with Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s writing advice to string storytelling beats together using “but” and “therefore” as opposed to the aimless “and then”—something that the weaker entries in the Saw franchise ironically fall victim to. Saw’s plot frequently reaches into the past via flashbacks, but it’s all in order to fill in details or recontextualize character beats in the present.

All Nine Saw Movies Ranked From Worst to Best (Including Spiral: From the Book of Saw)

And of course, it was the film to debut Charlie Clouser’s “Hello Zepp” theme that would highlight the series-defining end reveals, those opening notes serving as the Pavlovian trigger to expect another wild twist. No matter how good, bad, stupid or all three the twist ends up being, that theme absolutely slaps and is an integral element to the intensity of the final moments of each movie. But Saw’s twist is a stone-cold classic: one of the absolute greats where the clues were all there, and when it finally drops, it’s an absolute holy sht moment that still hits even when you know it’s coming.

It works really well as its own self-contained movie, but throws out enough feelers to enable the behemoth of a franchise it grew to be. If I’m trying to sell someone on Saw, I’ll start by exclusively recommending this original.

So, do you agree or di-Sawgree with my rankings? I know the debates can get fierce when it comes to which movie is actually the worst (and why do we even argue about that?), but no matter what, I hope we can all agree that Saw is just a completely entertaining series. I, for one, cannot wait to see what follows Spiral, and with the way the franchise continues to crank out ticket sales, I don’t see that happening too far off.

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Every Saw movie, ranked! From the original Saw to Spiral

When it comes to the best Saw movies, you are quite within your rights to say “I saw the best Saw movie and it was the first one.” You wouldn’t be wrong but dumping the other checks notes eight in the bin in a pile of gory nu-metal isn’t the right approach either. The sequels arrived like clockwork every Halloween throughout the noughties and, while they range in quality, and at one point inexplicably cast two lookalikes in pivotal roles, the Saw movies do something that very few other horror sequels do; they maintain a story.

In fact, they’re so obsessed with a continuing narrative that you might actually need a detective-style corkboard to keep up with a plot with more twists than the roll of barbed wire that Jigsaw had been saving for a special occasion. Even the newly released Spiral, which follows a new set of characters, still holds the original movies as Canon – and Jigsaw’s presence is certainly felt in the film. And why do we keep watching? Because there’s still something compelling about a serial killer who doesn’t do the killing himself and actually gives his victims an out. Although they’ll be missing something vital if they do manage to escape.

As Spiral: From the Book of Saw attempts to resurrect the franchise. remember, Jigsaw was dead by the end of Saw 3. let’s set the definitive order of the best Saw movies and we’ll even include the best traps. Get on your tiny tricycle. It’s time to play a game…

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)

Best trap: Tongue hanging

The joy of Saw movies is that they can split people, figuratively as well as literally. While our review reads a four-star, for this horror fan, though, Spiral: From the Book of Saw falls like a (Chris) rock to the very bottom of the pile. A proposed reinvention of the franchise for a 2021 audience with the comedy star, the movie comes from director Darren Lynn Bousman, the man responsible for the green-hued nu-metal visuals of Saws 2, 3, and 4 respectively. If you see the problem with this approach, raise your hand. Don’t worry, there’s not a glass box full of needles above you or anything.

Bousman pits Chris Rock’s detective against an unknown attacker who, this time, is setting up elaborate killer traps for members of the police force. While this could be used to say something interesting about police corruption and the misuse of power, instead, the movie spends its time in dull offices reciting stereotypical angry cop lines. Tick off “let’s get this son of a bitch” on your tired police thriller bingo card now. Add in the fact that the murder machines feel like they wouldn’t even be on Jigsaw’s reject pile, a twist so predictable it hurts, and the removal of Billy the puppet from proceedings, and even a fun turn from Samuel L. Jackson can’t save Spiral from its own trap.

Saw 3D (2010)

Best trap: Blood-drenched garage of white supremacists

every, movie, ranked, original, spiral

Don’t let that trap description fool you into thinking that this is good fun. Ironically known as the Final Chapter, Saw 3D or Saw 7, this is a shadow of everything that came before it. Only this time, there are traps that poke you in the eye because 3D. With Jigsaw long dead, we’re still following the antics of cheap Sly Stallone lookalike Detective Hoffman who now isn’t even keeping it secret that he’s one of Jigsaw’s significantly sloppier apprentices.

The exceptionally gory but somehow pointless game this time around follows a man called Bobby Dagen, who has been selling his story as a Jigsaw survivor for years. The only problem is that he’s been lying. wouldn’t you wonder if a psychopathic moralistic serial killer might not like this? and before Jigsaw died, he set in motion a plan to have Bobby ‘tested’. The result is a dull and vindictively pointless exercise as Bobby repeatedly fails to save any of his staff from stabby things. Even the return of Cary Elwes as Dr. Laurence Gordon from the first movie can’t save this from being, like so many of Jigsaw’s victims, utterly DOA.

Jigsaw (2017)

Best trap: Reverse shotgun

The first attempt to revitalize the series seven years after Saw 3D is only a little more enjoyable. Jigsaw is still intent on continuing the plot of the original movies, and this is set long after the fate of Detective Hoffman, when police departments had presumably gone back to not worrying about finding full-scale human-mouse traps in warehouse buildings. Here, a fresh set of victims wake up in a multi-roomed barn and attempt to survive a new set of traps. This is while the police are tormented by a presumably new killer who is sending them the meaty results of each minigame.

So far, so intriguing, and there’s a real sense of drama as we go back to following the police investigation. But. and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming. the traps here feel like contrived rejects from the franchise; drowning in grain while a toolbox rains from the ceiling isn’t exactly what horror dreams are made of. Add in a final twist featuring flashbacks that might make you retrospectively angry about the other films, this just wasn’t a good enough reason to bring the wonderful Tobin Bell back to the franchise.

Saw 4

Best trap: Rapist ponders spiky eye hammers vs dismemberment

Saw 4 is what would happen if an algorithm wrote a Saw film and that’s not entirely a bad thing but it requires note-taking to keep up with the ludicrous plot pivots. After the success of the twisty narrative of the first three movies and the very permanent death of Jigsaw himself, Saw 4’s writers were faced with a dilemma; how to continue the franchise. The result is a frankly dizzying, aggressively edited nu-metal colored nightmare of green as a member of the police is forced to undergo his own test to try and teach him not to attempt to save everybody. Not a bad trait? Well the Saw movies teach you to stop asking questions or you’ll drown in them like grain.

On his journey, Officer Daniel Rigg meets a vile rapist in a hotel. Rigg has to plug the man into a dismemberment machine. Then there’s a couple who have inexplicably been skewered together through every major artery, and a woman who is not-so-gradually being scalped by a contraption wrapped around her ponytail. His end test you might only understand on second viewing but a fake-out involving Detective Hoffman manages to line up the rest of the series in a way that feels like your brain might have been scrambled in the process.

Saw 6 (2009)

Best trap: Murderous merry go round of immoral insurers

Right, now we’re into the pretty good stuff which, honestly, isn’t something you usually say when it comes to the sixth entry in a brutal murder franchise, but here we are. From the get-go, when a man and a woman literally carve off their own flesh in a ‘who can put the most skin on the scales’ competition, Saw 6 has a brutal confidence that makes it a lean 90-minute horror machine.

Most of this is down to its central victim, a health insurer called William Easton who makes a living out of denying payments to the sick and dying. He’s the kind of character you want to boo and hiss at, making him a perfect victim for a series of nasty traps in an abandoned zoo. Most of these are deliciously inventive and involve his business associates. There are few things as satisfying as watching a spinning merry-go-round of pleading yuppy insurers who make sure that Saw 6 has the highest body count in the whole franchise. Plus, the continuing subplot around Detective Hoffman and Jigsaw’s widow Jill is a welcome addition and there’s genuine tension as he is finally unmasked within the police force.

Saw 2 (2005)

Best trap: The needle pit

For some, Saws 1 and 2 were quite enough thank you very much and that’s because the step from the original to the sequel was stark. Where the original actually shows very little gore, the sequel took things into what was not-so-lovingly accused of being ‘torture porn’. Truthfully, this isn’t the case and Saw 2 has none of the tonal vindictiveness as something like Hostel, but it does up the ante with a series of violent traps that would dictate the direction of the rest of the franchise.

A group of people wake up in a house packed with Jigsaw’s latest inventions as Detective Eric Matthews (played furiously by Donnie Wahlberg) interrogates Jigsaw to find out the location. It’s no accident that his son is in there and Jigsaw is teaching Matthews his own lesson. While the house traps are a little disappointing – other than the memorably prolonged agony of the needle pit grah – the jumps back and forth between the victims and police make this an enjoyable ride. Tobin Bell gets to chew up the scenery as the hooded Jigsaw sitting in police custody and there’s a cracking anachronistic twist that none of the sequels since have quite been able to match.

Saw 3 (2006)

Best trap: Drowning in rotten pig guts

Saw 3 was meant to be the end of it. It was after Saw 3 that original writer Leigh Whannel left and the movie even finishes with a violent montage of everything that has come before, like a bloody finger drawing a line under everything. What’s so enjoyable about Saw 3 isn’t the lawyer starting to drown in grated rotting pig corpses, or a giant crucifixion style bone snapping machine cranking into action as a man called Jeff atones for ignoring his family after the death of his son, it’s the relationship and tensions between Jigsaw and his unpredictable protegee Amanda.

Now truly at the end of his life, Jigsaw is confined to a bed in an industrial facility, tended to, of course, by a woman in an electric collar of shotgun shells that’s inextricably tied to Jigsaw’s heart rate. Oh and she’s Jeff’s wife, so no pressure. Meanwhile, Amanda, now a survivor of both the original Reverse Bear Trap and being tossed into the needle pit of Saw 2, is losing her guiding light. Even if that guiding light is a mass murderer with a very definitive line on morals. It all means that Saw 3 feels electric with tension. It’s silly but it’s on-brand silly and the ludicrous multi-twist ending is pure absurd Saw.

Saw 5 (2008)

Best trap: Blood sacrifice machine

Yes, we live in a world where the fifth entry of Saw is our second favorite of them all. It’s our list and we can do what we want, and the irony and twist of this entire article is that you’re going to have to watch them all anyway for them to make any sense. Game over… Anyway, this entry gleefully sees FBI agent Peter Strahm playing cat and mouse with Detective Hoffman who continues to do Jigsaw’s work under the guise of a police officer. Ignoring the fact that both actors look disturbingly similar, making it slightly confusing, the evidence against Hoffman is mounting up and another game is underway.

This game is significantly improved by starring Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dexter’s Julie Benz as one of the victims. The collection of traps here are good fun, but why have we chosen the blood sacrifice machine as our favorite? Because not only is this one of the most prolonged and, quite frankly, sickening sequences in the series as two people drain themselves of plasma-like punctured juice cartons, it’s also a giant middle finger from Jigsaw. Every single one of the traps in this game was designed as team efforts with minimal bloodshed. Had the group not murdered one another in selfish desperation, they’d all have survived and have lost a lot less blood. Violence isn’t the answer, folks. You’ve been watching too many movies…

Saw (2003)

Best trap: Reverse bear trap

Here it is. The original and best – and really what the sequels have always wanted to replicate but just never have. One of our best horror movies of all time, Leigh Whannel and James Wan’s Saw simply cannot be beaten as a horror-thriller firing on all cylinders. It had no budget to speak of; crafting car chases with a garage full of smoke and reusing shots by reversing them, but the sheer intensity of Saw’s mystery is incomparable. When Adam and Dr. Laurence Gordon woke up in a bathroom armed only with a saw each for their chained legs, a horror legend was born, even if he was just lying on the floor between them not doing anything.

Saw is actually remarkably restrained. Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, there is very little blood, only the suggestion of gore and moments of depravity. Instead, James Wan’s deft direction and terrifying jump scares combine perfectly with the pure horror of a moralistic killer who doesn’t kill but engineers death via a series of games and tests. There’s a reason that this one-budget horror indie spawned eight more movies and even a theme park ride. Even in death, Jigsaw prevails. Oh, and he has a killer soundtrack too.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is in cinemas now. For more, check out the best Netflix horror movies available now.

Ranking All Of The ‘SAW’ Movies

Seeing a Saw movie in theaters used to be an annual tradition for horror fans. The franchise is a quite big one, and definitely has a devoted following. Even after the quality and box office returns dropped considerably, there’s no denying that there is still a market for these types of films. Yes, every single year, Liongate would pump one of these bad boys out for the world to see – and why not? The budgets are super low and the returns are super high. For one of these to flop, it would have to flop really hard, and that didn’t ever happen. Hell, Saw 3D or Saw: The Final Chapter had a “high” budget of 20 million compared to the other movies – and still made 136 million worldwide. Not a bad return at all.

This weekend, Spiral: From The Book Of Saw hits theaters, and it’s the first Saw related movie to come out in about four years. With that being said, what better time is there to re-visit all of the other movies? Obvious spoilers follow!

Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)

This was the film that was supposed to end the franchise, and while it may have technically ended it, it wasn’t really the ending that fans were hoping for. By this point, the franchise had been played out, and needed a break. The traps in this movie were pretty much made for the sole reason of being in 3D, so they ended up being underwhelming compared to the other ones we’ve seen.

Not even an appearance from Cary Elwes as Dr. Gordon could save it. In fact, that appearance made the movie even more ridiculous than it already was. And not in a good way. As you may remember, it turns out that after the first Saw movie, Gordon decided to work with John Kramer AKA Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and ends up as one of his apprentices. Had we not had so many other sequels where we saw characters do this, it might have been a little more shocking. How many people truly want to join forces with a person who kidnapped them and forced them to mutilate themselves? Would you even talk to someone after they forced you to saw your foot off?

It’s pretty obvious why the franchise decided to take a seven year break after this.

Saw V (2008)

They should have titled this movie “Flashback” because that’s all that really seems to be going on here. Maybe the producers realized that a year had passed and not everyone could have remembered the mediocre film that is next on our list, so they had to use Saw 5 to get us all caught up again.

Aside from those problems, there are a few cool traps – but the FOCUS is so much on the flashbacks, nothing really gets going due to all of the awkward transitions. Scott Patterson does turn in a good performance as Agent Strahm – and you find yourself rooting for him the entire movie – which is what makes the ending so frustrating and unsatisfying. Honestly, I’d say it’s pretty much in a tie with The Final Chapter in terms of ranking on this list.

Saw IV (2007)

Saw 4 is where things started to get bad. The traps just became too unrealistic (even by horror movie standards) and the reasons that the victims were “playing the game” became dumb. The cop in this film, Daniel Rig (played by Lyriq Bent) is punished for trying to rescue Jigsaw’s victims. That’s it. That’s the reason why he must go through all of the excruciating tasks that are presented to him in the movie. Trying to save people.

There are also a ton of twists in this movie, which I mean, it’s a Saw movie, yes, but how many twists can there be? Detective Eric Matthews is alive, and Detective Lieutenant Mark Hoffman is on Jigsaw’s side. Yet another disciple of Jigsaw. Aside from the twists, there are a lot of flashbacks, which is a trend that would continue in Saw 5, as mentioned above.

Personally, I was expecting to see more of the story about Jeff Denlon (Angus Macfayden) carry on from the third movie, but that’s pretty non-existent in this film aside from the actor being in it for a few seconds. It’s said that he was supposed to have more of a part in Saw 4, and even die in a blender trap, but that was ultimately scrapped for the film we ended up getting – which ended up feeling like it was made simply for traps and no mental horror aspect of it at all. It’s also where Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) becomes the FOCUS of the franchise.

Saw VI (2009)

Saw 6 isn’t exactly good movie, but it is a step up from 4 and 5, if that’s saying anything. It has some clever traps (if you can look past the fact that we are supposed to believe that one person did all of this) and had an overall interesting message about life and death. My problem with this film, was if John Kramer was wronged by the insurance agent Peter Outerbridge (played by William Easton) in such a way that the film shows – why wouldn’t Outerbridge been his first target? Instead of Dr. Gordon? Or at least in the first movie? By this point in the franchise, there are so many different people that Jigsaw has been wronged by and so many different traps, it becomes impossible to believe – and there’s no mystery to anything anymore. You know everything about Kramer.

Honestly, though, if you’re still locked into the franchise at this point, you probably have already stopped hoping for realistic scenarios. This movie ranks higher than Saw 4 and 5 because the flashbacks are at least somewhat interesting and you can tell the filmmakers knew that audiences were kind of burnt out on all of the ridiculous dot-connecting that took place in those two films.

Top 20 Best Saw Movie Traps

Jigsaw (2017)

Jigsaw is sort of like Saw 6. It isn’t really a good movie, but it’s not as bad as what we’ve seen before – it just doesn’t capture what made the first few films so interesting. It does, however, at least try to take the franchise to a different place, and you can see that early on.

There are some good traps in the movie and even a really clever one in the “Shotgun” game, where Kramer tells the victims exactly what they need to do to survive – but they don’t understand the riddle until it’s too late.

This one just seemed to suffer from what the other later movies have suffered from – the reveal just isn’t that shocking anymore from what we’re expecting. When you’re given top-notch twists early on in a franchise, you have a high standard for that kind of thing. So while Jigsaw delivers in some aspects, it doesn’t quite capture the form of the first films.

Spiral: From The Book Of Saw (2021)

Despite being an attempt to take the Saw franchise in a new direction, Spiral is more of the same – except it has Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson. It’s directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed Saw 2-4 and you can tell. If the idea was to take it somewhere new, maybe they should have brought in a new director to give the franchise some fresh blood. The “new Jigsaw” voice is also a massive downgrade from the iconic original voice we heard in the other movies.

Fans of the other movies will likely enjoy it, but I feel it’s closer to Jigsaw than Saw, in terms of quality and honestly, a bit predictable. Actually, really predictable. It’s not a bad twist, but the reveal could have been made a little less obvious – as we’ve seen other films in the franchise do – even if the reveals turn out to be silly in the end, at least they kept us guessing.

Saw III (2006)

The franchise made its biggest mistake in this film – killing off Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw character. After this film, none of the movies really compared and became far too unrealistic to be anything other than entertaining for fans of gore. While that is fine, the thing that made the Saw movies popular wasn’t just the gore – it was the psychological aspect of it as well.

The gore is definitely here though, as it’s the goriest film in the franchise. It received the NC-17 rating by the MPAA numerous times before finally receiving an R-Rating. Bousman said it was Rob Zombie who helped him secure the rating.

Saw III trivia. I had to call @RobZombie and ask for help with the MPAA. Saw III received the NC-17 half a dozen times. Rob gave me advice on how to get that R. The only movie I had more trouble getting the R on was… SPIRAL. #SAWathon

— Darren_Bousman (@darren_bousman) May 9, 2021

An example of that gore would have to be one of the most popular traps in the franchise in “The Rack”.

Saw II (2005)

Director James Wan left after the first movie, while writer Leigh Whannell stayed on for this one and Saw 3. For the most part, Saw 2 is a pretty good horror movie and features a pretty big surprise at the end, leaving fans wanting more. Amanda being Jigsaw’s disciple was huge and almost on par with the twist at the end of the first film. It also increases the violence without sacrificing the story – as we saw other sequels make the mistake of doing.

I feel like this was the only sequel that truly delivered.

Saw (2004)

Not much of a shocker here, as Saw is (and is regarded as) the best film in the franchise. The film’s twist was one of the best ever in a horror movie (or any movie for that matter) and had a pretty basic setup when you compare it to the ridiculous lengths we saw the franchise go later on. Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell give great performances (especially when you consider the time and budget constraints they and director James Wan were working with) and the movie keeps you guessing up until the very end. It was an ending that left audiences shocked and wanting more – and little did they know, they’d get it. And then some.

every, movie, ranked, original, spiral

The hype of this movie is something the franchise keeps trying to get back – but even after some breaks, it seems as though it was just a case of perfect timing.

Conclusion: To me, the Saw franchise really started to fall off after Saw 3. As I stated above, the decision to kill off Jigsaw proved to be a big mistake, as Tobin Bell is who carried those movies. Just look at 2017’s Jigsaw. If it wouldn’t have had Bell in the movie, it likely would have suffered the same reception as the other films without him. Making Hoffman the FOCUS of the franchise after the third movie was not a very good idea, as he’s just not as interesting of a character as Kramer. If they wouldn’t have done that, or at least had a better replacement for Kramer, we may have had better quality sequels and the franchise would still be going strong. Then again, despite the declining box office returns of each movie, the franchise maintains a core fan-base.

The films just kept diving deeper and deeper into absurdity, rather than being the clever and shocking thing they once were. Sure, there were decent traps in ALL of the movies, but unless that’s the only thing you’re looking for, they just don’t cut it in the end. The traps also became less about teaching people lessons for doing bad and more about simply how much gore they can put in a scene.

With Saw 10 already said to be in the works, it’ll be interesting to see what they decide to do with the franchise. Reboot? flashbacks? New sequel that ignores all of the other sequels? spin-offs like Spiral? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Ranking the Saw Franchise From Worst to Best

Spoilers for all Saw films, especially Saw (2004)

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Saw and the subsequent franchise it birthed. For most of the 2000s, you could count on a Saw movie to come out in late October and Jigsaw/John Kramer (Tobin Bell) seems to be the only horror villain since the 80s to have successfully joined the ranks of horror icons like Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers. Without Saw we wouldn’t have The Conjuring universe or Insidious movies, last year’s The Invisible Man, and most importantly of all, I wouldn’t be writing this list.

This is a list that’s somewhat difficult to order given the significant differences in the Saw movies. The first three films (that’s right “films”), written by Leigh Whannell, each function as stand alone stories with recurring characters, but the fourth through seventh, written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, are proto-MCU serialized movies that feel more like TV when watching them now. Not to mention the eighth film that came out seven years after all the other movies in the franchise.

And yet, here we are, on the eve of the release of the ninth Saw film and looking forward to the tenth, to discuss and rank (by the standards of Saw movies) all as of yet released Saw films.

Saw III (2006)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

The only truly bad Saw movie is the only one well over an hour and a half. Saw III clocks in at just over 2 hours, longer than the first movie by almost 20 minutes, and longer than every subsequent movie by nearly half an hour. While I agree with many that length isn’t the most legitimate complaint to make about a movie, I feel differently about a horror movie, and series, that’s so based on clocks counting down. It becomes an even greater issue when much of the movie is spent being frustrated with the protagonist for not helping people out of traps quickly enough. It’s a horror movie that’s meant to have momentum and tension but ends up feeling slow and boring.

To be somewhat fair to Saw III, it’s stuck in a strange place, in between the first two movies with their self contained stories and the serialization of all of the movies that follow. It gestures awkwardly at this serialization, by being the most focused on John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and Amanda Young’s (Shawnee Smith) relationship in the series to that point, without successfully making this work the way the following films do.

It’s also the first movie in the series to FOCUS on a single character coming across others in traps, which just isn’t as compelling as watching a group of people, even if it’s just two, trying to work with or against one another to escape their predicament. The best thing I can say about Saw III is that Shawnee Smith is a delight as Amanda, and I wish she had continued to be as significant of a character in the later movies.

Saw 3D (2010)

Director: Kevin Greutert

Saw 3D (aka Saw: The Final Chapter, aka Saw VII) struggles with some of the same problems as Saw III. While it functions as a conclusion to the story of detective and Jigsaw acolyte Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), it introduces a new detective on Hoffman’s trail (after he murdered everyone else who was at all onto him in Saw VI) which leads to the movie feeling less like a continuation of the series that came before and instead feels like a poor attempt to keep things going after they should have ended.

The movie may also never fully recover from its opening trap that feels antithetical to both the (albeit ever-fluctuating) morality of Jigsaw and the dark and dirty aesthetic of the franchise up to that point. It takes place in broad daylight, in a public shop window no less, and involves two men and the woman who has been dating them both. It’s a genuinely infuriating trap not just for the sexism that up to that point hasn’t really had any place in the franchise (something worth celebrating in a long running horror franchise) but also for the break with the established look and feel of the series that we’ve come to love.

Saw 3D also barely makes use of its 3D beyond some guts flying at the camera in that opening trap which makes it disappointing in yet another way. But to The Final Chapter’s credit, it offers an absolutely wild retcon that goes back to the first movie, something that only the Saw movies can do and have it just feel right.

Jigsaw (2017)

Director: Peter Michael Spierig

Jigsaw (the movie) certainly isn’t one of the best of the Saw films, but it’s impressive that it manages to be better than two of the original run movies. There are a few things that make it work, features that all the best movies in the franchise have: confusing timelines, solid traps, and most importantly a big twist at the end that retcons something significant into the story of the entire franchise.

It also deploys Tobin Bell as Jigsaw perfectly. Something that’s a bit difficult to do given that he’s been dead since the end of the third movie and this is meant to take place years after the original run. But the story builds in such a way that when Bell arrives he’s an iconic figure. Jigsaw (again the movie) also manages to function better than Saw III and The Final Chapter because it’s able to function as a standalone film and isn’t stuck between telling its own story and fitting into an ongoing narrative.

It also benefits from focusing on a group again, forcing a variety of characters to make life saving and/or ending decisions for themselves and each other in a way that keeps things exciting.

Saw IV (2007)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

Saw IV opens with John Kramer’s autopsy after he’s died at the end of Saw III. It’s an incredible sequence that delivers more gore than the previous three movies combined, but ultimately works against the movie as a whole because it’s the best thing that happens in the entire film, followed closely by the twist that reveals Hoffman as Jigsaw’s accomplice and apprentice. Sadly everything that happens between the best opening sequence in the franchise and the reveal of the new lead character is just okay.

Like Saw III and The Final Chapter, Saw IV follows an individual character who encounters others in traps as he goes on his Jigsaw led journey of self discovery, this time a journey that (somewhat bafflingly) takes him all over town. What makes this a bit better is that the individual character is Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) who has been in the series since Saw II and thus the audience has some interest in and attachment to him. Along with focusing on a character from the previous films in the trap plot, and revealing Hoffman as the new lead of the series, Saw IV also introduces the FBI agents who go on to play a key role in the ongoing story.

The movie is notable for charting a new course for the series in the wake of the death of its lead killer in a way that somehow actually works. And the final reveal that everything here takes place concurrently with Saw III begins the series love affair with time in a way that rivals even Christopher Nolan.

Saw VI (2009)

Director: Kevin Greutert

Saw VI is a highlight of the series simply because it’s the movie where Jigsaw becomes a modern age Robin Hood waging war against predatory lenders and health insurance agents who value profits over people’s lives. It opens with a trap in which Jigsaw demands a literal pound of flesh from predatory lenders and two of the film’s three plot lines FOCUS on the evils of health insurers.

In one of those plot lines, a flashback story focused on John Kramer being refused coverage, we get the expectedly as subtle as a hammer quote: “These politicians, they say … ‘Healthcare decisions should be made by doctors and their patients, not by the government.’ Well, now I know they’re not made by doctors and their patients or by the government. They’re made by the fucking insurance companies.”

Saw VI is also remarkable as a horror movie, because it’s one of the few where the horror sequences are by far the least engaging part. Again we’re following an individual on a journey instead of a group, but it’s not the failings of the traps storyline that make the horror the least interesting aspect of the movie, it’s that we’re getting lines like the above from Jigsaw, and that the Hoffman plot line is coming to a very violent head.

Saw II (2005)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

every, movie, ranked, original, spiral

Saw II delivers on being a bigger (if not necessarily better) sequel by expanding the two people locked in a room premise of the first film into eight people trapped in a house. It also establishes big reveal twists as a hallmark of the franchise and gives the audience a real introduction to John Kramer through his conversation with detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg). It’s kind of amazing how much of this horror movie is just two people sitting at a table and talking, and more amazing that these scenes aren’t filler between the horror sequences, but in fact part of what makes Saw II one of the best Saw movies.

The horror sequences are also top notch. Saw II has some of the most memorable traps in the entire series, in particular the pit of needles and the box with razor lined hand openings. The dynamic that plays out among the eight characters in the house also keeps things thrilling as we don’t know who will die next or what decision one of them will make and how it will affect the others, again one of the best parts of this is the pit of needles.

Saw II proved that the first movie wasn’t a one-off and that this premise of a dying serial killer who wants to make people appreciate their lives could be the basis for more fun stories and horrifying traps.

Saw (2004)

The movie that started it all. As I noted in my introduction, it’s impossible to quantify the impact that Saw had on the 2000s horror landscape. It introduced a grimy aesthetic that was picked up not just by other torture focused films like the Hostel series but also influenced the look of many of the films in the slasher revival. It’s also James Wan’s first film as a director and there are some truly fantastic tension building sequences that have more in common with his haunted house movies than any of the later entries in the Saw series.

What really makes Saw so special though is its simplicity. There are two men chained in a room with a death body and no recollection of how they got there or why. The movie spends more than fifteen minutes with these two men in this room before expanding to include flashbacks and introducing the police officers who are on the trail of the “Jigsaw killer.” Saw develops beautifully, as more information is (mostly) logically revealed based on what came before, and often feels more like a thriller than an all out horror movie.

The fact that the two cops at the center of the B plot are actually somewhat likable and not violent abusers of power like Matthews or literally mass murderers like Hoffman also contributes to this feeling more like a thriller and makes their deaths more impactful. They’re characters that we’ve grown to care about as opposed to feeling simply like cannon fodder we can’t wait to see be dispatched in a creative trap.

But the first movie has its flaws, too. The acting is less than stellar across the board and Cary Elwes is especially bad as one of the two men trapped in the room. Wan’s talent for tension building is already on display, but his talent for action has a long way to go as is most apparent in the finale that includes one of the worst shot and edited car chases ever. And while it may be more tasteful and arguably “better” filmmaking to leave the extreme violence largely implied, the lack of on screen gore here is a bit disappointing for the movie that is tagged with starting “torture porn” (even if the creators disagree with that label) and for a series that came to be known for its over the top gore.

Saw V (2008)

Saw V is where everything about the series peaks. It has the best trap plot line with the best cast of characters (played by the most recognizable and talented actors the series ever got outside the first film), it contains the best scenes with Jigsaw/John, the Hoffman plot is at its best, and the finale delivers one of the most brutal deaths in the entire franchise and is the best in the series after the original.

Saw V makes you truly question “when are we?” as we’re treated to flashbacks within flashbacks and things that you thought were happening in the current timeline are revealed to have actually happened at some point in the past but it’s never made clear exactly when. This is the movie where Jigsaw/John becomes something more than human with lines like “If you’re good at anticipating the human mind, it leaves nothing to chance.” It’s where Hoffman begins to toy with the FBI agent who’s onto him and we learn about how he became John’s apprentice in one of the best scenes of the series.

And it’s perhaps the only movie in the series where the trap plot focuses on a group of characters played by genuinely good actors. These actors are able to play the shifting dynamics in a way that pulls the audience into the puzzle of piecing things together about their characters. It’s also the only film in the series that wrings some real tension out of the traps, both in its opening sequence based on Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum and throughout the main trap plot, while still delivering on the gore.

Simply put: Saw V is the best Saw movie because it’s the most Saw movie.

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