The Saw movie franchise had a massive impact on the horror genre during the 2000s. It brought in new tropes, new aesthetics, and new ideas to a genre that is filled with cliches that can be had to avoid. The Saw films are known for their intense gore, mind-bending twists, and intriguing riddles. Like many other horror series, there’s a lot of them and they certainly vary in quality. The series as a whole allows for a fun watch, but some of the movies are better than the others, so here’s each of the Saw movies ranked from worst to best.
Obviously, there are spoilers ahead for the Saw movie franchise.
9) Saw V
Like each of the Saw films, Saw V does include some fun moments, but it can be a bit frustrating to watch. It barely progresses any of the on-going plot seen throughout the rest of the series, and the victims trapped in the central “game” are so idiotic that they can’t figure out that if they worked together they’d be able to get through the easiest challenges in the franchise.
Plus, Hoffman, who takes over for the Jigsaw role after John Kramer’s passing, puts a victim in a “game” without any possible way out, which defeats the purpose of said game. It goes against John’s reasoning for starting this whole Jigsaw thing in the first place and takes away the fun of rooting for them to escape for the audience. The dialogue gets pretty dumb as well. A character tells an explosion to wait as if the fire would just stop and turn around. It still has the gore and suspense fans of the series are looking for, but this is easily the weakest of the bunch.
8) Saw IV
The main “game” of Saw IV is actually pretty creative, in that the point of it is that John Kramer put it in motion after his own death to recruit Lieutenant Rigg as his successor. It’s more of a series of tests that Rigg must pass in order for that to happen. However, a lot of elements of these tests feel insanely coincidental. What if he didn’t find the note left for him at one of the locations? What if the other cops beat him to one of the locations? It’s riddled with plot convenience.
Also, while the previous movies had memorable twists toward the end, the twist in this one was that it takes place at the same time as Saw III. The purpose of that doesn’t get explained until the following movie, so it feels like a pointless fact to leave the audience on after watching it. It’s also worth noting that, while subverting expectations can be entertaining, it’s a bit of cruel prank to end Saw III by setting up that Jeff will begin his next challenge of finding his kidnapped daughter for that to not be the focus of Saw IV whatsoever, and for that to be treated as an afterthought. Saw IV has its shining moments, but there were some odd decisions made with it..
7) Saw VI
Saw VI is an enjoyable entry in the Saw library. The “games” that victims find themselves stuck in are incredibly creative and fit their crimes perfectly. It also moves the ongoing story of the Hoffman Saga along quite nicely by building off of the previous installments and setting up the exciting conclusion.
There are a couple of reasons why it’s not ranked higher, though. For one, the original point of the “games” that Jigsaw trapped folks in was that they’d be able to make it out alive having learned a valuable lesson. Here, though, the game is intended for William, who must make decisions regarding who lives and who dies. Most of his games require someone to die no matter what, which takes away from that original point. There’s then a decision regarding whether or not he should live, made by a family who he hurt in the past. The point of these games is to teach the victim a life lesson, but that won’t happen if this third party dictates otherwise. Again, taking away that element of “will the characters make it our or not” detracts from both the overall point and the fun. That being said, these unique games do absolutely lead to twisted entertainment for the viewers.
6) Spiral: From the Book of Saw
Spiral is a surprisingly entertaining and suspenseful return to the world of Saw. It’s a spinoff that shakes up the formula a bit while staying true to what fans want out of Saw. There are great twists, gore effects, and games of torture. This one, however, focuses much more on the police work of finding the newest Jigsaw copycat. It also introduces some fantastic and very real commentary regarding police corruption, as well as winning audiences over by making them truly care about some of the leading characters. What holds this movie back so much, though, is that the first half of the story is a paint-by-numbers cop drama with just about every cliche out there. The main character prefers to work alone but is assigned a partner he doesn’t want, he’s too close to the case so other police want him off of it, a retired police officer joins the investigation, and the list can go on from there.
It feels lazily written for at least the first half of the movie because of it. There are also some poor editing choices made throughout for the sake of tricking and confusing the audience, but it instead leads to awkward storytelling. With all that being said, it’s still an enjoyable-enough return to the series.
5) Saw 3D / Saw: the Final Chapter
The seventh film in the franchise has two titles and none of them are really correct if you watch it today, as you likely won’t be watching in 3D and two more chapters (so far) have come out since. This film provides a nice way to wrap up the seven-movie story and ties up loose ends quite well. It celebrates how far the series has come and is a satisfying way for fans to say goodbye to the series (until the two revisits were made). It has one of the best twists in the series that ties all seven movies together nicely and makes sense of a question some have had for years. It also finally allows audiences to see one of the traps go off which has been teased time and time again.
It doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of themes or games, and parts are eerily similar to past Saw movies, but it’s certainly enjoyable for those who are already fond of the series.
4) Saw III
A few of the Saw movies feature people stuck in a trap who can only escape with the help of whoever the game is actually meant for, and that formula started with Saw III. After the first two iconic films, it’s pretty neat that the third installment is able to introduce new ideas to the franchise. It offers more of an insight into why John Kramer began his crusade as Jigsaw, offers up some new and creative traps for victims to escape from, and has a couple of solid twists. The twists aren’t as jaw-dropping as in the first two movies, but there’s much more for gore fans to look forward to.
Jigsaw, which was made to revisit the series seven years after it reached its conclusion, served as both a sequel and a prequel through clever writing and editing. There’s a really solid twist ending that stays true to the originals, and much of it feels like an actual mystery like the first couple did. The games are actually winnable (which was lacking from a couple of the later films before this one). It’s overall a fantastic revisit to the series without changing or retconning anything. It expands on the Saw lore while also feeling like a simple, singular Saw movie. It’s a suspenseful film that keeps its audience guessing.
The one major drawback of Jigsaw is that the cast of characters who are fighting for their lives in the central game are complete morons. The movie itself is extremely well made and the story is overall great, but the decisions made by these victims are unrealistically stupid. One character needs to select a syringe with an antidote in it out of the rest that are filled with flesh-eating acid. She correctly identifies the correct one to take but still doesn’t take it, and then dies. Another character has to reach a motorcycle brake to stop a device from chopping him to bits, but doesn’t even attempt to do so when someone holds the device still for him to safely reach it. There’s also a character who intentionally ignores giant arrows pointing to the correct door to take and loses a leg for it when the wrong way leads to a trap that no one needed to find themselves in. Seeing these folks struggle to even have a single smart thought is genuinely frustrating and holds an otherwise great film back just a bit too much.
2) Saw II
During any sort of discussion about the most iconic parts from the Saw franchise, several of the games from Saw II come up. There are even traps from Saw II used in escape rooms today. It’s no surprise either, because the movie is fantastic. After the first introduced us to the world of Saw and gave us a glimpse as to who was behind it all, this one actually allowed us to get to know John Kramer as a character. It works extremely well as a sequel by playing with certain ideas from the original, like showing what would happen if even more people were trapped in the game together.
Saw II has one of the best twist endings in the series, provides a lot of suspense, and the psychological game is just as fun as the physical ones, which is something the later films unfortunately lose. It’s a shining example as to how a follow-up film should be made.
Saw is the iconic movie that started a nine-film franchise and will likely continue eventually. It introduced elements to the genre of horror that many movies would take on going forward. It has one of the greatest twist endings in film history. It’s become so iconic that it’s hard to go to a Halloween store without seeing a Billy the Doll mask several years later. The movie is simple on the surface with just two guys chained in a disgusting basement and a creepy voice giving them cryptic hints as to how they can escape. It feels like a stage play at times and is incredibly captivating. As the film progresses, it has the audience asking what’s going on, who’s behind it, and why it’s all happening. It only gets more and more exciting as the plot digs deeper. It’s one of those movies that truly sticks with someone once they’ve seen it.