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Every ‘Saw’ Movie Ranked Worst to Best

Game over!

Amanda wearing the reverse bear trap in Saw (2004)

Playing games takes on a different meaning when you watch any film in the Saw franchise. Unless you’re really into death games, getting placed in a trap isn’t a great scenario. What’s also not great is how up and down the Saw films are in terms of quality. Of course, that’s easily said about almost any horror franchise that exists, but Saw gets more flack because of how it’s dubbed a “torture porn” franchise.

Some of the entries are rougher than others and the characters being tortured aren’t always very likable. I suppose that’s also true of most horror movies that deal with gore and blood, and I say this as a gorehound (it’s not a very popular thing to admit, at times) myself. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to rank the Saw films (we’ll see where Saw X falls, in time) and surrender to the spiral. (See what I did there?) Let’s destroy ourselves and get bloody together, shall we?

9. Saw 3D (2010)

Jill Tuck in Saw 3D
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: As a fierce battle rages over Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell) terrible legacy, survivors seek support from a fellow survivor and self-help guru, who has a few dark secrets of his own. Meanwhile, crooked cop Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) seeks revenge against Jigsaw’s wife and an author who has his own story.

– Lionsgate Films

Yikes. That’s the first word that comes to mind with this entry in the franchise. The writing isn’t stellar (Jill’s death dream still has me scratching my head), the pink blood is goofy (3D films have a real downside in this way), and it’s the lowest point in the franchise as a result. It also loses points as it was marketed as the final chapter in the Saw franchise. We all know that seldom does a horror franchise stick to that kind of declaration.

8. Saw IV (2007)

Daniel Rigg contemplating in Saw IV
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: Despite Jigsaw’s death, and in order to save the lives of two of his colleagues, Lieutenant Rigg is forced to take part in a new game, which promises to test him to the limit.

– Lionsgate Films

It’s unfortunate that a film where most of the people in the traps are garbage (therefore their demises aren’t worth tears) fails, with Rigg (Lyriq Bent) as our primary focus. He’s not a shitty character per se; he just makes so many nonsensical choices, and it’s difficult to root for him to succeed when his decisions are so poor. At least he wasn’t written as a stereotypical Black man. The film’s twist does redeem it somewhat, but as an overall experience? It’s more convoluted storylines and the return of Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg), who wasn’t fun to watch the first time around.

7. Jigsaw (2017)

The group waking up in a trap in Jigsaw
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: Bodies are turning up around the city, each having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to one suspect: John Kramer, the man known as Jigsaw, who has been dead for over 10 years.

– Lionsgate Films

This entry gets a lot of hate, and it’s understandable why (even though I do not hate it). After the Saw fatigue people had after Saw 3D (2010), expectations were likely high at the time, and while this isn’t the worst film in the franchise, it’s not great, either. Sure, some of the traps are cool, but the timeline is funky and the twist reveal is … highly disappointing. It’s certainly not a groundbreaking entry and maybe deserves to be lower on this list, though it gets a little bit of a pass because it wasn’t another 3D flop.

6. Saw III (2006)

Amanda talking to Dr. Lynn in Saw III
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: Jigsaw abducts a doctor in order to keep himself alive while he watches his new apprentice put an unlucky citizen named Jeff through a brutal test.

– Lionsgate Films

Yep, this is the last time we see Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and Amanda (Shawnee Smith) alive, but ultimately, making Jeff (Angus Macfayden) the primary protagonist is where this went absolutely wrong. He’s unbearably slow, boring, and his test is spent on characters we certainly don’t care about. The steady presence of Jigsaw, Amanda, and even Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) helps ground what would otherwise be a tremendously boring entry. The combination of what I said above, the atmosphere, plus Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, and Bahar Soomekh’s performances are what keep this from landing any lower.

5. Saw VI (2009)

Hoffman wearing the reverse bear trap in Saw VI
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: With Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) still directing events from beyond the grave, Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) emerges as the heir to the killer’s twisted legacy. But as the FBI closes in, Hoffman sets in motion a game that is designed to reveal Jigsaw’s grand scheme.

– Lionsgate Films

Memorable moments sprinkled throughout this film help keep it from sinking. The plot focusing on a protagonist who’s not painful to root for helps a lot, as well. William (Peter Outerbridge) is the one person who actually learned something from his game. If only there were more people to root for and actually give a damn about, but where this entry fails overall (depending on who you ask), it at least touches on the insidiousness of the medical system in the U.S. That poignant message and the iconic scenes (for example: Hoffman in the reverse bear trap) give us some things to appreciate about this entry.

4. Spiral (2021)

Bozwick in a trap on the train tracks in Spiral
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: A criminal mastermind unleashes a twisted form of justice in Spiral, the terrifying new chapter.

– Lionsgate Films

It may seem strange to have this higher up on the list, but it does succeed in some ways. Spiral (2021) shifts the focus from the legacy of John Kramer (Tobin Bell) to a brand-new killer, and there’s a classic twist like the Saw films are known for. However, there are things that weigh the film down, like the pointless cop drama, Chris Rock’s uneven performance, etc. What works for the film is partially the traps, the soundtrack (it slaps, alright?), the style (the movie looks fantastic), and how it’s not afraid to expose the police department (the Saw films haven’t ever really been pro-police, honestly). Does the film deserve to be lower on this list? That’s for you to decide!

3. Saw V (2008)

Hoffman in the glass coffin in Saw V
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: Following Jigsaw’s grisly demise, Mark Hoffman is commended as a hero, but Agent Strahm is suspicious, and delves into Hoffman’s past. Meanwhile, another group of people are put through a series of gruesome tests.

– Lionsgate Films

Go on and fight me through your screen if you must. The fact of the matter is that Saw V (2008) doesn’t get the props it deserves. Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and Strahm’s (Scott Patterson) little cat-and-mouse was filled with tension. (What kind? That’s for you to decide, reader.) And the climax? Chef’s kiss. The game and victims this time around had Julie Benz, Meagan Good, and more. Plus, the traps were wild and the reveal that nobody needed to die in the game still gets me. What more can you even ask for? It’s definitely in my top 3, if I’m being honest (despite some of its plot issues), and it does what it needs to at the end of the day.

2. Saw (2004)

Amanda trying to figure out the reverse bear trap
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: “Two strangers awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, and soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.”

– Lionsgate Films

The ways this film helped change the landscape of horror in the early aughts is astounding. It’s a horror movie that most of us can remember watching for the first time. The disgusting bathroom, the traps, the mysteriousness and how the events unfolded are ingrained in our minds, and that ending is still one of the most iconic horror endings. Saw (2004) is also a horror movie that feels more violent than it actually is, and that’s not as easily executed as people may think. Ultimately, Leigh Whannell and James Wan hit gold when they came up with Saw (2004). It’s easily one of the best horror movies of the 2000s.

1. Saw II (2005)

Amanda in the needle pit in Saw II
(Lionsgate Films)

Plot: “A detective and his team must rescue 8 people trapped in a factory by the twisted serial killer known as Jigsaw.”

– Lionsgate Films

I’m not the type of horror fan who disregards every sequel in favor of the original. The fact of the matter is Saw II (2005) kicks things up a notch when compared to the first movie. The traps are better, there are more characters to root for (or hate, depending on your tastes), and the increased budget is so visible. It may not reach the same shock level as the first ending, but it almost doesn’t matter. There’s something about being poisoned and stuck in a broken down house that’s very unnerving. It’s on a different level than that dingy bathroom because survival isn’t all that impossible, and that’s what it makes the characters failing so miserable.

(featured image: Lionsgate Films)

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Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a blerd writer and visual artist who loves horror, anime and all things strange. Her writing has appeared in Pink Advocate, Dread Central and more. For more, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theblackbuffy.