Amanda Young wearing the Reverse Beartrap on her head in Saw

Every ‘Saw’ Movie, Ranked

Saw is one of those horror franchises that not everyone likes or even understands, but those who do are frequently ride-or-die—or live-or-die, rather. The first Saw film put James Wan and Leigh Whannell on the map, and while some of the franchise’s entries are much better than others, they all find new and inventive ways to torture people into learning a lesson. Below, we’ve ranked every movie in the Saw franchise, including the most recent installment, Saw X.

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Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)

Betsy Russell as Jill Kramer in 'Saw 3D,' a.k.a. 'Saw: The Final Chapter'
(Lionsgate Films)

It’s honestly a tragedy that this sequel marked Cary Elwes’ return to the franchise after six movies. Saw: The Final Chapter (a.k.a. Saw 3D, the seventh in the franchise) is grossly misogynistic, with the main game of the film punishing an innocent woman for the actions of her husband. Mark Hoffman should have died in the previous film, which would have at least ended the series on a somewhat solid note.

The one saving grace in Saw: The Final Chapter is the scene in which a bunch of neo-Nazis get crushed in a Rube Goldberg-esque machine. Top-notch Saw trap.

Saw V (2008)

Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) safe in the Glass Coffin in Saw V
(Lionsgate Films)

This sequel is honestly forgettable and that arguably makes it the worst of the bunch. The main game in Saw V features multiple people, all of whom are awful. The one thing I will give it credit for is that it is one of the few games that arguably works as intended, as the two survivors admit they deserve their suffering.

It’s also the movie that introduces a whole bunch of weird stuff as “explanations” for Jigsaw’s motivations and background, such as Jigsaw’s wife having miscarried their child as a result of a drug addict, and Jigsaw wanting his son to be born in the year of the Pig (which is why his followers wear pig masks). It also establishes Mark Hoffman’s motivation—seeking revenge for the murder of his sister at the hands of her boyfriend—which makes his actions in Saw: The Final Chapter even more baffling.

Saw IV (2007)

A man reaches across broken glass for a tape recorder in 'Saw IV'
(Lionsgate Films)

Saw IV had big shoes to fill, being the direct follow-up to the movie that killed off the main antagonists, John Kramer and Amanda. The replacement Jigsaw killer, Detective Mark Hoffman, is a contentious character in the franchise, and his first film doesn’t do him many favors as it does little to establish his motivations. But its biggest problem is that the lesson Jigsaw is trying to teach is that the police officer protagonist … shouldn’t help people? Basically, Jigsaw’s philosophy is that people need to be put in situations where they help themselves escape instead of being rescued. As a result, the protagonist is actively punished for trying to save other people. It’s tragic and infuriating, and the reveal that the game was rigged all along doesn’t help much.

Jigsaw

Laura Vandervoort in 'Jigsaw'
(Lionsgate Films)

This movie is a mess, but it’s a fun mess. If you try to think about Jigsaw for more than two minutes, the plot falls apart thanks to glaring continuity issues—why do the flashbacks show John Kramer using flat-screen TVs in 2003?—and the decision to focus on John Kramer undercuts the debut of the new Jigsaw killer. But the film kind of knows what it is and leans into it with over-the-top traps.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)

Chris Rock in 'Spiral: From the Book of Saw'
(Lionsgate Films)

Spiral: From the Book of Saw is the first Saw film to not feature John Kramer in any respect and honestly, it’s an interesting experiment to change the antagonist so late in the franchise—a bit like Friday the 13th: A New Beginning or Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.

Like many other Saw films, it deals with a prominent social issue, this one focusing on police brutality and corruption. While Spiral does point out many of the problems with American policing, the ending of the film muddies the new Jigsaw killer’s motivations by punishing the one “good” cop who previously saved the antagonist’s life. What point are you trying to make, exactly? That Chris Rock should have killed a child who witnessed police brutality?

Saw III (2006)

Amanda (Shawnee Smith) puts a deadly bomb collar around the neck of Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) in 'Saw III'
(Lionsgate Films)

The “protagonist” of Saw III is arguably the most annoying character in the whole franchise, whose inability to take decisive action results in literally everyone dying. I do enjoy the exploration of John Kramer and Amanda Young’s relationship and all its co-dependent, manipulative messiness. I also appreciate how the movie shows that Kramer’s methods haven’t “cured” Amanda of her addiction, but have instead channeled that destructive energy outwards as well as inwards, and how Amanda has gotten better at hiding her self-harm.

Saw VI (2009)

Simone (Tanedra Howard) in distress during her trap in Saw VI
(Lionsgate Films)

I would argue that the original three films make a solid trilogy, and that you can just stop there. However, if you do make it past the first three, you should watch Saw VI. In a horrific twist on the Christmas Carol formula of teaching rich people empathy, the CEO of a health insurance company must go through a series of painful games to save his employees while learning the human costs of denying people the coverage they need. It says a lot that they’re basically remaking this film in Saw X, with John Kramer and Amanda Young going after fake doctors who preyed upon desperate cancer patients.

Saw (2003)

Often referred to as Saw 0.5, this was the student film that started it all. Honestly, it’s amazing how efficient James Wan and Leigh Whannell are with their storytelling; the film is basically a Saw movie in 10 minutes, establishing the main character, the “flaw” that made them a target, and how the trap traumatizes but ultimately doesn’t change them.

Saw X (2023)

Saw X Tobin Bell (via Lionsgate)
(Lionsgate FIlms)

Saw X is a return to form for the franchise, one that arguably improves upon the formula that many of the other films followed. This is everything fans wanted from a midquel to the original Saw trilogy: brutal traps, an exploration of Jigsaw and Amanda Young’s relationship, and a good twist at the end. Some people might call it slow (it’s about half an hour longer than the average Saw movie), but it takes its time to build up the story and really make us feel for John Kramer. It also gives Amanda Young the chance to shine.

Saw II (2005)

Shawnee Smith as Amanda Young in 'Saw II'
(Lionsgate Films)

This is the film that really establishes who Jigsaw is and why he does what he does. John Kramer is a wretched person with a sadistic edge, but he’s got a certain charisma that makes him fun to watch if nothing else. Saw II also gives us one of the best female horror villains of the 21st century. I love Amanda Young. She’s a complex character who is both a victim and a villain. The ending, in which Amanda gets revenge on the corrupt cop who planted evidence on her, is a solid “Good for Her” moment.

Saw (2004)

Amanda Young wearing the Reverse Bear Trap in Saw
(Lionsgate Films)

Something that might surprise you is that the actual blood and gore that the franchise came to be known for is (mostly) missing from the first movie. Like Psycho and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the original Saw tricks you with solid editing and sound design, making you think you see more than you actually do in many scenes. That being said, if you don’t like this film, then you probably won’t like the others in the series, so watcher be warned.

Saw has a few markers of a first film, with some weird editing and a few odd acting choices from writer Leigh Whannell in a supporting role, but it also shows how much promise the young filmmakers had. After the teen horror craze, Wan and Whannell updated horror for the post-9/11 era of paranoia and unfiltered recognition of how messed up and dangerous the world really is.

(featured image: Lionsgate Films)


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Author
Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.