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I want to play a game. It’s called going through every film in the Saw franchise and figuring out which ones are best. This isn’t just any game. It’s one of the most painful, brutal, gory, disgusting, and awesome games anyone can play.
I love the Saw movies. I love the best films in the franchise, but I even love the terrible ones. There’s just something about the excessive plot twists, improbable character developments, and elaborate kills that I can’t get enough of.
I’ve seen every Saw film on day one in theaters, and I’ve marathoned all the movies more than once (which is actually quite draining—it’s hard to spend 16+ hours watching people suffer).
As we rapidly approach the 15th anniversary of the masterpiece that was first Saw, it only seemed appropriate to take a trip down memory lane with all eight movies and rank them from worst to best.
8. Saw 3D (Saw: The Final Chapter)
As I said in the intro, I love the Saw movies, even the bad ones. But with that said, it’s really difficult for me to love this movie, as it’s just so bad. Between that ridiculous plot, the fact that two movies were essentially shoved together to create the plot here, and the over-reliance on 3D, it’s hard to enjoy this movie.
Still, it has the elements that make a Saw movie a Saw movie, so all is not lost. The very first scene is actually quite interesting, with the trap on display in a public place. Sadly, it all goes downhill from there, but if you want to know the full story of Jigsaw and his band of murders, you need to suck it up and watch Saw 3D.
Jigsaw is the most recent film in the Saw franchise, as The Final Chapter (Saw 3D) was meant to be the final film in the franchise. With how bad the previous film was, I certainly didn’t have high expectations for Jigsaw, but somehow, it managed to be better than the movie that came before it.
In the end, what actually made this movie enjoyable was the twist. I won’t spoil it, but even knowing that there was going to be a twist of some sort (as all Saw movies end with some crazy twist), I couldn’t predict what they ultimately did, which was surprising. Add a large budget for some spectacular looking traps, and this film actually isn’t terrible. It has problems (hence its position on the list), but it could have been much worse.
6. Saw IV
The fourth film in the Saw franchise is actually the one I was most excited for when it hit theaters. It was by the fourth that I realized that this really is a franchise, and it truly became an October tradition to see Saw in theaters (I actually saw this one twice).
Sadly, the movie just didn’t live up to the first three. It has some fantastic traps, but it seems like the writers were kind of spinning their wheels and just making a movie because it was October and that meant it was Saw time. The characters in the traps aren’t likable enough, so you end up just rooting for them to fail, which isn’t the point of a Saw film. It also spends a lot of time examining the backstory of John Kramer, but the way it’s handled just isn’t interesting enough.
4. Saw V
David Hackl made is his directorial debut in Saw V, and he does a pretty good job. Of course, he worked on previous Saw films as a production designer, so perhaps the time he had watching others work on the films gave him some ideas of what he’d do if he was in charge.
This film follows the group format put in place in Saw II, and it leads to some pretty interesting dynamics between the characters, who are all fairly well-written. They need to work together to survive, and as you might expect, they all don’t succeed. There are lots of interesting traps, an epic battle outside of the main game, and plenty of interpersonal elements at play in this film.
4. Saw III
Saw III seems to be one of the contentious films in the franchise. Some people love it, some people hate. Personally, I’m pretty midling on it. It has some problems, but it’s certainly not as bad as some of the lazy films that followed it.
This is the film where we really start to learn a lot about the backstory of John Kramer aka Jigsaw. In Saw II, he’s still more of a mysterious figure, but in III, he becomes much less of a villain and much more of a sympathetic character. At the time, this movie features some of his most gruesome and painful traps, so there’s an interesting contrast there.
3. Saw VI
Saw VI doesn’t rewrite the Saw formula, but rather, it feels a bit more like a film that’s going back to its roots. It has one of the better endings in the movie with a twist that actually feels grounded while remaining thoroughly surprising.
Right out of the gate, Saw VI gets going and it never lets up. From traps that involve choosing who lives and dies between loved ones, to more traditional Jigsaw fare, this movie has them all. Add in some interesting twists and turns in the John Kramer story, and you have a film that truly feels like a return to form. It’s just too bad that The Final Chapter is what came next…
2. Saw II
I was actually quite tempted to put Saw II as my favorite movie in the franchise, as it’s the film where the formula future films would follow really came into its own. In the end, though, it sits comfortably as the second greatest movie in one of the most beloved horror franchises in modern history.
Saw II features some incredibly disturbing imagery that’ll make even the most dedicated horror veteran feel a bit squeamish (I’m looking at you, pit of used syringes). Add in the fact that the story really starts to get crazy, and you have an incredible movie that still holds up today.
The first Saw movie is an absolute masterpiece. It’s easily in my top 10 films of all time (no, not just horror films… all films). James Wan truly shows off his genius here, and we get our first glimpse of the gruesome brand of horror that future Saw movies will bring to the table.
When you consider how small the budget for the first Saw was $1.2 million, it becomes even more impressive what Wan and the rest of his crew pulled off. The birth of Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw was truly something to behold, and it’s a legacy that carried on through seven additional films that grossed hundreds of millions of dollars (in fact, it’s just a bit below a billion dollars).