The Saw franchise began as a small short film by director James Wan. James’ original short was so well received that Evolution Entertainment quickly commissioned a feature film.
The franchise has grown to include over ten films, including a spinoff outside the main plot. Jigsaw is now an iconic horror film icon, and the series continues to provide gory fun for audiences everywhere.
1. Saw 2: The Best Saw Film
Saw 2 is our favorite film in the franchise, and honestly, it’s not even close. This movie features the best trap and the best twist of the entire series. We still have nightmares of Shawnee Smith swimming around in a needle pit and the numerous twists and reveals work.
The acting in Saw 2 is also some of the strongest in the franchise. Shawnee Smith performs well, as does Donnie Wahlberg as a dirty cop. Saw 2 is a masterclass in both psychological thrillers and body horror. The film marries these genres perfectly to create the best Saw film in the franchise.
2. Saw: Humble Beginnings
The first film in the series is also one of our favorites. Saw lays the groundwork for the franchise by delivering gruesome traps and a sneaky twist ending.
The film suffers a bit from its low budget. The acting isn’t great, and the color correction in post-production gives the whole movie a strange green tint. Still, the original Saw has such a solid script that we can overlook many of the film’s flaws.
3. Saw X: The Newest Entry In The Series
The newest film in the Saw universe is surprisingly a great return to the original formula. Later in the series, the films began relying too heavily on gore and over-complicated twists. Saw X remedies that by creating a midquel film between the events of the first and second movie.
This decision proved to be a wise one, as Saw X is one of the most grounded films in the series. The movie tells a simple story of serial killer John Kramer being tricked by some snake oil salespeople. He then enacts his revenge on the team in increasingly gruesome ways.
Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith both return for the film, and while it’s clear they’ve aged, they still deliver stellar performances. Couple the performances with the tightest script in decades, and you have a return to form for the franchise.
4. Saw 3: An Almost Flawless Entry In The Franchise
Saw 3 is a great movie for the majority of its runtime. The movie delivers interesting traps, a strong setup, and above-average acting. The problem with the film lies in the last ten minutes, where the writers try to shoe-horn several nonsensical twists and set up future movies in the franchise.
Saw 3 is the first truly gross-out body horror film in the franchise. The original two movies had some gore, but it wasn’t until the third film’s back alley brain surgery scene that the series genuinely disgusted audiences. Later entries would try to up the gore, but the third movie delivers the scenes with enough care that they never feel sensationalized. This one would rank higher on the list if it weren’t for the unsatisfying ending.
5. Jigsaw: A Visually Interesting Film
We liked Jigsaw so much because the filmmakers finally laid off the cool tones in post-production. Most of the movies in the series make some wild choices with their color palettes, but Jigsaw uses a naturalistic tone. The result is a more grounded work that doesn’t feel instantly dated by the stylistic color choices.
Jigsaw doesn’t have the most exciting characters or traps in the series. But it does have a very satisfying twist at the end. By the time the seventh film rolled around, the ending misdirection moments it had become laughable. Jigsaw was released seven years after the previous entry, and the filmmakers were wise to settle down and make a more contained story. After four films of constantly increasing stakes that relied heavily on knowledge of the previous films, Jigsaw feels like a breath of fresh air.
6. Saw 4: An Un-Satisfying Follow Up
Saw 3 left us with many unanswered questions, and its sequel almost goes out of its way not to answer them. By this time in the series, the franchise had become a yearly release, and the stress of the cadence started to reflect on the quality of each entry.
Saw 4 does do some things really well. The twist that the entire film takes place concurrently with Saw 3 was very clever. The traps, specifically the beginning one that pits a blind man against a mute one, are also pretty good. The main protagonist, though, and the lesson he needs to learn feels too forced and doesn’t give us anyone to root for.
7. Spiral: A Disappointing Spinoff
Spiral had all the makings of a great film. It was a return to the Se7en-inspired roots of the franchise, focusing on the detectives investigating the case. It featured a new cast of well-known talent. And it didn’t have to carry all the baggage of eight previous films. Unfortunately, Spiral falters as much as it shines.
Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson give some of the series’ best performances. It is great seeing Rock stretch his acting chops outside of comedy. But the shallow script and reliance on body horror drag the entire film down. The twist ending also falls short, making the potential for future spinoff films highly unlikely.
8. Saw 5: An Interesting Finale, But Little Else
The fifth entry in the Saw franchise is where the quality really started to nosedive. The series had become so ingrained with the lore of Jigsaw that the main crux of the series, the interesting game houses, took a backseat to convoluted backstories of boring characters.
This is a shame because this film’s main game is pretty good. Each member of this game is interesting, and the game’s final twist works surprisingly well. It really bogs down the film that most of its runtime focuses on the backstory of a boring new Jigsaw.
9. Saw 3D: 3D Effects Couldn’t Save The Series
In 2010, 3D cinema was making a resurgence. The success of James Cameron’s Avatar had every studio looking at their IPs and trying to figure out what would work in 3D. Unfortunately, Lionsgate decided the Saw franchise could make the jump to a third dimension and delivered a pointlessly gory mess.
The film has since removed the 3D moniker and now goes by “The Final Chapter,” but make no mistake, this film was designed for 3D cinemas. Saw 3D has one of the worst scripts of the series, and the overabundance of body parts flying at the screen makes this one an easy skip.
10. Saw 6: The Worst Film In The Franchise
Saw 6 failed in almost every way. The original film began with an ethos of putting bad people into tortuous situations and allowing them an opportunity for redemption. This film takes away any redemptive arc and puts regular people in horrific traps for the sake of audience titillation. One man gets his ribs caved in because, and I kid you not, he’s a smoker. Another poor young man gets hung by barbed wire because he’s lonely.
Saw 6 is such a far stray from what makes the series great. The film doesn’t have one likable character, the twist is incredibly dull, and none of the traps are interesting. It’s hard to imagine how a series got so bad in just six short years.
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