The “Saw” series is one of the most notorious horror franchises of the 21st century. Although every movie in the franchise holds a poor rating on Rotten Tomatoes, they have garnered a massive fanbase due to the film’s famous gimmick: the traps. Each movie has its own unique set of traps and storylines, but some stand out more than the rest. With the tenth film in the franchise, “Saw X,” being released on Sept. 29, here is my personal ranking of the nine “Saw” films from worst to best.
9. “Jigsaw” (2017)
This may have some of the best production value and cinematography of the franchise, but I find the rest of the film to be utterly forgettable. Half of the movie follows police officers trying to track down the Jigsaw copycat while the other half follows Jigsaw’s victims through a series of violent games. The latter half is much more interesting than the police story, which causes this film to drag immensely. The worst sin this movie committed is the extremely weak twist. It is refreshing to see the franchise try to do something different, but the underdeveloped characters and small connections to the previous films make this the most forgettable in the franchise.
8. “Saw III” (2006)
“Saw III” is a solid ending for the three-film arc of John Kramer (Jigsaw) and Amanda, but I find it to be such a bore. Even with it being the longest film in the franchise (until “Saw X”), the movie has little interest in diving into the aspects that make the franchise so fun. Most of the film focuses on a dying Jigsaw lying lifeless on a hospital bed while Amanda and the new hostage, Lynn, take care of him. Jeff being constantly tested was invigorating, but too much of the movie takes place in one room with little going on. This movie proves that the “Saw” franchise is at its best at a 90-minute runtime.
7. “Spiral: From the Book of Saw” (2021)
The most recent entry in the franchise takes a lot of daring swings creatively, deciding to center more on the detective-mystery side rather than being blood galore. Although I can respect the decisions, the execution of said mystery is not compelling enough. Each twist that the film tries to throw at you can be seen from a mile away, which isn’t a good sign for a film focusing so heavily on the mystery. Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson are great additions to the franchise, but they needed a much better script for their contribution.
6. “Saw 3D: The Final Chapter” (2010)
Deemed the worst film in the franchise by Rotten Tomatoes, this one is enjoyable because of the creativity of the traps and quick pace. The opening of this film is one of the best of the franchise and involves one of my favorite traps. Where this film falters most is its generic story structure and awful gore effects. The movie’s structure is exactly like the past films, which made it feel stale. The return of Cary Elwes was cool to see, but he was extremely underutilized. Overall, this is a very middle of the road “Saw” movie.
5. “Saw V” (2008)
“Saw V” is the first film in the franchise where the main character is the villain of the story. As the films progressed, Hoffman, played by Costas Mandylor, became one of my favorite characters in the franchise due to his compelling backstory and committed performances. Learning how he hides his identity from his fellow officers was a ton of fun to watch, but, sadly, there was not enough of it. The audience doesn’t find out how Hoffman planned to stay hidden and get away with being the new Jigsaw until the end of the film. It has a cool concept and solid traps, but it doesn’t rank higher on the list due to the lack of time dedicated to seeing what is going on inside Hoffman’s head.
4. “Saw II” (2005)
One of the reasons “Saw II” is among the best movies in the franchise is the amount of screen time given to Jigsaw. His backstory with Detective Matthews, played by Donnie Wahlberg, is just as entertaining as the trap sequences, which balances the two storylines seamlessly. Setting the saw traps in different rooms of a house was a perfect way to build up the dread of the situation and added a much-needed environmental aesthetic to the movie. The final twist in the film involving Amanda’s backstory was one of the biggest shockers of the whole franchise, and the way they continued it was very inventive. It is an overall great “Saw” film that works on multiple levels.
3. “Saw VI” (2009)
Although this film has a similar structure to its predecessor, “Saw V,” “Saw VI” includes everything it was missing. This film delves into the relationship between Hoffman and Jigsaw and sheds new light on why Hoffman is such a great character. Separately from that, it follows a man through a series of traps that are constantly engaging. The people who are stuck in the traps are given the best justification as to why they are there, which is what makes the trap scenes more engaging. The Shotgun Carousel is my favorite trap in Saw history, and I love that it is included in one of the series' best movies.
2. “Saw IV” (2007)
“Saw IV” is the first movie to combine the police element and traps into one coherent storyline, and I believe it is one of the best because of that. Having the officers get tested by the Jigsaw traps should have been a plotline earlier in the franchise, which this film proves through its tension. The elevated levels of tension come from the officers making smart decisions and using materials that would not be available to the average Jigsaw victim. This is topped off by a slew of twists that had my jaw on the floor. The character progression may be minimal, but the experience is hard to forget.
1. “Saw” (2004)
The original “Saw” film remains the best due to the compelling direction from James Wan and the way the script builds the mystery. Wan’s “music video” style of filmmaking brings a level of extremism that keeps the tension high and the pace brisk. The traps may not be as creative as they are in the later chapters, but they are by far the most memorable. Leigh Whannell and Cary Elwes have excellent chemistry because of their lack of trust in one another and the way their storylines connect. The script does an excellent job of introducing interesting characters and putting them in situations that constantly test their morals. This film pushed the boundaries of horror and inspired many classic films after it.
Trevor Stucker (he/him) is a sophomore majoring in Applied Film and Journalism. This is his second year writing for The Campus Citizen.