The Saw franchise now contains nine entries which is certainly a lot. Throughout the course of many years, audiences and critics alike have been quite divided when it comes to this series. Some of the films are just straight-up torture-porn which a lot of people love (myself not included) and other films like the original and Spiral focus on a more psychological aspect instead. Either way, the franchise is extremely popular for a reason, and having seen all nine films now, I figured I would go ahead and rank every single Saw film from worst to best, including Spiral. Let’s get started.
9. Saw 3D (The Final Chapter) (2010)
Oh, boy. Where does one even begin to talk about Saw 3D, also known as The Final Chapter? Not only is it the worst possible conclusion they could have done for the alleged ending of the series, but it was also insufferably boring. Yes, the trademark traps were back and more disgusting than ever, but I mean… where was the story?
In my personal opinion, there is no Saw film that will ever come close to topping how bad 3D truly is. At the end of the day, I would consider myself a fan of this franchise, but Saw 3D is ridiculously hard to sit through. Even die-hard fans of the series seem to be in agreement that this is the worst chapter to date.
Not to mention the ending which comes completely out of left field. Why is Dr. Gordon back all of a sudden? Well, it’s all answered in the ending that feels ridiculously corny and shoe-horned in for shock value. This looked like game over for the franchise upon release.
8. Saw VI (2009)
If you are doing a Saw marathon and you actually manage to reach Saw VI, then you deserve a pat on the back. I would honestly consider myself a pretty big fan of this franchise. It has genuinely inspired me quite a bit and I really appreciate how each film has an overarching story, even if it seems like they struggle with what to do with John Kramer ever since the ending of Saw III.
But as big a fan of this franchise as I am, each film in the series seemingly gets worse and worse, and when Saw VI was released back in 2009, this truly felt like the end of the franchise. Not because of the way it ends or anything like that, but because of how low the series got in general.
I’m sure there are some people out there who love this sixth outing in the series, but I’m not one of them. It’s a film almost devoid of a story. Instead, it focuses way too much on the traps and little else. This truly is the first Saw film that felt like it had absolutely nothing to offer besides blood and guts. I’ll pass.
7. Saw V (2008)
You have probably noticed a pattern now, haven’t you? Back in the late 2000s, we literally got a brand new Saw movie every single year. Nowadays, we are lucky to even get one (thankfully the new ones are kinda great), but boy did it ever get tired fast.
Saw V is kind of inventive in that it presents us with a brand new killer with his own motives, but the problem is that the movie seems to want us to root for the twisted Mark Hoffman, but I just can’t. Throughout his appearances in the franchise, there are a number of people that are after him and want to kill him and I always rooted for them instead of Hoffman. But I get a feeling that the screenwriters wanted it to be the other way around.
Although this film does try out a few new things, it just doesn’t fully work in the long run. I appreciate that they are moving forward without John Kramer being alive, but that doesn’t mean I have to like Hoffman because I just can’t. Solid efforts are made here, but ultimately, it’s just not too enjoyable of a movie to watch.
6. Saw II (2005)
I admit that Saw II has some awesome ideas on display. The building that the characters are trapped in is the definition of a massive booby trap and it’s fun to see just how brilliant the mind of John Kramer is. I mean, really, how does he come up with all these elaborate plans and traps? It’s kind of fascinating to think about.
But I am kind of shocked at how much the fans seem to love this second entry. It really suffers from a lack of a story. It focuses a lot on this group of people arguing with one another and trying desperately to escape this crazy building, but it really doesn’t do a whole lot to progress the story forward.
It’s definitely a movie that I respect and I admire for its bravery, but it just didn’t work for me. Maybe one day I will give it a rewatch and see if my feelings change, but as of right now, Saw II is a super underwhelming installment for me.
5. Saw IV (2007)
Wait, what? A Saw sequel that is actually superb? I know it may sound hard to believe, but Darren Lynn Bousman’s Saw IV is a solid follow-up to the equally great Saw III. Although it was clear at this point that there was going to be an endless amount of sequels to come, Saw IV doesn’t feel like an unnecessary sequel. It is a natural and smooth-flowing follow-up to the third entry that takes the characters we know and the storylines we are following in a bold new direction.
Of course, the traps here are terrific and wonderfully bloody, but the story here is great as well. In this film, we see a number of flashbacks with Kramer, getting to see what his life was like before he became the twisted Jigsaw killer. We finally see a solid chunk of his past life and why he does the things he does in the films.
Nearly every Saw movie is ninety minutes long which is usually something I don’t like because they can feel rushed, but surprisingly, that is not the case here. It’s a fast-paced film for sure, but it feels like it has the perfect length for this particular story. This is not a brilliant film, but as a Saw movie, it really works.
4. Saw III (2006)
The final movie in the series that was written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, Saw III is a bitingly intense psychological horror-thriller that delivers everything fans of the series up to this point could have ever hoped for and much more.
It makes the bold decision to actually kill off series antagonist John Kramer at the end, which is something I certainly did not see coming. Although the sequels that followed this struggled greatly with coming up with a villain as strong as Kramer, they did the best they could. Even still to this day, the Saw movies can’t come up with a villain as enigmatic. He was just a diamond in the rough, but they can’t use him anymore for obvious reasons.
Saw III is a fresh and innovative third entry in the series and one that feels surprisingly haunting. Usually, these movies are just fun and entertaining, but the ending here is quite creepy and unsettling. Good stuff, Wan and Whannell. Now if only you guys would come back.
3. Jigsaw (2017)
The very instant The Spierig Brothers’ Jigsaw begins, it was clear to me that the creative team behind the franchise were finally trying something new. Instead of utilizing that bland and gray color palette that the previous movies loved to use so dearly, Jigsaw uses a wide variety of colors and implements a more cinematic aspect ratio than what we were used to up to that point.
It’s a genuine blast to watch. Finally, we are presented with a Saw movie that feels a little more fun than the previous ones we watched. Its biggest problem, however, is that it doesn’t necessarily try anything different with its approach at all.
The story, characters, twist, and traps feel like the same old thing here. It’s a wildly entertaining movie but it doesn’t do enough to call it the boldest reinvention of the Saw franchise. It was a solid start but it didn’t quite hit a home run. Still, though, Jigsaw is certainly worth the watch for its admittedly brilliant traps and its ending. Frustrating? Sometimes. But still, there is an undeniable charm to Jigsaw that still leaves an impression on me four years later.
2. Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)
The newest installment in the Saw franchise just so happens to be the second-best in my personal opinion. If Jigsaw was a step in the right direction in terms of reinventing the franchise, then Spiral: From the Book of Saw is the movie that finally changed the Saw series we know it as a whole.
It almost feels like a psychological cop procedural throughout its duration, and it’s something I never knew I wanted in a Saw movie until I watched it. Chris Rock absolutely knocks it out of the park in terms of his performance as well as his creative mind, because he is truly the one responsible for Spiral.
But it was also a nice treat to see longtime Saw director Darren Lynn Bousman once again sit in the director’s chair to helm another twisted entry in the series. Fairly soon, we will be getting a Saw X which I have my worries about, but if it is anything like Spiral, then we will be in for one hell of a treat.
1. Saw (2004)
James Wan’s Saw, the film that started it all, is without a doubt the best entry in the long-running horror series to date. Instead of featuring an endless array of gory traps like the sequels that followed it, Saw instead opts for a claustrophobic thriller approach.
Its concept is super simple – two guys wake up to find themselves handcuffed to a wall in a disgusting bathroom. They don’t know each other and they don’t know why they got there or who put them they, but together, they must do everything in their power to break out of there before it is too late.
They are often forced to do painstaking things in order to escape from this bathroom, but that’s part of what makes this first film so brilliant. It shows us just how far some people are willing to go to live another day. The characters, writing, directing, editing, music, are all top-notch in Saw.
Plus it features an ending so extremely shocking that I guarantee you won’t see it coming the first time you watch it. It’s one of those endings that will literally make your jaw drop because of how unexpected it truly is. We may never get a film in the franchise as good as the first, but that’s okay because Saw is infinitely rewatchable and even just writing about it right now makes me want to watch it again.