After seven long years (or not long enough depending on who you’re asking), the Saw franchise is back in theatres with Jigsaw. It’s been a hot minute since “torture porn” was a thing so it will be interesting to see if the once dominant Halloween staple can make a return to form this weekend, or if the current tastes have drifted away from the divisive franchise built on the gluttonous gore and mean-spirited taste for blood.
How do the Saw films hold up now? As a franchise, Saw is fascinating, even if it’s never quite as enjoyable to watch as it is interesting to think about. Created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, fresh out of film school with a lean, mean idea for a horror film unlike any other before it, the franchise went on to gross near a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. It helped spark an industry-wide trend toward hyperviolent, torture-based horror. The films evolved in the hands of a series of filmmakers and screenwriters, most of whom stuck around for a few movies, and the mythology eventually became a cinematic Ouroboros, feasting on its own narrative in an endless loop of retconning and revealing.
And yet, if Saw has always cannibalized itself, it’s also made the effort to respect the audience’s investment in the mythology, trusting fans to keep up without explaining every reference and continuing to bring back key players in fun and exciting ways, with much more consistency than you can usually expect from a cast in a horror sequel. Whether you like the final product or not, there’s no denying that Saw was one of the most vital, brazen entries in the horror genre in ages — one that helped define the genre for a generation.
Trying to rank the Saw films is a bit more difficult than you might imagine. Not just because they’re often too similar — the overlapping plots and timelines bleeding into one another in a circuitous, standstill narrative — but because almost all of them are uneven. Some of them have great characters, but terrible traps. Sometimes the characters are boring, but the mythology is clever. Almost every film has something interesting to offer, but almost none of them check all the boxes.
And now without further ado, check out all eight Saw movies ranked below.