So I had previously done a franchise ranking for Friday the 13th. Like many genre fans, with the release of Spiral, I felt compelled to rewatch all of Saw. I thought I would give you my overall franchise ranking and why for each movie. I will warn now there are going to be A LOT of spoilers. So with that, my ranking for the Saw franchise. This list was written prior to my watching Spiral, so it will not be included.
Saw 3D (Saw: The Final Chapter):
I do not really care for this movie. The traps are interesting, and this is well into the “spectacle” theme of it. However, and I do understand how this will sound, this movie is exceptionally cruel when stacked up against the rest of the franchise, especially to women. I was extremely excited that Cary Elwes made a comeback, but his character falls flat and doesn’t really fit in. I am glad for the Hoffman story to be over, but it took way too long and did not reach a very satisfying conclusion.
As for the “main trap” part… Well, the idea of taking someone who faked being a survivor and punishing them for that makes sense; I like it. However, every single person in the traps are people associated with him, not him… And the traps for the women are horrific and arguably the worst in the entire franchise. It’s really hard to set aside just how mean this movie is for me. I mean, hell, the fishhook trap is basically, and pardon my colorful language, “bitches can’t shut up punish them for it.” At this stage, the franchise is also well into the “let’s make it polished as possible,” which kills a bit of the look for me, and this movie goes hard into CGI. It’s far from the worst horror movie I have ever seen, but it’s kind of a super bummer in a franchise that I manage to usually enjoy even when I don’t see much in it other than dumb fun.
Jigsaw probably should be higher, if I am honest. The apprentice is much better than Hoffman, and the overall story flows a bit better than many of the later entries. However, it thoroughly messes with the timeline in a way that feels weird and suffers from some of the same problems as the later movies. It’s too polished, the traps are too big (especially with this being a prequel), and the disconnect from the crime thriller feeling of the first. It’s an okay movie, but the series has felt a little tired at this point, and it leaves more questions than answers as far as where it fits in the overall timeline. However, I would rank it much better than 3D, and honestly, had it come at a different time, before franchise fatigue set in, I probably would have enjoyed it more.
Saw IV and V:
Yeah, alright, it’s a cop-out to put them both in the same position, but honestly, my preference for either is kind of… eh? They both have similar problems, and they both have weaker aspects. The cop part of IV with the introduction of Agent Strahm and Perez is not bad, although no movie was able to recapture the crime thriller aspect that the first movie brought. The main trap in IV is okay, although the ending of it felt really off to me. Hoffman is thankfully not as front and center in IV, which helps.
V I much prefer the main trap. It is well done, and I like that it’s just literally “don’t be assholes, and you can all make it,” but of course, that doesn’t work. Agent Strahm is pretty good still, although the excess of Hoffman is… He’s not a well-written character, I’m sorry. It also annoys me that Strahm dies the way he does because at this point, it’s tiring watching cops just make the same dumb move (not listen) in every single movie.
Both add a touch extra to Jigsaw’s past, which I appreciate, and Hoffman admittedly does fill some plotholes. However, they keep adding on more and more at this point, and the timeline is getting messy, and the extra backstory starts to feel superfluous. We are also well into its now polished gore porn which does lead to some great kills but not a lot of tension. Honestly as to whether or not I’d rather watch IV or V depends totally on my mood that day.
Let’s face it, this movie ranks as highly as it does based on catharsis. This movie is “let’s get revenge on the toxic private health insurance companies.” Too much Hoffman and way too much added to both Hoffman and Jigsaw’s wife’s plot that didn’t feel needed. It also once again feels too polished. However, it has some great traps, the shotgun merry-go-round stands out and is again… let’s get revenge on private health insurance the movie. Also, seeing John and others fight with the insurance guy is something I think people can relate to, sadly. This movie is really only going to appeal to a certain type of horror fan, but it does have it.
So I am sure a fair share of people are going to be annoyed that I didn’t put this movie at number two. To be honest, I almost didn’t even put it in the top three. This movie does a lot of good things. I like that it let us actually get to know Jigsaw as a character and see him as a serial killer. I liked the way it was filmed. It was a bit raw and gritty, something that I think is missing from the later entries into the franchise. I also like the way the horror unfolded. There is a lot of “what you aren’t seeing” as far as gore and horror, but not without its in your face moments (hello needle pit). I also like the final twist of the story, that it was true all Eric had to do was talk to Jigsaw and wait and bam, right there is his son.
However, the overall story and the main trap section of this movie are just bad. The way the cop story plays out is fairly weak. They set up the same crime thriller tone as the first movie, then it just sort of gets abandoned because Jigsaw demands it come to a halt, which sure is great for the twist but hurts the pacing of the movie. Not only that, but I think this movie has one of the worst main traps. We barely know anything about the characters; it is very clearly set up for them to die, not win, and once again not great pacing. I found myself swinging back and forth between “this is great, and what I want from Saw” to feeling like things were just filler or not moving.
Honestly, I debated moving this movie further down in the list, but I just flat out prefer the earlier movies even when I complain. Again I like the grittiness, I like the still almost crime thriller nature, and there are some fantastic scenes that hit harder than the later movies as far as kills. I just… feel like it was a massive step down in overall quality.
Saw III, to me, is the last before the full shift into the polished and over-the-top franchise that we are more used to now. It heavily features Amanda Young, who is once again brought back as Jigsaw’s apprentice. I think Shawnee Smith did an excellent job, and Amanda is a more compelling character than Hoffman, but she also kind of annoys me. The large trap in this is pretty interesting, a man being confronted with the choice to save those that were involved in the death of his child, while unknowingly to him, his wife is attempting to keep Jigsaw alive. It is a pretty intense movie and honestly manages to hit the emotions better than even the first one did. It also still has a bit of that raw feel. Next to the first one, this is probably the one I consider “best,” if not the most entertaining for me. I also like the development of Jigsaw a bit better in this one than I did in Saw II and the later movies.
Frankly, Saw doesn’t fit in much with the rest of its own franchise, and that’s part of the reason why it was such a damn good movie. I enjoy the franchise as a fun but dumb horror movie series that I just sometimes want to watch. Saw I rank as a smart slow burn that almost feels as much like a crime thriller as it does straight horror (although I would argue most crime thrillers are horror, but that’s a whole other pickle). A lot of this movie gives me Seven vibes. It is shot darker and with a lot of bouncing cuts that in this movie actually add tension and personality, while in later movies was sometimes effective sometimes hilarious. It has a much more raw and gritty feel which serves it well.
The plot is good, a good cop storyline of trying to track down Jigsaw as well as the main trap. It also manages to be pretty brutal without all of the over-the-top spectacle we got used to with the later films. The twist also truly got me the first time I saw it, as in I stood up from my seat, it hit me so hard. The first time John stands up at the end was a powerful moment in horror history for me, and I still remember that feeling. The entire franchise couldn’t have been like this; I get once it went into multiple sequels, it had to change, but that could as easily be an argument that it never should have gone down that road as anything else.
None of the other Saw movies managed to be as tense, suspenseful, or powerful to me as this one. It is truly a great film and a real standout. I would actually love to see James Wan do another horror film not tied to the supernatural.
So what about you? How do my ranking for the franchise stack with yours? Any you disagree with? Let me know!