"Saw" has become one of the most iconic horror franchises in recent history.
The series became known for the creative traps and gore mastered by the Jigsaw Killer.
I've watched every film and I'd only recommend the first, second, and sixth movies.
Watch: "Saw" (2004) lives up to its horror fame, especially for viewers who don't know the major twists.
The first "Saw" movie became an instant classic in the horror genre. The creative traps were still winnable, meaning the victims could technically escape and survive.
Its biggest draw is the mystery of who the Jigsaw Killer (Tobin Bell) is, plus it has two major plot twists that feel genuinely impossible to predict. The film also had interesting hints to look out for, unlike later "Saw" movies that complicated information.
The talented cast — Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, and Bell — also help sell the movie's curveballs.
Overall, the first movie set up plotlines that would become more important later, such as Amanda Young's (Shawnee Smith) and Dr. Lawrence Gordon's (Elwes) introduction to Jigsaw's twisted philosophy.
All of the iconic imagery of the series starts here, such as the famous villain Billy the Puppet on his tricycle, the pig masks, and the reverse bear trap.
"Saw" also wraps up neatly enough that it can be watched as a stand-alone movie.
Watch: "Saw II" (2005) includes just as many exciting plot twists and quality traps as the first film.
The first "Saw" sequel gives fans more obstacles and unexpected events while maintaining a cohesive storyline.
The horror movie also gave minor characters from the first film, like Amanda, a chance to be further developed.
Like the first movie and almost every sequel that followed, "Saw II" has two main plotlines.
One follows the detective's investigation of Jigsaw and the other focuses on the participants in his latest trap. Players are poisoned in an abandoned house as they try to escape traps for the chance to win antidotes.
The setup is fairly straightforward for a "Saw" movie and it's easy to follow despite the recurring flashbacks that help make viewers more invested in the characters.
Later "Saw" movies show characters that aren't connected at all — but the common thread linking them in this film helps ground the story.
The returning cast is also a strength, as Bell once again plays Jigsaw and Smith comes back to portray Amanda.
Watch: "Saw VI" (2009) is my final pick that's worth viewing.
Even viewers who skip the movies between "Saw II" and this one will be able to follow along with the main plotline. The film focuses on an interconnected group of people attempting to survive traps that are customized to the reason why they were picked.
As a "Saw" fan, I love seeing traps that make sense, thematically relate to a character, and look impressive when it comes to gore and effects.
The victims all work at the same insurance company and Jigsaw has trapped them to force their boss, William (Peter Outerbridge), to reflect on how unfair his company's policies are.
It's rare for a "Saw" movie to have a theme and almost unheard of for a horror film like this to do it well.
The healthcare system's failures actually translate into interesting trap setups since William has to decide who should die based on the statistics and policies of his company.
Some of these traps are extremely on the nose, but they're still interesting to watch. After several "Saw" movies failed to create a compelling main character outside of the Jigsaw team, it's great to actually root for the victims.
There are plenty of callbacks to the original "Saw" — and the ending is pretty decent, too.
Skip: "Saw III" (2006) has significant moments featuring Amanda and John, but the rest of the movie is difficult to get into.
Viewers follow the new character Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) as he fails to save people from multiple traps.
The story revolves around Jeff's anger towards the drunk driver who killed his son. He is put through grueling tests by Jigsaw meant to help him confront his emotions, but the plot sort of falls flat.
The third installment of the franchise also introduces the concept of inescapable traps. This new addition lowers the stakes and is annoying to watch as characters fail to make a getaway when they never had a chance.
Skip: "Saw IV" (2007) follows Daniel Rigg, who was in previous movies.
This film gave viewers the chance to see familiar face officer Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent), who becomes consumed with rescuing Jigsaw's victims.
Ultimately, he finds himself at the center of Jigsaw's games and is faced with the impossible task of rescuing his partners.
Viewers also get a glimpse at John Kramer's origin story and how he manages to manipulate others into continuing his dirty work.
Daniel continually fails trap after trap by refusing to follow directions, making the fifth installment of the series tedious to watch.
Skip: "Saw V" (2008) is packed with flashbacks showing Jigsaw and apprentice Mark Hoffman as agent Peter Strahm searches for the truth.
Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) returns to answer some practical questions about how John/Jigsaw arranged such torturous traps.
The movie follows agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) as he hunts down Hoffman after discovering his true identity.
"Saw" fans get a chance to learn more about Hoffman and how he became entangled in Jigsaw's master plan. The flashbacks are kind of interesting, but the main plot isn't engaging enough.
It's frustrating to watch the main group repeatedly fail to work together to survive their imprisonment. Plus the movie didn't have any real major twists.
Skip: "Saw: The Final Chapter" (2010) didn't need to exist.
"Saw: The Final Chapter" brings back Dr. Gordon as another Jigsaw accomplice, continuing the complicated plotline with Hoffman and adding another member to the "Jigsaw Survivors Group."
The movie follows someone who lied about surviving a Jigsaw trap to gain clout. He now has to actually survive one and save his wife in the process.
This may be the "Saw" movie with the most annoying storyline. Additionally, the traps suffer from weak special effects that include bizarre bright-pink blood.
Skip: Despite including some notable twists, "Jigsaw" (2017) is extremely frustrating to watch.
In this film, viewers watch a group of police hunting down the original Jigsaw Killer who's supposedly been dead for over a decade. Throughout the movie, they try to find out if he's still alive or if someone else is playing his cruel games.
I think the premise of this movie seemed interesting, but the characters in the trap were too unlikable and poorly portrayed.
Skip: "Spiral" (2021) further complicated an already chaotic plotline.
The latest film "Spiral" shows the Jigsaw mantle taken up by a new detective, Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), who has no ties to any previous movies.
Oddly enough, the movie is almost entirely focused on detectives. This makes it the first film to fully break away from the part-trap, part-cop formula.
The ending is disappointing to watch, and not even a cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson can save this movie from being a mess.
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