Which Saw Movies are Worth Watching?
13 hours. What could we possibly do with 13 hours? You could fly halfway around the world, you could drive the entire length of some smaller countries, you could make several delicious batches of home-made beef jerky, or you could just maybe sit down and watch every saw film released so far, and that’s before Saw 9 drops next year.
I’ll be frank with you. If you haven’t seen the Saw films, and are hoping to wade into a 13 hour long marathon to explore the deep, rich and exciting lore and overarching story of the series, don’t bother. You’ll be bitterly disappointed. The story is a fragile shell put in place in order for a series of grizzly and fairly entertaining murders to occur. Still, if that’s the only reason you want to watch the Saw films, then why would you bother watching all of them anyway?
But fear not dear reader, I'm here to help. I’ve created a list of the Saw movies that I think it’s worth watching, along with brief reasons as to why. If you do decide to take the Saw plunge, here’s my quick tips to save you hours of your life.
First to make the cut: Saw.
The first film, and in my opinion still the best - unless perhaps the writers somehow saw my advice. It’s simple in its construction, beautifully claustrophobic, and pushes characterisation much more than its successors. This film is essential for setting the stage - enter Jigsaw, pursued by a whack belief system.
True, the original Saw lacks the huge amounts of gore that later films in the franchise became known for, but that’s simply a reflection of the low budget forcing the creators Wan and Whannel to think about when they could best use the few bloody scenes. The tension hanging over the near entirety of the film - will they chop or not - is what keeps it interesting, and made it feel really rather fresh when the film first came out. Sure, the twist at the end is a bit rubbish, but hey, at least they tried, right?
Second Blood: Saw 2
The direct sequel to Saw is probably, in my opinion, second best, but still a really good film. We get to meet characters new and old, along with a much better look at Jigsaw himself. The setting is like a dark spin on a reality TV show, like Big Brother or something similar, with the interlinked dual narratives both attempting to either help or directly escape from a house in an unknown location.
Jigsaw pokes, taunts and teases hotheaded cop Eric Matthews, Donnie Wahlberg, from in the interview room, as he attempts to find his son. This is the first Saw film to pull the old ‘different time’ twist, a twist they would fall back on again in later films in the series. I didn’t mind it in Saw 2 though, it added something to the story, and made it just that bit more interesting than a linear plot might have been.
This film is where they started to move towards gore much more and, whilst it’s far from the goriest in the series, I think there’s some bits to tickle the gore-head in your life just a little bit.
Strike 3, and you’re out
Saw 3 is the first film chronologically that I had to think long and hard about adding to this list, but i’ve decided to for a number of reasons. This is the last film which *SPOILER ALERT* Jigsaw is alive in. Yes, the interesting and iconic villain bites the dust a mere 3 films into the series, sentencing him to an existence in flashbacks. I wonder if the writers had decided earlier that they intended to make at least 9 films, whether they would have killed Jigsaw quite so early, handing his work over to his disciples, who number enough to take up a full row at the cinema on their own. This is where things really start to go downhill, without the charismatic leader of the cause, Jigsaw’s followers have to take up the mission, and none of them are anywhere near as interesting as the main villain. So, enjoy him whilst you can, okay?
Saw 3 took the gore to the next level, and introduced some of the most horrific traps which have been in the series to date. The Angel Trap, and the Rack spring immediately to mind, with the Rack in particular being one of the most unforgettable moments in Saw history.
Definitely one for the gore fans amongst you, but for those of us who try to grasp at any bit of story we’re offered, the film falls a little flat. Jigsaw is dying of cancer, and Amanda, his vicious protege, kidnaps a doctor who is quickly equipped with a shotgun collar and forced to try and keep Jigsaw alive. Meanwhile, we see Jeff completing a series of challenges to convince him to forgive the people who were in some way - minor or not - involved in the death of his son. Little do we know that the doctor tasked with keeping Jigsaw alive is also Jeff’s wife. I struggled to maintain too much interest in the story of Saw 3, but atleast it had one, right?
Skiparoo to the present
We’re taking a massive leap forwards now, and for good reason. 4,5,6 and the Final Chapter were all dull as hell. There are little bits of story, but you can tell at this point straws were very, very firmly clutched. So, we now skip ahead to Jigsaw. Those who have seen it, I know what you may be thinking. Something along the lines of, “but Jigsaw wasn’t any better than 4 through 7, why include this one?” A very valid question, and one which I am more than happy to provide an answer for.
Whilst it is undoubtedly true that Jigsaw was by no stretch of the imagination a particularly good Saw film - a deliberately separate scale from films in general - in which list all but the first would be heavily penalised. But what Jigsaw did offer was a new start. We were past all the Amanda’s, Hoffman’s, Jill’s, Dr.Gordons, and we get someone knew. Now, i’ve been vocal over on Youtube about how I hate this carousel of sidekicks, and I maintain that belief. However, Saw has to freshen up. It’s a week old jeans and a t-shirt, with curry stains down the front, and an ominous stench from the gusset. I’m glad they tried to inject life into it, but I don’t think they went far enough. It’s still too linked to the prior entries into the series, when they could have set it much further apart, and managed to create something genuinely quite enjoyable.
Since that is the case, I don’t believe that Jigsaw is a particularly enjoyable watch, but what it does offer is a potential glimpse into the future of the series, and a chance for redemption. Will Chris Rock’s film seize this opportunity, it remains to be seen, but Jigsaw may well be the set up for it, and that makes it worthwhile watching in my book, even if it is just to be knocked down when film number 9 does come out next year.
Congratulations, you’ve just saved around 7 hours of sitting through Saw films. In all honesty, you really don’t miss out on too much if you do miss out the bulk of the series as I've suggested here. If you’re only in Saw for the gore, i’m sure there are compilations out there which you can watch, and the story is pretty much contained in the first 3 films anyway, all of which made it onto the list.
If you’re entirely new to the series, I would recommend atleast watching the first one, which you can get from the affiliate link below, which in turn helps out the blog!
Do you agree with my decision? Are you planning a stunted Saw Marathon with a very different list? Let me know!