The Saw franchise is one of the most interesting to look back upon. The films were never critically acclaimed, yet they were all major financial successes. Even the installments that ranked near the bottom in terms of box office sales were still considered hits, because the movies were incredibly cheap to make.
The films, a pop culture mainstay, were all interconnected in a way that was a bit ahead of its time. This kind of thing has become common in cinema now, but wasn't seen often back when these flicks were coming out. Each film centered around the concept of the Jigsaw Killer, who would torture his subjects to test their wills to live. Though they weren't well-received by critics, we've decided to look at those reviews and rank all eight movies by their Rotten Tomatoes score.
8 Saw: The Final Chapter (10%)
Released as Saw 3D and changed to Saw: The Final Chapter when it came to home video, this was originally intended to be the last installment of the series. It focused on two main storylines. One was about a man put to the test after falsely claiming to be a Jigsaw survivor, while the other was a cat and mouse game between Detective Mark Hoffman and Jigsaw's ex-wife, Jill Kramer.
The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes was that there were plenty of issues with how the movie was filmed, the quality of acting, and the script. Even fans, who usually enjoyed these movies, felt it was a lackluster way to wrap things up. The return of Dr. Gordon made some fans happy, but not much else lived up to what they were hoping for.
7 Saw V (13%)
By 2008, the shine on the Saw franchise was starting to wane. Saw V pulled in $113.8 million, which was a success but a notable drop from the previous entries' takings. We did get to find out about Detective Mark Hoffman's rise to being Jigsaw's apprentice, through a series of flashbacks, while the present timeline saw him trying to avoid being found out. The main trap included a group of people, with some played by notable actors like Julie Benz and Meagan Good.
A lot of the feeling about Saw V was that it just wasn't all that interesting. Many viewed Hoffman as an uninteresting successor to the Jigsaw throne, and his story didn't change that. Those who came for the violence and gore were also somewhat disappointed, because most of the traps involved weren't all that creative.
6 Saw IV (19%)
Saw III ended with one of the biggest twists in franchise history. John Kramer, also known as Jigsaw, was murdered by one of his subjects, Jeff. Fans were eager to see what followed. Saw IV opened with his autopsy, confirming his death. However, the film then diverted into a tale about Officer Daniel Rigg as he was put through a test that challenged his obsession with trying to save everyone. Then, they brought back Detective Eric Matthews, who was thought to be dead.
That meant over an hour of the movie passed without any mention of Jigsaw's death and what happened to Jeff. Then, all of a sudden, Jeff appeared in the movie and it turned out that the events of Saw IV were happening concurrently with Saw III. It was too weird for many fans. While critics admitted that this was the goriest installment, it still didn't get great reviews. However, this is the first movie on our list to get a "Fresh" audience score, at 62%.
5 Saw III (29%)
Most fans probably believed this was going to be the end of Saw. A lot of film series end in trilogies and a lot of this story felt like it was building towards a climax. As Jigsaw put a man named Jeff through a series of tests, he also dealt with his own cancer. It led to scenes where John had to undergo graphic brain surgery and ultimately ended with his death when Jeff murdered him.
Instead, the ending opened up more questions than it provided resolutions. It began to feel like the writers were fighting extra hard to extend the story, even introducing the idea of John's wife so late into the series. Still, fans mostly enjoyed this one and it boasts a 71% audience score, which is third among all Saw films.
4 Jigsaw (33%)
Nearly a decade after Saw: The Final Chapter, the franchise returned with Jigsaw. Nobody was expecting it and a lot of people didn't even want it, but it went on to gross $103 million at the box office. This film picked up over 10 years after John Kramer's death, with a new series of murders fitting his modus operandi emerging. Tobin Bell was the only actor from the original seven films to reprise his role this time around.
The critics lamented the fact that this entry didn't reallt bring anything new to the series, but pointed out that fans would enjoy it. They were right, as over 29,000 Rotten Tomatoes users reviewed this and 90% of those reviews were positive. That is the highest mark for any movie in the series, which many people didn't expect.
3 Saw II (37%)
Expectations were pretty high following the great success of the first Saw movie. Released a year after the original, Saw II expanded on the scope of things. Instead of two characters stuck in one room, the big test in this one featured eight people in a house. It also explained more about Jigsaw's backstory and explained a little about his motives. All of this happened as Jigsaw was on the verge of arrest at the hands of Detective Eric Matthews and his team.
For the most part, the critics simply felt that this was violent and gruesome, which would turn away audiences. 59% of the users who reviewed it on Rotten Tomatoes enjoyed it, though. Many cited the unexpected places the story takes these characters and the twist that Amanda Young was going to be Jigsaw's new apprentice. It was a great way to follow up on the storyline from the first film.
2 Saw VI (39%)
Many critics viewed Saw VI as a step up after the previous few entries into the franchise. Here, Mark Hoffman set up a series of tests for an insurance executive named William Easton, involving most of his employees. On the other side of things, Hoffman did everything he could to protect his identity and point the authorities in the direction of the now deceased Agent Strahm.
Critics mentioned that this wasn't anything new for the series, but considered it one of the best ones. They noted how it executed a lot of things better than prior entries. While the audience score is higher than that of the critics, this was easily the lowest-grossing part of the franchise, bringing in just $68.2 million. Still, those who watched felt it ramped things up for a finale that went back to surpassing $100 million.
1 Saw (49%)
Another one of those franchises where the first movie is the best. 2004's Saw felt like a breath of fresh air. It didn't rely heavily on gore like later installments, instead focusing on two men trapped in a dirty bathroom and forced to play a barbaric mind game. A lot of their challenge was built around mind games rather than the physical side of things. The action only gets gruesome in the final act, and even then, it's nothing too crazy.
Most of the critics who reviewed this found the plot to be clever, enjoyed most of the set pieces, and praised the twist ending. It is still regarded as one of the wildest plot twists in cinema history. 84% of the audience gave it a positive review on Rotten Tomatoes and it grossed $103.9 million on a minuscule $1.2 million budget. If this movie hadn't captivated people the way it did, there would be no franchise.