How to Watch the Saw Movies in Chronological Order

Jigsaw's plans are elaborate, but are they as complicated as Saw's actual timeline?

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"I want to play a game."

Chances are if you hear that phrase, especially coming from a demented puppet on a toddler tricycle, you're in for a game where the stakes are life and death. Well, mutilated life or mutilated death, to be more specific. John Kramer -- aka the diabolical Jigsaw from the Saw franchise -- has marked you for the ultimate test. And nine movies in, with a tenth on the way this October, the smoke and mirrors surprises these films pull off are often as harrowingly intricate as the main madman's traps themselves. 

Which makes it a bit of a challenge to list these films out chronologically. Filled with twists and flashbacks, and no official "prequels" the Saw saga is only half a straight road, the rest being an avalanche of retcons and revisions involving time trickery and secret "hiding in plain sight" Jigsaw apprentices that have been in on the schemes, yes, since before the first movie. So we've split up the rundown here. We've got the Saw movies listed out just plainly and then, for those wanting to piece together the timeline of the flashbacks, we have those moments listed in chronological order too.

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How Many Saw Movies Are There?

There are nine total movies set within the Saw universe. Created by James Wan (The Conjuring series, Insidious franchise) and Leigh Whannell (Insidious franchise, The Invisible Man), Saw struck gold back in 2004 and we got a Saw movie every year after that -- usually an October tradition -- through 2010. Then it wasn't until 2017 that we got the eighth movie, Jigsaw. Then four years later for in-universe spinoff, Spiral: From the Book of Saw. Saw X (not the official title) arrives October 27, 2023.

The Saw Movies in (Present Time) Chronological Order

1. Saw (2004)

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video, Tubi, Pluto TV, or rentable on most platforms.

Saw, the first entry of this mega-horror franchise, is actually unlike all the other Saw movies. It's largely set in one room and acts like a menacing, lethal escape room as a dirtbag doctor (Cary Elwes) and a sleazy photographer (writer Leigh Whannell) are forced to violently save their own lives by playing a mysterious game set in place by an unseen madman. Naturally, there's a killer twist at the end, the first of many shocking reveals these movies would unleash.

Read our review of Saw.

2. Saw II (2005)

Where to Watch: Pluto TV or rentable on most platforms.

Saw II greatly expanded the wicked world of Saw, giving trap-setter Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) a face and voice, along with motivations and convictions. Acting as a cruel dungeon master, Jigsaw runs a "game" with multiple participants, each he wants to teach a valuable lesson, including the son of an abusive homicide detective (Donnie Wahlberg). Once again the clock is ticking and SAW II, a worthy sequel, drops two different big swerves at the end -- tricks that would become series hallmarks.

Read our review of Saw II.

3. Saw III (2006)

Where to Watch: Pluto TV or rentable on most platforms.

Things get undeniably brutal in Saw III as "torture porn" starts to become a label for this subgenre of horror. Jigsaw, about to succumb to terminal cancer, runs (what seems like) one last game. But who is the test actually for? How is everything connected? A grieving father (Angus Macfadyen) is put through a terrible crucible while a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) is forced to keep Jigsaw alive long enough to complete his masterpiece. Believe it or not, this is (sort of) the last film where Jigsaw is alive in the present.

Read our review for Saw III.

4. Saw IV (2007)

Where to Watch: Hulu, Pluto TV, or rentable on most platforms.

Saw II showed us Jigsaw's disdain for bad cops. Saw IV -- which quite possibly marks the end for the series' best "you'll never see this coming" twists -- also showcased how he had beef with cops...who cared too much? Anyhow, despite Jigsaw literally dying in the previous movie an overly determined cop (Lyriq Bent) follows a trail of maniacal clues in order to save the day. Plus, Costas Mandylor's Detective Mark Hoffman is introduced. Yup, the Hoffman Era is officially underway.

Read our review for Saw IV.

5. Saw V (2008)

Where to Watch: Hulu, Pluto TV, or rentable on most platforms.

Saw V gives us a new villain, a Jigsaw successor, and the "on the movie poster" promise of an ending we wouldn't believe. Don't get us wrong, the finish was ghoulish and gross but it was a far cry from the ambush endings we'd seen in the previous four movies. Saw V is one of the saga's low points, as a multi-roomed "game" is played by several victims while an FBI Agent (Scott Patterson) gets within a hair's breadth of cornering the city's new bogeyman.

Read our review for Saw V.

6. Saw VI (2009)

Where to Watch: Hulu, Pluto TV, or rentable on most platforms.

Saw VI, despite still landing smack dab in the middle of the Hoffmanaissance, is considered the high point of Saw's back half. This installment pits Detective Hoffman against Jigsaw's ex-wife, Jill (Betsy Russell), while also putting the screws to a repugnant health insurance executive (Peter Outerbridge) - and even a couple of predatory lenders -- in a "game" that wraps up with one of the nastiest kills of the series.

Read our review for Saw VI.

7. Saw 3D (2010)

Where to Watch: Hulu, Pluto TV, or rentable on most platforms.

Saving what could have been the best twist for last, as a reward for fans who'd watched and obsessed over every film, Saw 3D fell flat. Yes, including the big "gotcha" conclusion, which was just a reworking of things we'd seen before, done better. Billed as "The Final Chapter," this movie focused on a phony "trap survivor" life coach (Sean Patrick Flanery) as he's forced to do the Jigsaw dance for real. Everything came full circle here but the end result felt empty.

Read our review for Saw 3D.

8. Jigsaw (2017)

Where to Watch: Peacock, Fubo, DirecTV, or rentable on most platforms.

Seven years after the "Final Chapter," someone's running a game again, and taunting the police with mutilated bodies on top of it. Is it a Jigsaw copycat? Or did the real deal come back from the great beyond somehow? The folks behind Jigsaw thought that the long break might make old twists feel new again. They were mistaken, sadly. Going back to Jigsaw's early days, and revealing yet another apprentice we'd never seen before, seemed to be the only way to continue a franchise that killed off its main villain in the third movie.

Read our review of Jigsaw.

8. Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021)

Where to Watch: Rentable on most platforms.

When Chris Rock decided to do a Saw film, based on a story he'd conceived himself, excitement for the franchise was renewed. The end goods, however, were a bit bereft as Rock playing a detective tracking a (this time for real) Jigsaw copycat, targeting bad cops, came off more by-the-numbers than audiences expected. Spiral marks the first movie not to have Tobin Bell play Jigsaw/John Kramer and though previous movies had certainly run out of flashback material for him, his absence was felt.

Read our review of Spiral: From the Book of Saw.

The Saw Movies in (Flashback) Chronological Order

Alright, here we go. These little blurbs contain SPOILERS for the Saw franchise, as this list tracks John Kramer, aka Jigsaw, and his progression from married engineer to divorced, dying torture-lunatic. And that includes all the people he recruited to help him along the way, who spring up throughout the series as plot twists. So to watch John's life play out, go in this order...

Saw IV

Right after the series killed him off in Saw III, Tobin Bell still got to stick around for a flashback to John's life, married to Jill, then pregnant and running a rehab clinic. A violent encounter with a junkie causes a miscarriage. A strained marriage ends in divorce. John tries to kill himself but survives, helping him come up with "games" where people can prove how much they value their lives by harming themselves to survive death.

Jigsaw

Now it's ultimately unclear who the first apprentice was: Logan Nelson or Mark Hoffman. There are arguments for both sides. But because Nelson never appeared with Hoffman or Amanda, he's this floating satellite recruit who may have been the first person taken under Jigsaw's wing. He was a game player who accidentally survived his test (placed there because his bungling led to John's cancer diagnosis being delayed). After John spares his life, he adopts the Jigsaw philosophy and helps build the dreaded, famed reverse-beartrap.

Saw V

Saw IV revealed Mark Hoffman was in with Jigsaw but Saw V showed how that meeting, and tutelage, came about. Mark, a crooked cop bent on revenge for his sister's death, killed his sister's assailant in the style of a Jigsaw trap to hide his crime, so that it would be blamed on John. John finds him however and more or less forces him to become his main stooge, and the two of them are shown setting up traps and games from the previous movies.

Saw II

As one of the film's two big end twists, Amanda Young is revealed to be a new apprentice, planted within the game itself. Amanda, seen in the first film, is an actual (not accidental) trap survivor, who then finds redemption in John's mad mission.

Saw III

This is another Amanda-heavy story (we know why by the end) and we see flashbacks of her and John setting up the escape room trap scenario from the first Saw movie.

Saw

Saw is Saw is Saw.

Saw 3D

This one revealed, right at the end, that Dr. Gordon, from the first Saw, was saved by Jigsaw and turned into an apprentice none of the others even knew about, with orders to exact violent retribution if anything ever happened to Jill.

Saw VI

We see the tension between Hoffman and Amanda, as Hoffman blackmails her with the knowledge she was connected to the incident that caused Jill's miscarriage.

How to Watch The Saw Movies by Release Date

If you're looking to watch all the movies in theatrical release order, the correct list is below:


Matt Fowler is a freelance entertainment writer/critic, covering TV news, reviews, interviews and features on IGN for 13+ years.

This post might contain affiliation links. If you buy something through this post, the publisher may get a share of the sale.
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Jigsaw

Publisher: Lionsgate
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