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Franchise / Saw

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Hello. I want to play a game.


The Saw franchise — composed chiefly of a series of horror films — centers around a Poetic Serial Killer dubbed "The Jigsaw Killer" (or just "Jigsaw"), who places people in Death Traps and gives them a chance to escape before death claims them. Jigsaw designs each trap as a violent form of poetic justice by reflecting what Jigsaw sees as the vital flaw of its victim(s). To escape these traps — or "games", as Jigsaw calls them — the victims must typically harm either themselves or others in some horrific way to escape their impending (and horrific) death. The films' storylines center around the victims' efforts to escape their traps, Jigsaw's life, and his connection to the films' other characters.

The films and their dates of release are, in order:

Lionsgate Entertainment released the first seven films in the franchise on the week prior to Halloween for seven years in a row, from 2004 to 2010. The seventh installment, titled Saw 3D, was renamed Saw: The Final Chapter for its home video release. According to Word of God, the series was supposed to end with an eighth film, but due to the poor box office performance of Saw VI, Saw VIII's plot was worked into Saw 3D. In October 2016, a new film under the working title Saw: Legacy was announced to be in production. The title was later changed to Jigsaw, and the film was released on October 27, 2017. A ninth film, Spiral (produced, written by and starring Chris Rock), was announced in February 2020 with a May release date that has been delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and later moved to May 2021.


These films (especially the first) inspired many imitations, though some argue that Saw itself is a form of imitation of Se7en: Both films focus on elaborate, grisly murders carried out by a man trying to send a message to society. Whereas Se7en portrays John Doe as vain and interested in showing the world a lesson through murder, Jigsaw focuses on a more "individualized" message with his "games". Hell, the concept of a moralistic serial killer playing God to a society he deems morally corrupt didn't even originate with Se7en — and according to Word Of God, a short film of the same name inspired the first Saw film.

The series managed to spawn two video game adaptations. The first — Saw: The Video Game — takes place after the events of the first film: Detective Tapp (thought dead after Zep shot him) ends up forced into one of Jigsaw's games and has to play to survive. The sequel, Saw II: Flesh & Blood, takes place between the events of the second and third films as Detective Tapp's son, Michael, becomes Jigsaw's newest target. In addition, the multiplayer horror game Dead by Daylight released a DLC in 2018 based on the series. It features both Detective Tapp and Amanda Young as playable characters, and includes a map based on the various films’ locations.

In 2009 a ride based on the films opened in Thorpe Park, aptly named SAW: The Ride. It's notable for being the world's first roller coaster based on a horror movie franchise.

This franchise now has a character sheet (that needs more love), as well as its own wikia.

WARNING: This page contains no small number of spoilers, but many of the trope examples below will assume you have knowledge of the spoilers revealed by the endings of the first four films — and as such, those spoilers frequently go untagged. You Have Been Warned.

Oh yes... there will be tropes.

  • All There in the Manual: Several examples involving Word of God.
    • You have to play the video games to find out the exact fates of David Tapp and Jeff Thomas Ridenhour from the first film.
    • The DVD commentary for Saw II reveals that the razor box was meant for Gus and that Addison's trap would have involved a waffle iron to her face.
    • The shooting script for Saw III has Amanda tying the drain stopper to Adam's leg, revealing that she messed up his game and doomed him.
    • An early draft of Saw IV that would have been a direct sequel to Saw III would have shown Jeff's game to which John Kramer alludes at the end of Saw III. It would have had him dying in the blender trap, along with Chris, the man with whom Jeff's wife had an affair. Even though neither this scene nor the trap made it to the film, it still explains what game John wanted Jeff to play to find his daughter.
    • An interview with Patrick Melton on Demon FM [1] reveals that Brit survived in Saw V.
    • The script for Saw VII reveals that John and Lawrence were in the crowd watching the public execution trap, thus revealing that it took place prior to Saw II and that it was the first trap to which Lawrence contributed.
    • The commentary for '"Saw VII'' reveals that Lawrence did see his family again, but that his wife divorced him due to his unstable mindset. It also reveals that his two accomplices wearing pig masks are Brad and Ryan from the public execution trap.
    • This interview with Patrick Melton [2], co-writer of Saw IV-VII, reveals many things that were not explained in the movies, listed below.
      • Hoffman and Amanda knew that Lawrence survived, but they did not know that he helped out with some traps.
      • Hoffman did want Rigg to survive his test in Saw IV.
      • Hoffman was given no rules for the Reverse Bear Trap Jill put on him because he was supposed to die since it was Jill's "way out."
      • John Kramer knew about Amanda's involvement in his unborn child's death, but he forgave her. (This still does not explain what John had meant to leave for Amanda in the drawer in Saw III.)
      • The house that Mallick from Saw V had burned is not the nerve gas house from Saw II.
      • Hoffman wanted to carry on Jigsaw's legacy but make it more his legacy.
      • John met William Easton from Saw VI after his suicide attempt.
      • Lawrence did not rescue Adam because he was dead by the time Lawrence was able to leave.
  • Anachronic Order: The story told by the series is not shown linearly. Flashbacks, including the Once More, with Clarity! variety, are used frequently. In Saw IV, Jill Tuck says "John's life defies chronology, linear description." The story itself is like a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Animal Motifs: Pigs. Jigsaw's agents (and sometimes victims) wear pig masks. One trap has a victim slowly drowning in liquefied pig parts, and another is burned alive inside a "brazen bull" shaped like a pig. There are other instances as well.
  • Anyone Can Die: These movies take this trope to the extreme; it's rare for a major character to not die. If they don't, they're likely to be declared dead in a sequel or turn up again to be offed in some spectacular manner. Almost fifty characters died in the first six films; that's about eight every film.
    • Jigsaw himself dies at the end of the third film, although he still appears in the sequels via flashbacks.
  • Ascended Extra: Some supporting characters get larger roles in later movies.
    • Allison Kerry appears briefly at crime scenes in Saw and then becomes a main character in Saw II.
    • Amanda Young appears in one scene in Saw and then becomes a main character in Saw II.
    • Adam mentions a best friend named Scott Tibbs, who stabbed him with a rusty nail on his fourth birthday. He becomes the central character in a "documentary" on the uncut edition of Saw II, in which he mentions that Adam is probably dead and that he loves Jigsaw's traps. He is also a member of a band called Wrath of the God's, the name of which appears on Daniel Matthews' shirt in Saw II and a flyer Adam gives to Amanda in a scene deleted from Saw III.
    • Oswald McGillicutty's name is on a newspaper clipping in David Tapp's apartment in Saw. He appears in the first video game.
    • Jeff Thomas Ridenhour is put in a trap in Saw and has muffled lines because his mouth is gagged. He speaks and appears in another trap in the first video game.
    • Carla Song does not have much screen time in Saw. She is put in a trap in the video game Saw II: Flesh & Blood.
    • Eric Matthews appears briefly in Full Disclosure Report: Piecing Together Jigsaw, a "documentary" on the uncut edition DVD of the first film. He then becomes a main protagonist in Saw II.
    • Mark Hoffman is just a forensic at the scene of Troy's trap in Saw III and then becomes a major character starting with Saw IV.
    • Jill Tuck appears briefly in non-canonical content within the comic prequel Saw: Rebirth and then appears briefly in a flashback with no lines in Saw III. Starting with Saw IV, she becomes a main character.
    • Pamela Jenkins is a reporter who only appears at a police conference in Saw V. She gets a larger role in Saw VI, and her attempt to write a book is alluded to via various notes in the video game.
  • Asshole Victim: Too many to list. Most of the protagonists are fundamentally flawed people selected by Jigsaw to overcome their shortcomings. As the series progressed, many of the lesser victims just became full-on assholes such as drug dealers and rapists. Unfortunately, also as the series progressed, many of the various 'crimes' the victims were guilty of became less and less severe, some of which (like a cop who apparently values human life too much) are flat-out absurd.
    • That's not even including the victims in Easton's tests, most of whom were completely innocent of anything resembling a crime. Apparently their lives were less important than the irony factor of making a health insurance executive literally choose which of them will live or die.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Every film thus far ends with Jigsaw (be it the original or one of his apprentices) getting the last laugh. Even when the real Jigsaw was killed in Saw III, he still managed to gain the upper hand posthumously.
  • Bastard Understudy: Everyone except Lawrence screws up the philosophy one way or another.
    • Amanda was the first person to ever survive a trap, and she develops Stockholm Syndrome towards John as he takes her under his wing. But she soon starts making inescapable traps in the belief that nobody can truly change and that they're better off dead and not in any pain versus alive and suffering, as well as letting her emotions get the better of her, leading to her death.
    • Hoffman tried to pass off his own murder as Jigsaw's work, and was subsequently given the choice by John to choose between self-preservation, by making traps for real with him, or justice, by take credit for his own handiwork and reveal John as Jigsaw, thereby exposing them both as killers. He picks self-preservation, and takes part in the philosophy, but doesn't actually care about changing people, and after John dies, he takes the Jigsaw name for a joyride and kills either just because, to keep his double life secret or to exact personal revenge on people who he believes have wronged him. Thankfully John anticipated this, and tasked Lawrence with being a fail-safe in the case that Hoffman killed Jill. He does, and Lawrence goes ahead with locking him in the original bathroom to die.
    • Logan seems to be doing fine with reviving the Jigsaw name at first, following the rules of fairness and recreating the barn trap from ten years ago to the letter. But he goes off the rails when he reveals all this to Halloran right as he's about to activate the lasers that will kill him while he's completely helpless to stop it. Halloran points out to him that Jigsaw gave his victims a chance to survive, but Logan doesn't care, since he sees Halloran and the future people he's going to test (rapists, murderers) as too subhuman to give a fighting chance.
  • Being Evil Sucks: It's made profoundly obvious that the Jigsaw games do nothing to better people's lives, and those perpetrating them end up sociopathic shells of human beings.By the end, nearly every Jigsaw, including John himself, goes beyond redemption and suffers a grisly demise in the games they carried out.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: This series loves this trope. Amanda and Gordon are the most clear cut examples. Hoffman's conversion from standard villain to complete monster after his encounter with the RBT 2.0 probably counts as well.
  • Big Bad: Jigsaw in the first three films, and Hoffman in the latter four.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Jigsaw sincerely believes that all people, even murderers, deserve a second chance at life. Though he puts people in mortal peril to get that chance, he's far better than his apprentices Amanda and Hoffman, who both create inescapable traps in the belief that their victims cannot be rehabilitated.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted - none of the films have a black character die first. One of the actors begged not to die first because of this trope in Jigsaw.
  • Book-Ends: The series begins and ends in that bathroom.
    • A more subtle one: the first time we ever see Jigsaw is the establishing shot of him posing as a corpse on the bathroom floor - which also happens to be the last shot we ever see of him in Saw 3D.
    • 3D begins with a flashback to Lawrence sawing off his foot. At the end, one of the last things Hoffman sees before the lights go out is that same foot, badly decayed and still resting in its shackle.
    • Jigsaw has a variant. The trap that Anna and Ryan go through for the last time is in the same room as Logan and Halloran's trap.
  • Calling Card: Each Jigsaw utilizes a different general style when designing traps.
    • John Kramer was responsible for the original blueprint of what traps should be: his involved inflicting physical pain with a heavy focus on self-mutilation to survive, but also placed an emphasis on following and interpreting instructions. That said, he was not above making use of Amanda's style (the Cube Trap in V was intended to kill Strahm, and was quite amusingly the only "inescapable trap" that was escaped) or Hoffman's (the Reverse Bear Trap in the first movie would by design result in either the death of Amanda or her cellmate).
    • Amanda Young favored traps in which Failure Is the Only Option, focusing on physically torturing and killing the victims rather than rehabilitating them, as she believed at that point in the narrative that Jigsaw's victims were beyond redemption and deserved to die.
    • Mark Hoffman preferred traps that focused on a Sadistic Choice, and involved victims competing to survive, or another person choosing who to save, rather than giving the victim a fighting chance. This is most evident in the final two movies, where most of the traps would result in at least one person's death by design.
    • Logan Nelson remains mostly faithful to Kramer's style, seeing as he scrupulously recreates an older Jigsaw game (which we are led to believe is what we've seen, but was actually the original Barn Game he copied offscreen). However, he is more focused on getting his victims to confess their sins to stop the trap rather than fighting for their chance to live, and yet, in his unique trap at the end, he still kills his victim with the trap out of a desire for vengeance even after the confession is made.
  • Canon Discontinuity: A comic book called Saw: Rebirth was published in correlation with Saw II and was accepted into canonicity by the fans as well as the original writers. The comic explored Jigsaw's past and the events that lead to him becoming Jigsaw. When Saw IV came out, the new writers completely ignored the events of the comic. Example: In Rebirth, Jill is John's girlfriend, who leaves John because of his lack of commitment to their relationship. In IV, Jill is John's wife, and the two separate after Jill has a miscarriage.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Even the smallest flaw leads to Jigsaw "choosing" somebody. It's entirely possible he could look into virtually anybody's background and justify a reason to put them through his trials.
  • Catchphrase:
    • I want to play a game.
    • Live or die, make your choice.
    • Let the game begin.
    • How much blood will you shed to stay alive?
    • Game over.
    • I/We speak for the dead!
  • Chekhov's Gun: Jigsaw sets up quite a few of these in his games. Notable ones though are the wax tape from Saw III and the Glass Box Trap from Saw IV.
    • The box John left Jill in his will at the beginning of Saw V, which we didn't figure out the contents of until Saw VI.
    • Don't forget the note left for Amanda in Saw III. We don't find out what was in it until three movies later.
    • The note to Hoffman saying "I Know Who You Are" in Saw V. At that point it looks like it's from Jill; Saw 3D reveals it was from Dr. Gordon.
    • In Saw V, when John is talking to Hoffman after kidnapping him from the elevator, John mentions that Hoffman's pendulum was made of inferior steel, and that tempered steel makes a cleaner cut. In Saw VI, Perez and Erickson find that the jigsaw piece cut from Eddy (the corrupt lending banker) was cut with a serrated knife, and not Jigsaw's usual tempered scalpel. This turns out to be the thread that begins to unravel Hoffman's attempts to cover his tracks.
    • And, of course, the note that Jill brought to the hospital in Saw VI, revealed to be for Dr. Gordon in Saw 3D.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: There are quite a few. Lieutenant Rigg, Lieutenant Hoffman, Zep Hindle, but none of them meets the extreme of Jigsaw himself in the extremely notorious twist ending of the original movie. He gets bonus points for being in a scene in the middle of the film for all of five seconds as a dying cancer patient and for playing possum in the bathroom throughout the entire movie. Dr. Gordon is the clear winner though, having reappeared six movies after he was last seen, and playing a crucial role in the grand finale.
  • Clock Punk: Most of the Death Traps are gear-based.
  • Continuity Porn:
    • Much of the later films had flashbacks that explained details from previous films, such as how Jigsaw and his apprentices set up their "games". A large chunk of Saw V had this as it tried to retroactively fit Hoffman into the previous installments.
    • In particular the "reverse bear trap", first appears on Amanda's head in the first film, then in the background in III and IV, then plans can be seen for it in V, then on Hoffman at the end of VI and finally on Jill in VII where it finally goes off as John intended, and it looks awesome. Of course, John never intended for it to go off at all.
    • Saw 3D starts with a flashback to Gordon escaping the bathroom in the film and gets progressively more referential from there on out. The SURVIVE group, the aforementioned reverse bear trap and the final bathroom scene just cinch it.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: We have traps which rip open your jaw, rip out the bones of your ribcage, twist your limbs, have walls close in on you, forcing you to hurt yourself (usually for the cost of a limb). And that's not even all of them.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Nearly every major character has one.
  • Death Trap: The core trope of the films; pretty much every significant character in the series (save for Jigsaw himself) has either been put in one or forced to try and stop one from killing someone else.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Hoffman kills Strahm and posthumously frames him as being Jigsaw's successor. It doesn't work.
    • Logan does it twice, setting up evidence implicating both Halloran and John Kramer as possible suspects. It remains yet to be seen if it will work this time. invoked
  • Deceptive Disciple: Amanda and Hoffman work against Jigsaw's "higher" aims by making a number of his death traps, which are supposed to be fair, truly inescapable. The fact that several of his own 'traps' had no explained escape method (the guy in the chair with the drills, the guy with the key in his stomach, the booby trap left for the cops) or even blatantly set up to result in absolutely certain death for at least one of the victims is handwaved.
  • Demonic Dummy: "Billy", used by Jigsaw to communicate with his victims. Billy has become so iconic, many people mistake him for the real Jigsaw.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The whole series runs on it. Maybe when Jigsaw puts murderers and rapists through his trials it seems deserved, but the problem is that basically anyone who is guilty of just being depressed deserves to be put through the trials in his mind. This often extends to relatively petty "crimes" such as being a drug addict, a sex worker, an adulterer, being generally sleazy, or just having depression in general. Hell, Rigg's "problem" in Saw IV was that he tried too hard to help people.
  • Door-Closes Ending: Several of the films, three times using the same room.
  • Downer Ending: Every film in the series. The only possible exceptions are Saw II, since the boy does survive, and Saw 3D, where Hoffman is given a Karmic Death.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • John Kramer to every single other villain in the series. He's a twisted bastard, but whenever he comes into conflict with another villain, he has the moral high ground.
    • Additionally, the traps built by Jigsaw himself usually have some way for the victim to free him-/herself. The traps built by Jigsaw's apprentices are usually Unwinnable by Design.
  • Evidence Dungeon: Jigsaw's lair is where he crafts his traps, the scene of several crimes and an absolute mountain of evidence. Justified as Jigsaw has terminal cancer and being discovered is all part of the plan.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Sure, you might get out of your trap, but series' precedent is you'll either end up dead before the end of the movie or in another trap in a sequel, and you'll probably be subjected to an ironic lecture by a puppet first.
  • Fatal Flaw: Jigsaw's method of operation involves the victim having to overcome theirs or be killed by a Death Trap.
  • Flanderization: The first movie was essentially a psychological thriller with minimal gore and only a few particularly traps. As the series went on, the franchise quickly ended up becoming Torture Porn, with the traps becoming a gimmick and an excuse to throw in as much gore as possible.
  • Flashback: Extremely prevalent throughout the films, especially V, VI, and Jigsaw.
  • From Bad to Worse: Eric's storyline.
  • Gambit Roulette: Practically every one of Jigsaw's traps require an incredible amount of blind luck to work, and his plans often require that the victims do some very specific actions at very exact moments, and often independent of each other. To say nothing of the fact that his plans are still driving the entire series long after he's killed off.
  • Gorn: It practically spawned/popularized the modern resurgence of the "Torture Porn" genre of film by itself, despite the first movie featuring very little explicit gore.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Jigsaw Killer is the Big Bad in the first three Saw movies. After he dies at the end of the third one, he becomes a Bigger Bad posthumously, as his remaining legacy hovers over and still drives the actions of his various apprentices nominally trying to continue his work: Amanda (who dies before Jigsaw himself), Detective Hoffman, Doctor Gordon, and Logan. Plans he deliberately set into motion before his death still have far-reaching effects long after he died.
  • Hand in the Hole: Always a prelude to something horrible happening to the hand / wrist in question.
  • Hand Wave: Jigsaw is supposedly an engineer, hence his knowledge of mechanisms. This is apparently supposed to explain how a frail cancer patient and an equally frail junkie can routinely construct Rube Goldberg devices with components that weigh tons, without anyone ever noticing. Continuously retconned as more and more strong male apprentices are added as the series progresses, from Hoffman the stout detective to ex-military Logan.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Jigsaw's fond of these.
  • Happy Flashback: The flashbacks to Jigsaw's life before he became the twisted killer he is today.
  • Holier Than Thou: Amanda managed to survive a Jigsaw trap and became his apprentice. She then goes about making completely unwinnable games meant to kill the "subjects" because she believes people will never change even if they do survive despite surviving one herself, arrogantly believing herself to be the sole exception. This pisses Kramer off so much that he sics Hoffman on her, because she has completely missed the point.
  • Hollywood Acid: As seen in III and VI.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: In IV we learn that Jigsaw's Start of Darkness was losing his unborn son due to a door violently smashed against the mother's belly.
  • Impossible Task: Several 'traps' have simply been designed to kill their occupants without bothering with the whole escape thing. Most of those types of traps were designed by Amanda (who thinks people are irredeemable and thus deserve to die) or Hoffman (who is more concerned with keeping the cops off his tail).
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Most of Kramer's apprentices twist his ideals by perverting them to serve their own cause. Amanda, Hoffman and Logan do not completely share his philosophy of making people change through suffering, instead either putting them into inescapable traps, forcing them into a Sadistic Choice or outright killing their victims. The only one closest to John's idea of Jigsaw is Dr. Gordon.
  • Infant Immortality:
    • The only kid who died in this series was Jeff's son, Dylan. He died in an accident off-screen.
    • Jigsaw and Jill lost their son Gideon to a miscarriage Jill suffered while her health clinic was being robbed.
    • Jigsaw avoids this hard with the death of Anna's newborn son. She killed him herself and framed her husband for it.
  • Irony: In Saw, Dr. Lawrence Gordon is questioned by the police because he's suspected of being the Jigsaw killer. In Saw 3D he is. Also, Bobby Dagen in Saw 3D; at the beginning of the movie he falsely claims to be a Jigsaw survivor, and by the end he actually is, but his wife, best friend, publicist and lawyer were all killed by traps.
  • Jawbreaker: The "reverse beartrap" is one of the series' most iconic traps. Even though we don't see it go off with someone still in it until the seventh movie.
  • Karmic Death: Many of the death traps have some kind of relevance to their victims' sins. An informant must cut out his eye (the thing he uses to spy on others) to survive, HMO executives who denied people coverage based on pre-existing conditions (choosing who would live or die) have their lives put in the hands of a man who can only save two of them (choosing which of them lives or dies), etc.
    • Hoffman at the end of Saw 3D. That was satisfying.
  • Kill 'Em All: Almost no character has survived through all eight movies. Not even Jigsaw. Dr. Gordon is the one exception, but he didn't appear after the first movie until the seventh movie, so he only appeared in two films anyway.
  • Knight Templar: Jigsaw actually thinks he's helping people by putting them into deathtraps. The seventh film reveals that it does actually work for some people.
  • Legacy Character: Jigsaw, of course.
  • Leitmotif:
    • "Hello Zepp" (subsequently remixed for every film in the series) has become synonymous with the Saw films, since the tune is commonly associated with the climax of the films. Even when the tune is played elsewhere (like, say, on Sportscenter - and yes, that has happened), one likely immediately identifies it as the "Saw theme".
    • In an especially awkward example of the latter, the theme was used in the trailer for Déjà Vu. Passable on its own, except it was played in theaters immediately before screenings of Saw III.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Lots of them throughout the series.
  • Locked Up and Left Behind: If a trap doesn't kill you outright, it will do this instead.
  • Made of Plasticine: The human body, apparently.
  • Mad Scientist: Well, mad engineer, but roughly the same principle.
  • Meaningful Name: Jigsaw. A Jigsaw is made of many pieces and by Saw 3D, Jigsaw has ceased to be a single individual or apprentice, and become a full fledged movement, shown when the doctor takes down Hoffman, helped by two other people in pig masks, who are strongly implied to be other survivors of Jigsaw traps. Each of these apprentices could be thought of as Jigsaw pieces.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Dr. Gordon in the first film. Rigg flirts with this trope in the fourth film, too, though it's justified since Jigsaw sets up his game to accomplish exactly that purpose.
  • Monster Clown: Billy the Puppet, whom Jigsaw uses to deliver his prologues to his victims.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning:
    • Pretty much the crux of any of the films after the third.
      I promise that my work will continue. You think it's over, just because I'm dead. It's not over. The games have just begun.
    • Jigsaw was dying of cancer, but from the perspective of society at large he was essentially a cancer cell. Extremely destructive and always two steps ahead of the immune system (law enforcement). Eventually, after much destruction around him, he was killed but it was too late; he created more of himself, and those new cells similarly show every sign of recreating themselves.
  • Myth Arc: The fate of Dr. Lawrence Gordon, who is referenced in every film.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Nice job killing Jigsaw, Jeff. And nice job saving Eric, Rigg. Oh, by the way, nice job shoving Hoffman into a box filled with glass, Strahm. And of course nice job going on an all-out manhunt for Hoffman, Gibson. Gibson's is arguably the biggest clusterfuck out of all of these: it leads to, among other things, the deaths of an entire police precinct.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Hoffman, after killing Strahm, uses the severed hand left from the trap to plant fingerprints at the next "game". Unfortunately for him, forensic data from the hand actually proves that Strahm was not the killer, and serves to be one of the big pieces of Hoffman's downfall.
  • Noodle Incident: In Jigsaw's workshop, you see plans for traps that never appear in any of the movies and they were possibly all used offstage. Also, as some Jigsaw survivors recount how their experiences changed them, their traps are never explained in full detail.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Surprisingly averted for almost the entire run of the series; the movies were simply consistently numbered with successive roman numerals and no subtitles. The filmmakers explicitly noted that they were not going with sequel names like Saw 2: Hacksaw or S4w to avoid this. This lasted until the seventh film, which instead of being Saw VII is Saw 3D. The DVD release has renamed it Saw: The Final Chapter.
  • Offscreen Villain Darkmatter: Jigsaw has no shortage of industrial spec components for his traps, despite the fact that he used to work in a toy factory and his successors are a junkie, a corrupt police detective, a surgeon with a prosthetic foot, and a mortician. The crushing walls trap from the end of the fifth movie takes this to ludicrous levels. Saw IV, which showed that before becoming a serial killer he was a rich engineer who owned a lot of abandoned property (which he was planning on redeveloping).
  • One Steve Limit: No single movie contains two people with the same first name, with two exceptions. Daniel Matthews and Rigg both appear in Saw II and Rigg's first name is revealed to be Daniel on Saw V. It also reveals Kerry's first name to be Allison, which is the same name as Dr. Gordon's wife, and they both appeared in Saw. But then again, neither Rigg nor Kerry's first names are revealed until Saw V. There are also some names that are shared between movies. Despite John being a very common name in Real Life, John Kramer seems to be the only John in this universe.
  • Ontological Mystery: The first movie especially, but all of them have some hints of this.
  • Passing the Torch:
    • Jigsaw intended Amanda to follow his legacy after his death, but her refusal to accept his philosophy by setting up impossible-to-survive traps as well as Hoffman's meddling ruined that.
    • In Saw 3D, we discover that Dr. Gordon was Jigsaw's true successor, the one he shared all his secrets and entrusted Jill's life with.
    • Jigsaw reveals that he had another successor in mind: Logan, who was his apprentice years before he even met Amanda. He eventually decides to restart Jigsaw’s work over a decade after the man’s death.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Jigsaw's philosophy, again. Also, Hoffman's murder of Baxter, who killed his sister.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: Every Death Trap Jigsaw inflicts on his victims is a reflection of their supposed sin, and - as a nod to his self-assumed label of Knight Templar - only by admitting their guilt and overcoming their sin can they escape. A crucial plot point in Saw III had an altogether different Jigsaw killer (Amanda) being chided by the original for using inescapable Death Traps on their victims, as well as forcing the original to admit his disappointment that none of the surviving victims (including Amanda) "learned their lesson" and reformed, as he always intended them to.
  • Posthumous Character: After being killed in III, Jigsaw spends the rest of the series in flashback. Also Amanda in Saw VI.
  • Rabid Cop: Tapp from part one, Matthews in part two.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The later movies recall scenes from the earlier films, but adding more details unknown to the audience in the original reference.
    • Averted with Gibson in 3D. Although a little suspicious of Jill's story, he still follows standard procedure to keep her safe and investigate Hoffman. Fat lot of good it does him, or her for that matter.
  • Really Dead Montage: Amanda, Jigsaw, William and Jill, though it's inverted somewhat in that they happen while the characters are dying rather than afterwards. Subverted at the end of Saw VI, when Hoffman appears to get one of these, going through all the things he's done and people he's killed in past films until the very last second, making him seem like a goner... then he ends up surviving.
  • Redemption Equals Death: an awful lot of them, but most specifically William Easton.
  • Redemption Equals Life: Jigsaw has this point in mind when making his traps... except for the ones in VI. And it worked for Brit and Mallick.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The essence of Hoffman. He builds an inescapable trap for the man who killed his sister. In Saw 3D, Hoffman's motivation is revenge against Jill.
  • Robotic Torture Device: Most of the traps, really, though not so much torture devices as death-dealing devices.
  • Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: Kinda the whole point if you think about it. Notably, the first two films focused primarily on mind games and arguably escapable traps that a human being could, feasibly, set up, given enough money, time and ingenuity. From Saw III onward, the traps became increasingly — almost ludicrously — elaborate.
  • Sadistic Choice: Jigsaw's games almost always involve this. In the third and fourth films, the protagonist has to choose whether to save a life or let the victim die; the sixth film plays this to the hilt, with the protagonist having to choose who lives and dies out of a group of people when he comes across each of the separate traps. At the end of the sixth film, the family of a terminally ill man he refused to give a loan to is given the choice to kill him. The wife wants to see him die, but is too squeamish to actually push the button that will kill him. Her son has no such reservations however, and happily activates the trap.
  • Scare Chord: The films have plenty of them, but the most memorable is "Hello Zepp" (and all variants thereof), which is essentially "the Saw theme" and plays during the final scenes of every film.
  • The Scourge of God: Seemingly invoked by Jigsaw, who puts people through his trials for even the smallest vices.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: Occasionally this is the consequence of not getting out, though there's usually some mechanism to destroy yourself in a much more gruesome way while trying to escape.
  • Seamless Scenery: So many examples, mostly in the films Darren Lynn Bousman directed, but the best example would be Saw II, where Det. Matthews walks out of his bedroom... and right into the crime scene where the opening trap took place.
    • And that scene also ends this way, with the camera panning over the message left for Matthews, over a beam, and then down into the precinct, where Kerry is analyzing Jigsaw's tape.
    • After Xavier discovers the number on the back of Gus' neck. The camera pans from that... to Daniel and Amanda running down a hallway, as if the floor was part of the wall they're running past.
    • In Saw IV, Rigg literally throws the scalping victim through a mirror and into the next scene.
      • In another scene, Hoffman turns to leave the precinct... and then Rigg walks right past him, putting a shirt on, which leads into the next scene.
    • In Saw III, the camera follows Troy's body before panning to a rug in Kerry's apartment.
      • And after Kerry is killed in a trap, the camera pans from that to... Lynn's bedroom.
      • In another scene, Amanda walks through the factory floor, passing the crate Jeff is trapped in... which is actually in another part of the building.
    • Surprisingly enough, happens throughout Saw 3D as well, most extensively when the camera frequently pans between Bobby pulling his teeth, and Gibson raiding the asylum where the game is taking place.
      • It also happens when Gibson finds the back room of the garage, which then pans to Bobby finally reaching Joyce.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog:
    • The ENTIRE FRANCHISE. No main character has had anything resembling a clear-cut victory over Jigsaw in the movies or the game, and there's always someone ready to take over the serial killer's mantle.
    • Smaller examples occur whenever someone conquers the grueling conditions of a Jigsaw game through great suffering or sacrifice, only for the trap to turn out to be inescapable by design or for there to be interference from another person or time running out that prevents the victim from completing the final step that will actually free them.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The creepy puppet Jigsaw uses in his videos was directly inspired by a similar creepy puppet in Dario Argento's Giallo film Deep Red.
    • The premise of the first film was partly inspired by the ending of Mad Max, where Max handcuffs the last gang member to a car that he's rigged to explode and leaves him with a hacksaw, telling him that it'd take ten minutes to cut through the handcuffs and escape but five minutes to cut through his ankle. Not coincidentally, James Wan and Leigh Whannell are both Australian.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Pretty much every relevant (and non-relevant) character has a very colorful language. The one who swears the least is Jigsaw himself, John Kramer.
  • Splatter Horror: The series explores the psychological aspects of splatter horror, as Jigsaw forces his victims to make sadistic decisions and often mutilate themselves or others to escape. As the series progressed, however, the emphasis shifted more and more towards the gruesome set-pieces.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Amanda, one of the few survivors of Jigsaw's traps, develops an obsessional love for him; Hoffman kills his sister's murderer with a Jigsaw-esque death trap, then is recruited by Jigsaw himself.
    • This seems to be Jigsaw's preferred method of recruitment, going by the end of Saw 3D and the second video game.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Repeatedly. Subverted with Amanda's trap in the first film; she's (loosely) strapped to a chair.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome:
    • II revealed that Adam, one of the main characters from the original, had died, showing us his corpse. In III not only showed his death scene (in a flashback) but it also killed off early on Detective Kerry, who had been investigating the Jigsaw case since the beginning.
    • Detective David Tapp, whose fate is unclear in I, is revealed to be dead in V and his fate is shown in the canonical ending of the video game.
  • Technology Porn: All of the traps are technically working devices, though of course, with lots of safeties in place.
  • Thanatos Gambit: At the end of Saw III, a bedridden Jigsaw gives Jeff the chance of forgiving him or killing him. Jeff takes the latter option. In doing so, not only does Jigsaw's death set off a trap that kills Jeff's wife (as she had been placed in a device that correlates with Jigsaw's heart rate monitor), but Jigsaw plays a tape that posthumously reveals that Jeff's daughter has been placed in a location that only he knows about.
  • Time Bomb: The essence of almost all of Jigsaw's traps is that in period of time X, bad thing Y (usually death) will happen unless thing Z (usually escaping/beating the trap) happens first. Literal time bombs are sometimes involved in bad thing Y's borderline inevitable occurrence (specifically, in Saw V).
  • Too Dumb to Live: Most of Jigsaw's victims spend a large part of the allotted time struggling, swearing and screaming incoherently over the very recording that is telling them how to survive, and are usually just starting to get themselves out when they're murderised. In some cases, all but lampshaded by Jigsaw, usually when the character he's speaking to has failed to interpret a riddle in the most literal manner possible.
  • Torture Cellar: Most of the locales used by Jigsaw and his apprentices are ordinary places that have simply been abandoned.
  • Torture Porn: Made the genre popular again in the 2000's, along with the Hostel series.
  • To the Pain: Such a large point that Jigsaw actually made a puppet, records a video using it as a ventriloquist's puppet telling people what scenario they're in and what they'll have to do to escape it, puts a TV in the room of the trap and inserts the video. Before you think this is a bit off-topic, there is a reason: Jigsaw maintains he's never killed anyone and uses the video to justify this, and tells the victim what sin they've committed to warrant this, as well as what they'll have to do to escape.
  • Trilogy Creep: Supposed to end at three, but due to Executive Meddling, it was expanded to eight.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: All of the sequels fit this structure. Line A is mostly about the plot/suspense, while Line B is more about horror/Gorn. The movie jumps to Line A whenever something Gorntastic happens in Line B. It jumps to Line B after some plot development resolves in Line A. Some of the movies spend more time in Line A (Saw V) and some spend more time in Line B (Saw III), which directly relates to how gory a given installment is. These plots always meet up in some fashion at the end. Details 
  • Two-Part Trilogy: At least, that's how it was intended when it still was a trilogy. Then came the Trilogy Creep (see above). Interestingly, the absurd amount of sequels haven't stopped the series from suffering a lot of the problems of a Two-Part Trilogy.
  • Unwinnable by Design and Mistake: Several of the traps certainly qualify, but most notably Amanda's traps are unwinnable because she believes people cannot change their ways.
    • From a more psychological perspective, most of Jigsaw's "main" tests follow a similar formula up until the fifth film: they all blatantly rely on their victims behaving a certain way, often without even hinting at the alternative philosophy/behavior necessary for them to survive, then killing or, in Jeff and Riggs' case, mocking and killing them for either not learning anything, or misinterpreting the point of their test, respectively. Saw V is the first instance where an alternative ( work together... and for the love of god, take Jigsaw and his accomplice's threats seriously, Strahm!) is clearly implied, the traps are clearly meant for more than just killing them one by one and the survivors almost fail because they flat-out ignore the It's All About Me purpose of their test. There's also the Shotgun Keys trap in Jigsaw, which is a mind game pretty much engineered for the "failure" result due to the huge leaps of logic required to understand his very literal hint to surviving and escaping.
  • Unwitting Pawn: More than a few people, but the most egregious example is Peter Strahm at the end of the fifth movie.
  • Up to Eleven: The creators boasted that the seventh film has a trap that was "so bloody, so disgusting, and so disturbing, the producers wouldn’t allow them to put it in any of the [previous] Saw films – until now". This was, according to IMDB, the garage trap.
  • Villain of Another Story: Most of Jigsaw's Asshole Victims are established criminal threats and would have held their own as a Big Bad in another work if they weren't in a horror Villain-Based Franchise.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Amanda has one in Saw III.
    • John himself was supposed to get one there, too, as he realized his folly while on his deathbed, helpless to prevent any more people from dying.
    • Hoffman's breakdown happens over the course of VI after being told that his plan to have Strahm take the fall for his crime didn't work and then it really flies off the hinges in VII.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jigsaw. He believes that putting people in death traps where they have to be willing to seriously hurt themselves or others to survive is a suitable way to make them appreciate life more.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Daniel Matthews. He doesn't even appear in The SURVIVE meeting in Saw 3D.
    • Likewise, Rigg's wife. However, this is said to be a case of Executive Meddling. She was supposed to be in the final trap of IV with Art and Hoffman until Donnie Wahlberg agreed, at the last minute, to reprise his role. invoked
    • Detective Fisk! He worked in the homicide department with Hoffman and was shown working on the case in IV and V. Even though pretty much every authority shown (FBI and cop) die in the series, Fisk just disappears.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The films all take place in an unnamed city, with the only hint as to the location being the TV network WNKW, implying a location east of the Mississippi River. The license plates seen in the movies deliberately leave off the name of the state, although the style of the plates resembles that of New Jersey license plates. Jigsaw further establishes that the series doesn't take place in Cleveland, as Eleanor is offered the position of medical examiner in that city.
  • Wretched Hive: The city in which the events of the films take place in seem to be absolutely teeming with Asshole Victims and Jerkasses.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Hoffman is a master at this. When things fall apart, he'll think on his feet. In Saw VI, when he and his colleagues are analyzing a tape in the audio lab, the tape reveals that the true killer is Hoffman and Hoffman's plan to frame Strahm fails. Hoffman pulls an insane move: he murders three armed police officers using a small blade and a cup of coffee. He plants Strahm's fingerprints all over the lab and then burns the place down.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Nearly every film has a certain point at the end where it looks like the protagonist has won, only to have the rug pulled out from them.


Video Example(s):


Jigsaw Opening scene

Edgar Munsen gets his hand blown off

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Example of:

Main / BlastingItOutOfTheirHands

Media sources:

Main / BlastingItOutOfTheirHands