The twisted Saw movie universe has pushed audiences to the brink with gore and violence since 2004, more than earning its place in the dubious genre of “torture porn” along the way. With Spiral, Chris Rock’s new entry into the series, hitting theaters this Friday, GQ contributor Kevin Hall watched all eight films, from 2004’s original to 2017’s Jigsaw, in order to RANK. EVERY. TRAP. (Note: Hall willingly agreed to this assignment.) The main thing to know about Saw’s villain, Jigsaw, is that he doesn’t technically murder his victims: he puts them in intricate traps, and lets them decide how far they’re willing to go to save their own lives. Point of order: The main focus of these rankings is traps, not trials; traps used more than once weren’t included. Here we go!
57: The Razor Wire Maze (Saw)
It is what it sounds like. The razor wire maze may have been mind-blowing back in 2004, but once you see the rest of Jigsaw’s traps as the series progresses, it just seems run-of-the-mill. Sure, razor wire shredding into your skin is horrible, but there’s zero creativity here.
56. Spine Cutters (Saw IV)
The victim here must either build a trap for Jigsaw or have his spine cut to shreds as he’s stuck to a chair. In this installment, many people chose to become apprentices of Jigsaw because what was the alternative? To borrow from Mr. T’s performance in Rocky III: “Pain.” The victim complies, saving his spine.
55. Sounds of Silence (Saw 3-D)
Needlessly complicated, too technical, yet still gross. A woman is hooked up to a device that can monitor noise. If anyone makes a sound, metal rods approach her throat. Saw 3-D’s protagonist has one minute to find the key, which is… inside the woman’s stomach? What?
54. Quadruple Shotgun Hallway (Saw)
Another example of effective, yet lazy. This trap murders the hell out of Detective Sing in the first movie. But it’s just four shotguns tied to tripwire. Jigsaw clearly was uninspired at the beginning! This isn’t inventive at all!
53. Shotgun Chair (Saw V)
The later Saw movies introduce Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), who is put through the ringer by Jigsaw. This trap is exactly what you think it is, and, again, proves Jigsaw didn’t always bring his A game. Another shotgun? Other guns exist, you dope!
52. Bucket Room (Jigsaw)
The latest film pre-Spiral finds the initial five characters in a room with buckets over their heads. Oh, and they’re also tied to chains that lead them into buzzsaws. Jigsaw explains that each person must give up a small amount of blood in order to escape. Despite claiming (or does it?!) someone’s life, this trap loses points because of how easy it is to escape.
51. Electrified Staircase (Saw II)
This boobytrap…doesn’t actually kill anyone. It’s literally just stairs that electrocute people. This is once again Jigsaw in his early torture phase. He clearly had some duds and kinks to work out, but nobody’s perfect!
50. The Oxygen Crusher (Saw VI)
This is essentially a “hold your breath” contest. Sensitive masks indicate when each participant takes a breath, and chest clamps would tighten if a breath was taken. With every breath you take, Jigsaw’s watching you.
49. Gun Peephole (Saw II)
While an inventive (and incredibly gory) kill, this is less impressive because it’s pretty easy to avoid harm. Just don’t look directly at the peephole, stupid!
48. Acid Melt (Saw VI)
Another “less is more” trap, with a mother/son duo melting an insurance salesman with acid. And not the good, trippy kind. The “removes the skin from your bones” kind.
47. Ice Chamber (Saw III)
Another mailed-in trap: A woman is chained up, and unless the protagonist saves her, will freeze to death via extremely cold water. You have to wonder if Jigsaw had off-days or left his office/torture chamber to go grab a beer early on a Friday and just clocked out on some of these.
46. Automated Hanging Escape (Saw 3-D)
The protagonist must give the victim a key to unlock a device that will eventually hang him. He must cross an obstacle-ridden bridge to do this. Since when did Jigsaw’s inspiration switch up from Rube Goldberg to American Gladiators?
45. Key Jars (Saw V)
Without the impending death, smashing jars to find a key with a bat actually seems fun? Just make sure you don’t beat the crap out of anyone! And watch out for the bomb!
44. The Lawnmowers (Saw 3-D)
Despite (or maybe because of) the 3-D gimmick, this installment is unfortunately full of duds. Also, you don’t find out the outcome of this trap. Someone lies dangling over a room full of running lawnmowers, but do they live or die? We never know!
43. Chain Hangers (Jigsaw)
Chains again. Maybe all these chains are an homage to Clive Barker and the Hellraiser films?
42. Nerve Gas House (Saw II)
This is the setting for the majority of the second film, which means it ends up being outshone by the traps inside it. It does claim the life of Lucy from 7th Heaven, however.
41. Code on Teeth (Saw 3-D)
At this point, the seventh film in the series, you’ve seen so much bloodshed and creativity that a man ripping out his own wisdom teeth to find the combination to unlock a door seems…passe? Come on Jigsaw!
40. Cycle Trap (Jigsaw)
This one is gory, but too complicated for my taste. A man is suspended above a cone-like metal object, and must press the handbrake beneath to stop it. Oh and the object has coils inside. Jigsaw has some genuinely inventive traps, but this isn’t one of them.
39. The Cage (Saw 3-D)
This one seems easily beatable. In order to escape a cage, the victim must pull the pulley. But, there are spikes on the floor. However, just swing the cage a little, and you’re in the clear.
38. Impalement Wheel (Saw 3-D)
Look, Jigsaw clearly wanted to put people through incredibly cruel mental ordeals. But this one , as well as the Brazen Bull (more on that soon), lead this writer to believe he wanted people to get a good sweat in, too. A man must hoist a machine (that will cut into his obliques) in order to save a woman trapped in another machine that, if he doesn’t, will impale her neck. You shouldn’t have skipped chest day!
37. Bath Time (Saw V)
Jigsaw takes the old science adage of “water conducts electricity” to the nth degree here. Each victim must electrocute themselves just a little by shocking themselves in a bathtub. Or be stuck in a room. With nail bombs. Devious.
36. Beakers of Blood (Saw V)
Slice your arm lengthwise to fill enough blood in a beaker. Simple, yet brutal.
35. Train Death (Saw 3-D)
A woman gets blown up by a train. But it isn’t a trap—it’s a dream sequence. A cheat!
34. The Steam Maze (Saw VI)
The protagonist must guide a woman through a maze; she’s wearing a device that will shoot a rod through her head. The maze, at several points, is blocked by high-pressure steam. Another overly complicated trap.
33. Shotgun Collar (Saw III)
Look, surgery is hard. Surgery when you’ll be shotgunned to hell if your patient flatlines? Downright impossible.
32. Melting Ice Cube (Saw IV)
Donnie Wahlberg gets his head caved in by two giant ice chunks. He’s also hanging on top of another ice cube on a noose. This one is gory, sure, but all over the place concept-wise.
31. The Gallows (Saw VI)
A man must choose who will be hung and who will survive. Hell of a moral quandary, but this isn’t very inventive.
30. The Brazen Bull (Saw 3-D)
A man must use the hooks in his chest to hoist himself upwards in order to save his wife. If he doesn’t, she’ll burn to death. It does not go well for either of them. The name of this one comes from an ancient Greek torture device.
29. The Bedroom Trap (Saw IV)
A pedophile is given the choice of either blinding himself or removing all his limbs. This is gross. But the audience’s sympathies don’t necessarily lie with the victim…
28. Razor Box (Saw II)
Another “less is more” bit, but one that loses power when you realize that the victim could’ve just broken the glass underneath to retrieve the antidote, avoiding putting their hand in a box with enough razors to guarantee bleeding to death.
27. Drowning Box (Saw V)
Drowning traps aren’t a frequent feature of Jigsaw’s M.O., but he uses one memorably here. It doesn’t claim the victim’s life, because he stabs himself in the throat so he can breathe, but it’s still chilling.
26. The Face Slicer (Saw IV)
Saw aficionados may cry foul at this being ranked so low, considering it’s Jigsaw’s very first trap. A man is stuck to a chair facing a bunch of needles. In order to escape, he must move his face forward, cutting himself against the needles. It shows potential, but it’s nowhere close to Jigsaw’s best work. But who can blame him? No one comes out of the gate swinging.
25. Cut Through Your Feet (Saw, Saw III)
Another trap that loses shock value after a while, but that first time we saw Cary Elwes slice through tissue? Pretty disgusting and effectively unsettling.
24. Leg Wires (Jigsaw)
Jigsaw went above-and-beyond here, as this trap is directly linked to the Grain Silo trap (more on that later). If someone in the Grain Silo trap pulls the lever to free themselves, they will cut through the legs of someone stuck in the Leg Wires trap. Again, even if a victim thinks he’s making the right choice, someone’s going to be hurting, and badly.
23. Group-Head Slicing (Saw V)
Five people are tied by the neck to chains that will pull them back into a huge razor blade, unless they smash five glass boxes revealing the keys that will free them. Unbeknownst to them, one key would free all their traps. Teamwork really does make the dream work here.
22. Shotgun Keys (Jigsaw)
What’s with this guy and shotguns? A woman seems to gain advantage over her opponent by shooting him, only the gun is inverted, and she ends up killing herself and wrecking a key (hidden inside the bullet).
21. A Wife’s Revenge (Saw IV)
A wife and an abusive husband are impaled together through long spikes. If the wife pulls out her spikes, she lives, but her husband will die. You have to admire the anatomical precision here, even if it throws the plausibility into question.
20. Venus Fly Trap (Saw II)
A variation on a classic. Only this time with a less positive outcome. A man is stuck in a similar reverse-bear trap device from the first Saw. The key is hidden behind his eye. This one, sadly, was a quick…open and shut case. They really came out swinging in the first sequel.
19. Drill Trap (Saw)
This one loses points primarily because, who the hell is this guy anyway? Why do we care? We never find out the potential victim’s relationship to Jigsaw, and this trap fails because the drills that slowly come closer to his face are shot off by Detective Sing.
18. Classroom Trap (Saw III)
A bomb is about to go off. A man is chained by his legs, obliques, feet and shoulders. He must rip these chains away to escape. Oh, there’s also a chain attached to his lower jaw. This leaves…little to the imagination.
17. The Scalper (Saw IV)
A trap that would make Lt. Aldo Raine from Inglourious Basterds proud. A woman is shackled to a chair, and her hair is entwined in the mechanism. Precious seconds pass. This is not the makeover anyone wants.
16. Antidote Furnace (Saw II)
One of the victims in the second film goes into a furnace to retrieve some syringes containing an antidote, and ends up locking himself inside the furnace. And then he burns to death.
15. Pig Vat (Saw III)
A victim is strapped down as shredded pig entrails engulf him. This one is just gross, but that’s what you’re paying for with these movies.
14. The Grain Silo (Jigsaw)
Victims must risk grain suffocation/farming implements raining down on them. Unless they pull a lever. And that lever activates another trap. (see #24). Sneaky.
13. The Horsepower Trap (Saw 3-D)
An incredibly intricate, gory trap featuring one of the guys from Linkin Park. Chester Bennington’s skin is glued to his car. He must rip his skin off to save many of his friends. It really matters how hard you try here.
12. The Rib Spreader (Saw IV)
Agent Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer) is put on a needle-filled rack that will, as the name suggests, spread her ribcage open if she can’t find the key. The key is floating in a nearby jar, in a vat full of acid that will dissolve it. Jigsaw sure loves a Rube Goldberg machine. This one is especially cruel considering it’s unwinnable. What a jerk!
11. The Mausoleum (Saw IV)
Two men are chained. One has his mouth stitched shut. The others’ eyes are stitched shut. They are both being pulled by a winch in the center of the floor. The mute man notices a key on the blind man. Chaos ensues. Teamwork is hard.
10. The Pit and the Pendulum (Saw V)
Saw pays homage to various horror legends and tropes. The creepy puppet can be seen as a throwback to Dario Argento’s classic Deep Red, for example. This trap modernizes Edgar Allen Poe’s pit and the pendulum: A man is trapped on a stone slab, as a huge pendulum slowly descends upon him. He can free himself by crushing both his hands in a vise. The impending doom elevates this one.
9. Public Girlfriend Slicer (Saw 3-D)
This puts two opposing boyfriends and one cheating girlfriend in a tug-of-war, with saws. The philandering girl is suspended in the air, and each boyfriend has their own saw. The boyfriends have one minute to decide to either turn their saws on one another, or enact revenge on the girl that wronged the two of them, and let a blade cut her horizontally. This one is made all the better because there’s an audience. Jigsaw is one creepy dude!
8. The Rack (Saw III)
The morality plays in the Saw universe are heavy (-handed). The man on the rack was involved in a car accident that took the life of a young boy. The young boy’s father can either save him or let him die. Like the pit, the brutality here is how long it takes. The rack rotates each arm 360 degrees. Then the legs. Then the head and…well you see where this is going.
7. Flammable Jelly (Saw)
This one gets bonus points because it’s the first time we see how maniacal Jigsaw can be. A safe lies in the middle of a room. The combination is written on the wall, but you can only see it using a candle to illuminate said wall. And you’re covered in a flammable jelly. Also, just to keep things exciting, broken glass is scattered all over the floor!
6. A Pound of Flesh (Saw VI)
Jigsaw gets Shakespearean here. Two people are tested. Whoever donates more of their body wins. Then a woman cuts her forearm off. Forget The Merchant of Venice, Jigsaw proves he’s the Merchant of Malice.
5. Laser Collars (Jigsaw)
Jigsaw deviates from the norm here, as bear traps, saws, and other mechanisms make way for, as Dr. Evil would say, “frickin laser beams.” Each victim has been promised that if they confess their crimes, their collars will be released, saving them. However, if they take more than one minute to decide, one will be chosen at random to be sliced up by lasers..
4. The Glass Coffin (Saw V)
One of the few traps that would make Rod Serling proud. Detective-turned-villain Mark Hoffman is playing cat-and-mouse with Agent Strahm, a special agent who realizes Hoffman has become a copycat of Jigsaw. The two wind up in a small room with a glass coffin. Strahm locks Hoffman in the coffin, thinking he’s won. And then the coffin is lowered into a hollow space in the floor as the walls of the room move in, crushing Strahm to death. This scene is not for the claustrophobic or easily nauseated.
3. The Needle Pit (Saw II)
FansMany rank this scene as one of the most disturbing in the series. One of Jigsaw’s many disciples, Amanda, is forcibly thrown into a pit of heroin needles in order to find a key. The imagery is disturbing. But what takes this trap to another level is, although she finds the key, they don’t unlock the door in time. Amanda’s ordeal was for nothing!
2. Shotgun Carousel (Saw VI)
Jigsaw ups the ante tremendously here with six potential victims. Each one is tied to a chair, and will get blasted with a shotgun unless the protagonist stabs his own hand to save them. It’s truly grotesque, and Jigsaw at his most perverse. In some of his traps, the choices, while brutal, are simple. There are no right choices here:. The way the trap is designed only leaves for two possible survivors. The clock is ticking!
1. Reverse Bear Trap (Saw)
You truly can’t beat the classics. (even the creators knew this, and included this trap again as the series progressed). Amanda stabs her way through a conscious man’s guts in order to find the key that will free her from the reverse bear trap, a device that would obliterate her skull. This very early moment is when the series made its macabre but creative intentions plain, and ensured that the first film would be a horror classic.