When it comes to excessive violence very few horror series can top the now iconic Saw franchise. Started in 2004, Saw has managed to become one of the biggest and most influential horror series in the modern era. To date there are 8 different Saw movies, with the newest one, Jigsaw, releasing this Friday, October 27. Despite being made years after the last film in this series, Jigsaw is still following the same storyline laid out across the other seven movies. This will certainly cause a few headaches since every version of Saw is full of twists and turns that shake up the continuity.
In order to clear up possible confusion, we are going to break down all currently released Saw films and their stories. Since each of these films features multiple story threads, we are not going to dive into every detail of a film’s plot. We will be focusing on the broad strokes of these movies in order to gain a better understanding for what Jigsaw could discuss. There will also be a TL;DR section at the bottom if you’re just looking for the bullet points.
Unlike the more elaborate sequels, Saw largely revolves around two individuals who wake up in a dirty, locked bathroom with a dead body. Both men discover that they are chained to the pipes and learn that they’ve been captured by a high profile serial killer known only as ‘Jigsaw.’ The two men in question are a sleazy photographer named Adam and the high profile surgeon, Doctor Lawrence Gordon. There is also a small side story involving a woman named Amanda Young who appears to be one of the first people to ever survive Jigsaw’s trap. She has a minimal roll in this movie, but her importance will grow over the next two films.
Saw’s first half focuses on the duo trying to figure out why they are locked up and who is the person tormenting them. Adam discovers a bag full of hacksaws and photographs, but only lets Gordon know about the tools he discovers. Lawrence then discovers a hidden box with a one-way cellphone, which is then called by one of Jigsaw’s associates, Zep, to let Gordon know that his wife and daughter have been kidnapped. During this time two detectives, Sing and Tapp, are closing in on who the actual Jigsaw killer is. Things progress until it’s revealed to Lawrence that Adam was actually taking photos of him and that he has knowledge of an affair the doctor was having.
Eventually, Gordon’s wife manages to break free and fights with Zep for the gun he is holding. This struggle gets the attention of Detective Tapp who managed to track down their location. Tapp saves Lawrence’s family and chases Zep into the sewer which ends with the detective being shot in the chest and killed. Hearing only screams and gunfire through the walls Lawrence panics and begins to saw his own foot off. Succeeding, Lawrence crawls across the floor, grabs the revolver in the dead man’s hands and shoots Adam in the shoulder. Zep enters the bathroom to kill the men but is attack by Adam where he’s beaten to death. Lawrence crawls out of the room and vanishes from sight, while Adam discovers a final tape on Zep’s body.
While it’s playing the “dead” body in the bathroom stands up and reveals that he was the Jigsaw killer all along. Adam is then shocked through his chain and left to die in the bathroom, with the fate of Doctor Gordon unknown to the audience.
Saw II has a fair amount going on in its story, but thankfully not a lot of it matters in the larger scheme of the series. This time the story revolves around detectives Allison Kerry and Eric Matthews who have tracked down Jigsaw (real name John Kramer) to his workshop. During a raid, led by Sergeant Riggs, Kramer is captured by Kerry and Matthews. However, Jigsaw planned for this and reveals that he not only has a group of people trapped in a death house but that Matthew’s son is apart of them. The only proof that Jigsaw has his son is a room full of monitors that displays everything that takes place in the house. Kramer then explains that if Matthews wants to save his son all he has to do is sit and talk to him.
Among the group of people trapped is Amanda who was the Jigsaw survivor from the first Saw film. She reveals that her drug habit relapsed, which caused her to be punished once more. Saw II continues with almost every survivor dying via different means. Eventually, it’s down to Amanda, Matthew’s son Daniel, and a criminal named Xavier who is chasing the dup through the house in a fit of rage. Seeing this on the monitors, Matthews panics, threatens Kramer’s life, and then forces Jigsaw to take him to the house his son is in. Meanwhile, Xavier chases Amanda and Daniel into an underground bathroom where he is subsequently killed.
Kramer agrees to Matthews’ demands, however, when the duo arrive the entire building is empty. During this, the SWAT team at Kramer’s hideout discover that the footage on the monitors is actually from earlier in the day and is not being broadcasted live. An alarm goes off in Jigsaw’s hideout which triggers a safe to open, revealing that Daniel is still alive and was by Eric the entire time. In the empty bathroom, Eric is attacked by someone in a pig mask and knocked unconscious. He awakens chained to the same pipes that Adam and Lawernce were in the first Saw. The person who attacked him removes the pig mask, revealing that Amanda was working with Jigsaw the entire time. Matthews is then locked in the bathroom to rot while Amanda and John escape.
The story of Saw III is set sometime after the events of Saw II, withJohn Kramer’s (aka Jigsaw) illness progressing to the point where he only has a few days left. With Matthews presumed dead, Detective Kerry continues to pursue Kramer. This, however, leads to her awakening in one of Jigsaw’s traps where she fights to survive. Despite actually completing her challenge, Kerry discovers that she has no way of escaping and ends up dying. After this, Jigsaw instructs Amanda Young (who is now openly working with Kramer) to abduct a surgeon named Lynn to help keep him alive.
Amanda succeeds and Lynn is forced to keep Jigsaw alive until a man named Jeff can finish his gauntlet of tests. If Lynn fails to keep Kramer alive a collar around her neck will go off, killing her instantly. The rest of the movie follows Jeff as he goes through his trials and Lynn’s struggle to keep Kramer alive. During all of this Amanda grows more and more hostile towards Lynn to the point where she almost kills the surgeon.
The film ends with Jeff progressing all the way to the end of the gauntlet only to arrive at Jigsaw’s room right when Amanda shoots Lynn. In a rage, Jeff shoots Amanda in the neck and it’s revealed to everyone that Lynn is actually Jeff’s wife. As she is dying next to Jigsaw, Kramer reveals that this was actually a test for her. Jigsaw explains that he knew Amanda was unstable and crafted games that no one could possibly win.
We also get to see that Matthews actually broke his leg to escape from his trap in Saw II, but Amanda found out and is assumed to have killed him. She needed to redeem herself by not shooting Lynn, however, Amanda fails this last test and dies next to Jigsaw. Jeff then cuts Jigsaw’s throat and kills him, which causes Lynn’s collar to detonate killer her. At this exact moment, all of the doors lock in the surgery room trapping Jeff with the dead bodies of Lynn, Jigsaw, and Amanda Young. It’s never revealed what happens to him, but we are meant to presume that Jeff died in this location.
Saw IV is set a few days after the events of the last film, with a detective named Mark Hoffman and SWAT member Riggs investigating the location of Kerry’s death. The duo notes that both Kramer and Young couldn’t have possibly mounted Kerry, so they must have had an accomplice. The two are also joined by FBI agents Peter Strahm and Lindsey Perez who are investigating the Jigsaw murders. That night Riggs and Hoffman are abducted but awaken in two separate areas. When Hoffman comes to it’s shown that he is bound to chair on a modified seesaw. On the opposite side is a still alive Eric Matthews who is suspended over a block of ice that’s slowly melting. If Matthews slips off or the ice block melts both men will be instantly killed. There is also a timer and if anyone comes through the door before it expires they will both die.
Riggs, on the other hand, awakens in a different area and is told by Jigsaw that he is now being tested. Like the previous movies, Riggs’s trial largely doesn’t matter nor do the people he meets. During his entire ordeal, however, we are introduced to Jigsaw’s ex-wife Jill Tuck who will be important later on. We also witness Strahm and Perez finding one of Jigsaw’s kill rooms after Riggs leaves it. After a cryptic message is delivered via one of the Jigsaw dolls, the face detonates and releases shrapnel in Perez’s face severely injuring her. We also get to see a flashback of John’s first victim, Cecil, who was responsible for Jill losing their unborn child.
Strahm continues to search for his missing colleagues and discovers that the final test is being held in a meat packing plant. When he arrives, Strahm actually finds a Jeff from Saw III who has just finished killing the real Jigsaw. This confirms that both Saw III and Saw IV are running parallel to each other, just from different perspectives.
Jeff attacks Strahm but is killed in their ensuring struggle. Meanwhile, Riggs locates Hoffman and Matthews, but there is still time on their ‘death clock.’ In an attempt to save themselves, Matthews shoots Riggs as he enters, but it’s too late since there is still some time left. The ice trap activates which crushes Matthew’s skull instantly. Rigg’s shoots and kills another Jigsaw pawn named Blank, but it’s then revealed that Hoffman was really the second apprentice.
Hoffman frees himself, exits the room leaving Riggs to bleed out, and traps Strahm in the makeshift medical room where Jeff died.
Of all the movies this one has the least impact on the timeline outside of a few specific instances. The first important piece of information is that Strahm actually escapes a trap he is placed after trying to leave the meat packing plant. The opening trap is also important because it’s set before the events of the very first Saw movie. In an attempt to avenge a lost loved one, Hoffman devises a trap that he uses to kill the man responsible. He then frames Jigsaw for this death, but John Kramer catches on and decides to recruit him. Viewers then get to see Hoffman’s involvement in not only recruiting Amanda but the events of Saw II and Saw III.
We also learn that Hoffman is given credit for capturing the Jigsaw Killer’s accomplice who everyone is made to believe is Riggs. Hoffman also believes that Perez is dead from the wounds she suffered in Saw VI. During all of this five other people are being tested for a fire they caused, but the outcome isn’t important. Strahm spends the rest of the movie putting the pieces together and eventually figures out it was Hoffman all along.
Strahm eventually chases Hoffman to his hideout and corners him in a room with a single glass coffin, which Strahm locks him inside. Unfortunately, Hoffman counted on this and has already framed Strahm for being another Jigsaw accomplice. However, in a twist, we learn that the coffin is the only safe place and Strahm is eventually crushed when the room’s walls close in.
Saw VI largely revolves around wrapping up a few loose threads, but sadly once again the overall Jigsaw trial really doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. One of the first important scenes involves Perez coming back and revealing to Hoffman that she was in hiding this whole time. Jill also receives a package from her deceased husband via his lawyer. Inside of the box is the reverse beartrap and six photos, all of which are targets that Jigsaw wants his wife to help Hoffman kill.
Later on, Perez and another FBI agent discover that it was Hoffman who was the unknown accomplice all along and not Strahm. However, before they can do anything, Hoffman kills everyone in the room and escapes. Hoffman manages to make it back to lengthy trial he had set in motion at the beginning of the movie. This time the main victim is named William Easton who is the head of an insurance company that denied John Kramer coverage that could have saved his life. As Hoffman overlooks Willaim’s last trial, he spots a copy of a mysterious note he wrote to Amanda.
In a flashback sequence, we see that Hoffman discovered that Amanda was Cecil’s girlfriend and was responsible for Jill and John’s unborn child being killed. To keep Amanda complicit he forces her to kill Lynn in Saw III, which results in her death. Before he can react, Jill enters the room and shocks him into unconsciousness. When Hoffman wakes up he finds the reverse beartrap on his head and the sixth photo in the folder given to Jill is actually one of Hoffman. She leaves Hoffman to die, but he manages to survive the trap by wedging it in the frame of a window so it only partially tears open his face. Also, William fails his trial and dies, but that really doesn’t matter.
Saw: The Final Chapter
Still with me? Saw: The Final Chapter is the last movie released in this franchise and it pretty much finishes every major characters story arc. After the events of Saw VI, Jill goes to the police and incriminates Hoffman for immunity in her involvement with the Jigsaw crimes. Basically, the rest of the first and second act has the internal affairs officer looking for Hoffman, while a self-help guru named Bobby goes through a long, brutal trial of his own.
This culminates in the IA officer realizing that Hoffman swapped himself out for one of the bodies they found at a recent crime scene. He did this so he could break into the police station and hunt down Jill, who he is now looking to kill for the sake of revenge. Hoffman actually succeeds in this and kills Jill via the same reverse beartrap used on him. As he exits the building, Hoffman is attacked and drugged by none other than Doctor Lawernce Gordon.
We then get various flashbacks revealing that Lawrence decided to join Jigsaw and was instrumental in pretty much all of his medical based traps. Gordon then drags Hoffman to the same bathroom he was trapped in and chains Hoffman to the pipe. The catch is that Gordon throws the saw away and leaves Hoffman to rot with the skeletons of Adam and Xavier from Saw and II.
So that’s it. The Saw films end with Hoffman locked up in the bathroom to die, Jill killed, and Doctor Gordon being the only accomplice to escape without being caught. This pretty much means that the two most likely people to be Jigsaw in the new movie are Hoffman and Gordon.
Here is a quick breakdown of all the events in the Saw series in chronological order (not in film order).
- John Kramer and his wife Jill are living a happy life until a drug addict named Cecil accidentally kills their unborn son in an attempted robbery at Jill’s clinic.
- John is overcome with grief and starts to lash out violently at the world.
- John is diagnosed with a deadly brain tumor by Doctor Lawrence Gordon.
- He then attempts suicide but survives the ordeal. This shows him the value of life and kickstarts his work as the ‘Jigsaw Killer.’
- John catches and traps Cecil, who dies during a failed trap that Kramer was testing out.
- Jigsaw then begins killing people via his life or death traps.
- Detective Mark Hoffman avenges a loved one by killing the man responsible in a trap he made. However, Hoffman frames Jigsaw for the murder so he can get away with it.
- Jigsaw finds out and decides to take Hoffman as an apprentice.
- The two test Amanda Young, who survives Jigsaw’s trap and she is brought on as a second accomplice.
- Amanda and Jigsaw set up a trap for Lawrence and a photographer named Adam.
- Lawrence escapes by cutting his foot off and cauterizing it on a hot pipe.
- Amanda kills Adam after Lawrence escapes the bathroom trap.
- Jigsaw finds Lawrence in the hallway and fixes him up.
- Lawrence is then recruited as the third accomplice to Jigsaw, but he is kept a secret from Amanda and Hoffman.
- The next test involves Detective Eric Matthews, who has to watch his son via monitors survive a death house made by Jigsaw.
- Matthews lashes out and makes Jigsaw take him to the house.
- Amanda then drugs and locks Matthews in the same bathroom that Adam died in. His son, however, is completely fine and was locked in a safe by them the entire time.
- Matthews escapes by breaking his leg but is discovered by Amanda.
- Amanda then sets up two tests, both of which are unwinnable which is against John’s code.
- Gordon tells John which doctor he should use to save his life.
- Amanda and Hoffman kidnap a doctor named Lynn and her husband Jeff is put through his own multi-stage trial.
- During Jeff’s trial, Hoffman sets up his own trial for a cop named Riggs which is meant to end with him being framed as the Jigsaw killer. If Riggs arrives before the timer hits zero Eric Matthews will die and it will appear like Hoffman does too.
- Riggs and Jeff both reach the end of their respective trials.
- Amanda finds a blackmail note from Hoffman revealing that he knows she was with Cecil the night Jill lost her baby. Hoffman threatens to tell John unless she kills Lynn, which is against Jigsaw’s rules.
- During all this, a detective named Strahm is chasing after Riggs.
- Amanda kills Lynn right as Jeff arrives and is subsequently killed by the man out of anger.
- Jeff then slits John’s throat causing him to die along with Lynn who’s life relied on Jigsaw’s heart not stopping.
- Riggs finds Hoffman and Matthews in a trap, however, Riggs arrives too soon and causes Matthews to die.
- Matthews shoots Riggs (who bleeds out) and Hoffman escapes revealing he was safe the entire time.
- Strahm finds Jeff in Jigsaw’s makeshift hospital and kills him.
- Strahm is then attacked by a masked Hoffman but survives his test.
- Some time passes and Strahm figures out that Hoffman is Jigsaw’s accomplice.
- Strahm confronts Hoffman and a struggle breaks out that results in Strahm’s death.
- Hoffman then frames Strahm for all of the murders.
- Jill gets a box from her deceased husband’s lawyer that contains photos of his next victims and a reverse beartrap.
- Hoffman is eventually tricked by Jill and has the reverse beartrap placed on his head. He was the last person that Jigsaw wanted to test.
- Hoffman survives the reverse beartrap but is permanently scarred.
- Jill goes to the police and incriminates Hoffman in the Jigsaw crimes.
- Hoffman hunts down Jill and kills her with the reverse beartrap.
- In the police station parking lot, Hoffman is drugged and captured by Doctor Gordon.
- The series ends with Hoffman locked in the same bathroom Gordon was and left to die.