For seven straight years, the Saw franchise basically defined the "torture porn" horror subgenre -- offering audiences the opportunity to see characters die in remarkably horrible, disgusting ways. At the end of the day, it's the traps that are ultimate draw of the series, and we are going to discuss each and every one of them in this feature.
Much like some Saw movies are better than others, the various traps utilized throughout the films vary in quality -- with some of them just being slightly disturbing and others being full-on nightmare inducing. Below and on the next few pages we've ranked them all along this metric, so read on and tell us if you agree with our choices in the comments section!
46. The Antidote Safe (Saw II)
Every trap that Jigsaw sets is somewhat disturbing, but The Antidote Safe was one that really didn't require any bloodshed. If the victims trapped in the nerve gas-filled house just took a second to cooperate and figure out their first clue -- finding the numbers on their necks and putting them in the color of the rainbow -- they could have gotten a dose of the antidote without any violence. Of course, nobody figured that out in time, and nobody beat the trap.
45. The Acid Room (Saw VI)
Being kidnapped against your will is harrowing, but Tara (Shauna MacDonald) and Brent (Devon Bostick) don't really suffer much beyond that with The Acid Room test. Basically, all they have to do is wait around in a room with a big jar of acid until William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) completes his test, and then they decide whether or not he lives or dies. Brent ultimately chooses the latter option, filling William with acid-pumping spikes, but it's not like they ever get punished for the vengeful decision.
44. The Pain Train (Saw: The Final Chapter)
Frankly, while a little bit more screwed up than the last two, The Pain Train is definitely the weakest of all the traps in the Saw franchise. It's not really a trap at all, so much as Jill Tuck (Betsy Russell) being strapped to a railway and having a large vehicle smash into her. It's scary because there is no opportunity for escape, but it's a very quick death.
43. The Suspended Cage (Saw: The Final Chapter)
The Suspended Cage is so lame that we almost didn't count it as a trap. At the start of his trial, Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), is suspended in a cage that is positioned over a bed of spikes -- but he's able to escape when he simply swings the enclosure on its chain and gathers enough momentum to jump across the room. This is scary and it would have been fatal if Bobby had landed on the points, but it's hardly the test that you walk away from The Final Chapter thinking about.
42. The Exploding Puppet (Saw IV)
Are you afraid of random objects exploding in your face and launching shrapnel into your cheeks and forehead? Good. That's rational. However, this one isn't really one of Jigsaw's most creative or terrifying efforts. The serial killer makes it clear that he doesn't love the FBI tracking Rigg's efforts to save Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) and Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), and he sends this message by loading an explosive into one of his dolls and unleashing it on Agent Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis).
41. The Teeth Combination (Saw: The Final Chapter)
This trap is similar to the Antidote Safe, but the reason why it's a bit higher on the list is because it necessitates a bit of bodily harm. In his efforts to get to his wife, Bobby Dagen is challenged by Jigsaw to find the combination to the lock on her door by pulling out his own teeth -- which have the combination written on them. The concept of self-dentistry is surely a nightmare for any, but on the plus side, at least Jigsaw told him which teeth he needed to pull instead of just letting Bobby pluck randomly.
40. The Glass Coffin (Saw V)
Is lying on broken glass fun? Not at all. Is being confined inside a small clear coffin a picnic? No way. That being said, it does wind up being a somewhat interesting trap for Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson). Had he just stepped in the box as he was instructed, he would have successfully avoided his own devastating death, which saw him being crushed between two walls while Hoffman looked on from the safety of the Glass Coffin under the floor.
39. The Lawnmower Trap (Saw: The Final Chapter)
Scary as the premise of The Lawnmower Trap is, it suffers from a significant lack of detail making it impactful. We know it involves two victims dangling on barbed wires high above a field of operating lawnmower blades, and that it ends when one person falls, but that's pretty much the full extent of it, which makes the idea of it a bit less impactful.
38. The Drill Chair (Saw)
Given how it's introduced in the first Saw, it's possible that The Drill Chair wasn't even done, and we definitely never got to see it operate as it was supposed to. David Tapp (Danny Glover) and Steven Sing (Ken Leung) find it when they discover the location of Jigsaw's workshop, and while its intentions are clear -- slowly move two drills closer and closer to a person's head -- it was never entirely obvious how the victim was supposed to escape. Regardless, this one is pretty damn creepy, especially when you think about the fact that you'd barely be able to see the drills in your peripheral vision.
37. The Impalement Wheel (Saw: The Final Chapter)
This one feels like it was inspired by pain doing bench presses at the gym -- which certainly must be a nightmare to the out of shape. The Impalement Wheel is a bit more violent than all that, though, as Bobby Dagen has to hold extremely heavy weights on his arms and shoulders while being stabbed in the sides so that he can prevent a colleague from being triple stabbed in the eyes and mouth. This one is pretty damn horrible for all involved, yet is still only #37 on the list.
36. The Water Box (Saw V)
The Water Box at the beginning of Saw V definitely doesn't look like fun, as Agent Peter Strahm finds his entire body dry while his head is left drowning in a box filling with water. And given that there really is no way out, and drowning is supposed to be a rotten way to go, it's pretty fucked up. That said, it actually loses rank a bit because of the clever way Strahm escapes -- using a pen to give himself a tracheotomy.
35. 10 Pints Of Sacrifice (Saw V)
Like most of the traps in Saw V, this one wouldn't be so bad if all those involved in the trap had just worked together from the start, but as it plays out in the film it's pretty abysmal. The last door only opens when the machine collects 10 pints of blood, and the method of extraction is Brit (Julie Benz) and Mallick (Greg Bryk) shoving their hands directly into individual table saws. It's a pretty nasty fate, but the message of teamwork is driven home.
34. Public Execution (Saw: The Final Chapter)
The majority of Jigsaw's traps are private affairs, but the big 3D opening of Saw: The Final Chapter brought what would ultimately a bloody love triangle to the public -- hence the name. Not only is this one a violent affair, but the dirty laundry between friends Ryan (Jon Cor) and Brad (Sebastian Pigott) is exposed as they fight over their shared girlfriend, Dina (Anne Greene), who is dangled between them hovering over a giant saw blade.
33. The Ceiling Jars (Saw V)
Like 10 Pints Of Sacrifice, this trap is made needlessly harder by the victims of Saw V, as collaboration could have seen them all survive. What still makes it extra disturbing, however, is that it's ultimately betting on the good or evil nature of the people playing the game. The pressure cooker of the competition mixed with the terror of the explosive outcome make this one a real horror show.
32. The Neck Tie Trap (Saw V)
Again, if only those folks who took part in/profited from that house fire had just worked together. At the end of Saw V, it's revealed that one shared key would have allowed everyone to free themselves from the Neck Tie Trap, but panic got the best of everybody. It's understandable: if you woke up with a collar and a leash around your neck attached to a giant blade, and were warned that you only had a few seconds to free yourself, you'd understandably freak out too.
31. The Shotgun Collar (Saw III)
Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh) kind of gets screwed over by her own set of special skills. Sure, she has some serious problems that helped put her on Jigsaw's radar, but the fact that she has the medical wherewithal to save his life surely trumps that from a target perspective. All the same, it's terrifying to put yourself in her shoes -- knowing that you either save an extremely sick old man dying from cancer with extremely limited supplies, or die as a result of multiple close-range shotgun blasts to the head.
30. The Knife Chair (Saw IV)
This is one of Jigsaw's more small-scale traps, but that really doesn't make it any less horrifying. The idea is that you're stuck on an ordinary chair with your hands and feet bound. The trigger that will release you, which is to be activated with your forehead, is only about two feet away from your head. That trigger is not super easy to reach, however, as you first have to force your face through a bunch of sharp knives. It's a test that Cecil Adams (Billy Otis) ultimately passes and survives, but it's absolutely not something we'd ever want to face.
29. The Blind Hangman's Catwalk (Saw: The Final Chapter)
The idea of being forced to walk across thin planks stretched across rafters of a warehouse is a terrifying notion by itself -- particularly for anybody who suffers from acrophobia (and remember that Saw: The Final Chapter was originally released in 3D). The added terror in this trap is that the person walking across the planks is also blindfolded, and has to rely on Bobby Dagen's instructions. As you would imagine, this doesn't turn out so well, and the audience is left hoping they will never have experience anything like that in real life.
28. The Ice Block Trap (Saw IV)
The Ice Block Trap is a tricky one to talk about, if not just because it turns out that it's all a rigged trap. Not only was Hoffman never at risk of being electrocuted (as he was the one orchestrating the game), it would have had a happy ending had Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) not come crashing through the door. All the same, it would be absolutely terrible to be in Eric Matthew's position in this one: having a noose around your neck and being unable to move while the ice block under your feet keeping you standing slowly melts.
27. The Electric Bathtub (Saw V)
The way things shake out with the Electric Bathtub in Saw V is rather horrific. Because the group doesn't have enough people to safely share the electric current needed to open a door, the answer becomes "sacrifice." The idea of being knocked unconscious so your body can be thrown in a bathtub and hooked up to five electrically-charged cables is really the furthest thing from pleasant.
26. The Gallows (Saw VI)
This one is definitely more about psychological torture than physical torture -- but of course there's still death involved. While holding on to two diverting handles, William Easton is forced to choose between saving the life of an older woman with a big family, or a young many with an extremely independent life. It's a horrible choice that would haunt anybody for a lifetime -- but the reality is that it isn't nearly as bad as the next on the list...
25. Shotgun Roulette (Saw VI)
Remember how William Easton had to choose to save one of two people in The Gallows game? Well, that was comparatively easy to Shotgun Roulette. In this one, he not only had to choose four of six people to die, but had to have his hands crushed in order to save the two lives he could. There is no seat on this ride that I would want to ever be on.
24. The Steam Maze (Saw VI)
Wrapping up three in a row from Saw VI we have the Steam Maze -- where William Easton had to guide his company's lawyer, Debbie (Caroline Cave) through a dangerously hot path. It's a horrific experience for both of them, as William has to receive his own burns to help Debbie, but the cherry on the sundae is that she tries to kill him as soon as she gets to the finish line.
23. The Silence Circle (Saw: The Final Chapter)
This one is a two-fer of horrible-ness. First there's the fact that a key has been attached to a fish hook and shoved down the throat of Nina (Naomi Snieckus), Bobby's publicist, but then there's the fact that she can't scream while Bobby tries to pull it out. When she does, a circle of spikes move closer and closer to her throat... until they do finally puncture. It's definitely one of the most ghastly Jigsaw constructions.
22. The Oxygen Crusher (Saw VI)
Yup, Jigsaw found a way to even punish his victims for breathing. This is the first test for William Easton, who is pitted against one of his companies custodians (Gerry Mendicino) to see who can hold their breath the longest. The idea of being crushed while trying not to suck air is a horrific idea, and it makes you feel short of breath just thinking about it.
21. The Flammable Jelly, The Candle And The Safe (Saw)
Things were much simpler back in the days of the original Saw, and The Flammable Jelly, The Candle And The Safe is a perfect example. In this one, Mark Wilson (Paul Gutrecht), a man wakes to find himself naked in a dark room where the walls are covered in numbers and the floor in broken glass. A poison is making its way through his veins, his skin is covered in a flammable jelly, and his task is to use a candle to find the combination to the safe on the floor, which contains an antidote. Long story short, it doesn't go well, and the end result is just awful.
20. Pound Of Flesh (Saw VI)
Is this one kind of a rip off of Se7en? A bit. But I wouldn't want to trade places with the lawyer in that film either. This game is pretty simple, with two players competing to see who can hack off their own body parts faster to be weighed on a scale, and the person who cuts off less is killed. One of two people live in this one, but there are no winners.
19. The Death Mask (Saw II)
Understandably, a lot of people feel uncomfortable when it comes to the idea of sharp objects being swung near eyeballs. Those that feel this way can probably relate to Michael Marks (Noam Jenkins), who fails to cut a key out of his own eye before giant spikes in a two-sided metal mask come together to completely crush his skull. It's a revolting end, and was one hell of a way to open Saw II.
18. The Spike Trap (Saw IV)
Albeit in a completely fucked up and psychotic way, Jigsaw is trying to help people with all of his traps, and one individual who actually may have benefited from his course of treatment is Morgan (Janet Land), a woman given the opportunity to stand up to her abusive husband. While simultaneously causing herself incredible pain, she removes giant spikes that have been driven between herself and her spouse -- though his entry and exit points are far more dangerous than her own. It's a disgusting, bloody affair.
17. Blind & Mute (Saw IV)
We've touched on obscured senses already in this feature, but the Blind vs. Mute battle is definitely the most intense version of that. Two men are connected to each other via a chain attached to neck collars, with the chain threaded through a winch dragging them closer together. While one man's eyes have been sewn shut, the same has been done to the others' lips -- which is unfortunate since the key that can save them both is on the back of the former's neck. Fear and the inability to communicate result in this one turning violent fast, and it is gruesome and scary to be put in either man's shoes.
16. The Hooks And The Brazen Bull (Saw: The Final Chapter)
Bobby Dagen lied about being a Jigsaw survivor in order to achieve fame and fortune, but it's in his final test that he's asked to do exactly what he's lied about for years: stick two meat hooks through his chest and climb a pair of chains to freedom. He has some major motivation to succeed, as the life of his wife, Joyce (Gina Holden), is on the line, but the hooks ripping through his muscles lead him to fail, and Joyce is cooked alive in a Brazen Bull. It was a terrible way to die in ancient Greece, and it's a terrible way to die today.
15. The Razor Wire Maze (Saw)
Traps don't have to be complicated to be scary, and perfect proof of that is the Razor Wire Maze from the first Saw. Jigsaw challenges an overweight, suicidal man to climb through blades in order to free himself, and in the process he gets cut so bad that his stomach acid is found on the floor. This is a super gross one, and definitely the stuff of nightmares.
14. The Rack (Saw III)
It's never specifically explained why Jigsaw describes The Rack as his favorite torture device, but it certainly is a mix of terrifying and effective. One by one, a victim's limbs are each rotated 360 degrees, snapping all of the muscle and bone in the process. The last thing to turn is the neck, which ultimately results in decapitation. Yeesh.
13. The Angel Trap (Saw III)
Dina Meyer's run as Detective Allison Kerry was longer than most heroes in the Saw franchise, but she also suffered one of the most disgusting endings. Not only does she nearly melt her hand off trying to get a key to her contraption out of a jar of acid, but she discovers that the whole thing is rigged and her ribcage is completely torn apart. It's one of the more over-the-top, horrible deaths in this series, which is actually saying quite a lot.
12. The Scalping Seat (Saw IV)
We've all heard creepy urban myths about girls with long hair getting strands stuck in gears/mechanisms and having their entire scalps ripped off. Saw IV makes a dreadful cinematic reality out of this scenario, as Jigsaw pressures Rigg not to save a prostitute named Brenda (Sarain Boylan) who is having just that inflicted upon her. It's gruesome as hell, and you continue to hear the sound of scalp ripping from skull echoing in your brain long after the scene is over.
11. The Pendulum Trap (Saw V)
As has been noted, not all of the Saw traps are entirely original, and this particular one is ripped straight from the pages of Edgar Allen Poe -- specifically "The Pit and the Pendulum." Much like that classic short story, the situation is remarkably horrific, as a victim is strapped to a table with a slowly-lowering giant blade swinging back and forth above them. This imagery inspired terrible dreams back in 1842, and still does today.
10. The Peeping Tom (Saw IV)
Some of the victims of Jigsaw's traps definitely deserve their fates more than others -- but that doesn't lessen the fact that they die in no way befitting a human being. A perfect example of this is Ivan Landsness (Marty Adams), a motel owner, peeping tom, and sadistic rapist. His personized game asks that he either stab both of his own eyes out, or get all of his limbs ripped off by pulley systems. He was certainly an appalling person, but that is one crazy awful way to go.
9. The Pig Vat (Saw III)
We've already touched on how drowning is a terrifying way to go, but The Water Box has absolutely nothing on The Pig Vat. After all, rather than having Judge Halden (Barry Flatman) fill his lungs with H2O, this particular game had him nearly die in a puddle of minced, rotted pig carcass. We're still thanking the movie gods that nobody came up with the notion of releasing Saw III in Smell-O-Vision.
8. The Furnace (Saw II)
Most people don't make a habit of crawling around in furnaces, but Saw II definitively drives home the fact that it is a terrible, terrible idea -- particularly if the furnace has been rigged by Jigsaw. Obi (Timothy Burd) seems fairly confident as he heads into the device to pick up two doses of the nerve gas antidote, but fails to act intelligently or quickly when it comes time to save his own life. He's unable to reach the gas lever that would stop the machine, and as a result meets a hot, painful end. As horrible as it looks to die by fire though, it looks like it would be a touch worse to die in...
7. The Freezer Room (Saw III)
Remember that day where you felt colder than you'd ever been in your entire life, and couldn't imagine feeling worse? Well, then you can probably empathize with Danica Scott (Debra Lynne McCabe), who was essentially turned into a human popsicle while trapped in a freezer in Saw III. You can practically feel the sharp stinging she does when the hoses spray her down with cold water, and while it's an entirely bloodless death it still feels like one of the most painful in the franchise.
6. The Classroom Trap (Saw III)
We've discussed some absolutely horrific examples of self-mutilation in the name of survival, but Troy (J. Larose) is one of the most nauseating. He is set up so that metal rings with chains attached pierce his mandible, shoulders, arms, hands, legs and feet, and he is told that he needs to rip them all out before a bomb explodes. He fails to remove all the rings and dies as a result, but we're still shaking from the thought of his efforts.
5. Adam and Dr. Gordon's Test (Saw)
From a puzzle perspective, no mystery in the Saw franchise has been as complex and psychologically disturbing as the test that made up the main narrative in James Wan's original film. Even knowing all of the twists and turns and secrets of Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Dr. Laurence Gordon (Cary Elwes), it's still horrible to watch them be tortured by Jigsaw, all while the man himself is lying right there unconscious on the floor.
4. The Razor Box (Saw II)
Poor Addison (Emmanuelle Vaugier). She never sees it coming. Walking into a room, she thinks she has found a free suspended box filled with antidote, but it literally becomes her trap. Because she doesn't see the latch in the back that already has a key in the lock, she thinks the best way in is to stick her hands into the holes at the bottom. Unfortunately, these holes are lined with Chinese finger-trap-esque blades, and before long Addison is trapped with both hands in the box bleeding to death. This must have been a slow, torturous end, especially after Xavier (Franky G) looks at the number on her neck and abandons her.
3. The Horsepower Trap (Saw: The Final Chapter)
Most individual traps have a body count of maybe one or two by the time they are done, but The Horsepower Trap from Saw: The Final Chapter ties Shotgun Roulette with four absolutely gruesome kills. All of the deaths here are absolutely disgusting, from the guy who gets pulled apart, to the girl whose face gets smashed by the tire, to the guy who gets rammed by the car, to the driver who gets launched through the windshield (even though his entire back was glued to the seat). This is top-tier fucked up stuff.
2. The Reverse Beartrap (Saw)
If the Saw franchise weren't called "Saw," it could probably get away with being called Reverse Beartrap. The specially-designed device makes some kind of an appearance in almost every chapter in the series, and is as identifiable with the brand as the idea of cutting off your own foot. There are multiple, horrible instances of it being used in the series, but none of them are more dreadful than the first scene with Amanda (Shawnee Smith), when she had to cut the key to her freedom out of the guts of her paralyzed cellmate.
1. The Needle Pit (Saw II)
It's fair to say that there are few scenes in cinematic history that are quite as cringe-worthy as The Needle Pit in Saw II. Amanda is supposed to be a puppeteer in the game, but that changes in a key way when Xavier throws her in the used syringe-filled pit in which he was supposed to dive. Being stabbed and cut at every moment, Amanda has to search the pile for a key -- and even though she actually does find it, they still don't get it into the door in time. This is the most horrific trap in the entirety of the Saw franchise, and the king nightmare-inducer.