Saw

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Hello, Troper. I want to play a game.

You've spent your life chronicling and reading of the lives of others, instead of living your own. Spent it locked in a basement room. You should feel at home where I've placed you today.

I offer you a chance to redeem yourself. And you'll even get a chance to put your skills to good use.

Below is a partial list of the tropes I've invoked in the movies amusingly depicting my efforts. If you can complete it - all of it, filling it with every cliché used for two seconds in my movies - you will go free.

You see? Tropes Will Enhance Your Life, by allowing you to continue living it. Sadly, if the list is not completed to my satisfaction...you have half a ton of solid metal hanging over you for a reason.

You have one hour.

Live, or die.

Make your choice.

A series of horror films that began in 2004 and ended in 2010. The films center around a Poetic Serial Killer, dubbed the Jigsaw Killer by the press, also known as just Jigsaw, who places people in Death Traps in which they must harm themselves to escape. The traps are designed to serve as poetic justice by reflecting what the Jigsaw Killer believes to be the victim's (or victims') flaw. To escape their traps, also known as "games", the victims must usually harm themselves (or others) in some horrific way, or else they will die a very gruesome death. The films center around both the victim's efforts to escape their traps and the Jigsaw Killer himself and his story.

There are seven installments (all released the week prior to Halloween, a series tradition), with the seventh (and, according to Word of God, final) installment titled Saw 3D (called Saw: The Final Chapter upon its release on home video).

The films (especially the first) inspired many lesser imitations, though some argue Saw itself is a lesser imitation of Se7en, since both focus on the elaborate, grisly murders carried out by a man trying to send a message; a key difference is that Se7en's John Doe is portrayed as extremely vain and interested in showing the world a lesson through murder, not 'saving' his hapless victims. There are others who would argue that the concept of a moralistic serial killer playing God to a society he deems to be morally corrupt did not originate with Se7en. According to Word Of God, though, it was based on a short film of the same name. But character names and killings are pretty much the only things intact.

The series managed to spawn two video game adaptations. The first, Saw: The Video Game, is a side story which takes place after the events of the first film. (with a very disturbing cover, always placed near children's sections). Detective Tapp (thought dead after he was shot by Zepp) is the main character; not surprisingly, he is forced into one of Jigsaw's games and has to play to survive. The game's sequel, Saw II: Flesh and Blood, is placed between the events of the second and third films and follows the story of Detective Tapp's son, Michael, as he becomes a target of the Jigsaw Killer.

There's also the Saw Wiki on Wikia.

Oh, yes... there will be blood.

Warning: This page (much like this entire web site) contains no small number of spoilers. Many of the examples below will assume you know the spoilers revealed by the endings of Saw, Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV, and those spoilers are frequently not spoiler-tagged. You Have Been Warned.

Tropes used in Saw include:

In General / Multiple films[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Anachronic Order: Especially prevalent in the fifth and sixth film, where it's used to show how Hoffman fits into the plots of the other films and John's Start of Darkness, respectively. Shades of this trope show up in the other movies, too, but it's not nearly as prevalent.
  • Anyone Can Die: The Saw franchise takes 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 (Agent Perez) or turn up again to be offed in some spectacular manner (Eric Matthews and Perez again). And despite more random characters being introduced in the sixth film, by the end of Saw V, all but two well-established characters have been killed off, those two Jill Tuck and Detective Hoffman; there are also two survivors from the group of five to play Hoffman's game, but they were left in dubious straits. Almost fifty characters died in the first six films; that's about eight every film. Saw 3D took this trope even further, with at least fifteen people dying on screen. Damn.
    • Jigsaw himself dies in the third movie; he only appears in the later movies in flashbacks and voiceovers.
    • By the end of the seventh (and supposedly last) film, the only main characters to survive are Gordon, Bobby Dagen, Daniel Matthews, Brit & Mallick. There were a few other minor characters to survive, like the women saved in William's tests, but every other main character who was put in a trap, on the police force or in league with Jigsaw was killed off. Hoffman is technically alive at the end, but unless they come out with another sequel the movie makes it pretty clear he's going to die.
  • Asshole Victim: Too many to list. Most of the protagonists are fundamentally flawed people selected by Jigsaw to overcome their shortcomings (none of them succeed). 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, even by Jigsaw's standards. 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. Saw VI has come the closest to giving a villain -- in this case, Hoffman -- his comeuppance while not setting up anyone as an obvious successor to Jigsaw; the man who played "Jigsaw's" game dies, though.
    • Saw 3D is a subversion. Hoffman wins as effortlessly as always - and then gets captured and left to die by Dr. Gordon, of all people. Given that he's yet another Jigsaw apprentice accomplice, he's technically also a bad guy, but he still comes off way more sympathetic than Hoffman, who is firmly in Complete Monster territory by that point.
    • In some sense subverted for most of the series, because while John's games go off without a hitch and the police can't touch him, all of his major games except for Dr. Gordon's game and the game in Saw V (albeit too late for 3/5ths of the players) ends in either the death of the primary player and/or their complete failure to learn anything. The death of Amanda is possibly his biggest failure since she was the original poster child for his method of rehabilitation and the person he felt that came the closest to fully understanding him and carrying on his legacy. Then on the other hand there is his reliance on Hoffman who continually undermines John's work and eventually goes axe crazy and kills Jill, the single person that John cared about most in the world. Overall his success rate at "saving" anyone is shockingly low and it isn't until Saw 3D that it is even clear that he'll have any lasting impact at all.
  • Bastard Understudy: Amanda, a rare survivor of a Jigsaw trap, is later revealed to be his chief aide. Unfortunately, she gets his message wrong...
    • Detective Hoffman also counts.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: This series loves this trope. Amanda and Gordan 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. Xavier could also count, as he was a drug dealer before the events of Saw II, but didn't turn into a psychotic murderer until he'd been through an hour or so of hell.
  • Big No: Most of the protagonists have one after they realize they just fucked up and failed their test.
  • 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: Completely averted - none of the films has a black character die first.
  • Blatant Lies: The tapes for two of the traps contain these. This become Fridge Brilliance, though, when you realize that both traps were designed to be unescapable, so the fact that one minor detail was a blatant lie is foreshadowing for the promise of escaping the trap to be a blatant lie.
    • "The acid will dissolve the key in a matter of seconds." Not only was this statement made after the key had been in the acid for a minute and a half, but the key could still unlock the lock after being in the acid for more than two and a half minutes.
    • "Your bones will be crushed to dust." And yet, when he grabbed at his collar after crushing them his hands, they were anything but a mass of boneless flesh.
      • Interesting point: Since this particular trap was created by Hoffman to do away with his sister's killer while placing the blame on Jigsaw, perhaps stating that his bones would be "crushed to dust" was an exaggeration intended to make him feel fear and bewilderment, much like his sister must have felt before being murdered.
    • Jigsaw's insistence that he "despises murderers" and that his deathtraps are designed to give people a chance to live, and the general idea of him never technically killing anyone. This ignores the fact that some of his traps actually require the victim to commit a murder to survive, most notably and hypocritically Amanda's even though he gets into her later for her traps being inescapable. For the main trap in the first one he explicitly told Doctor Gordon to kill Adam and told Zepp to kill Gordon's (completely innocent) wife and daughter if he didn't; the only apparent other way out was for them to saw their own feet off (hence the title) and it's not clear that this would have saved them- and they would probably bleed to death. In the end Jigsaw leaves Adam to die. There are also traps he sets up that kill instantly once they are triggered even though the victim is not aware of them, such as the one that killed Tapp's partner, or the gun in the keyhole in the second movie. So he designed multiple traps that required someone's death, or made it extremely unlikely no-one would die.
    • The death of Tapp's partner deserves a special notice here. Unlike Tapp himself, the partner never loses sight of doing the right thing. His primary focus is on saving the victim they stumble across, THEN stopping the killer. Jigsaw's trap doesn't simply kill an innocent, it kills someone who was already leading the life Jigsaw was trying to force on people, and at further corrupts Tapp. This may be an attempted aversion whose point was lost in the sequels. The idea being that Jigsaw is fundamentally a hypocrite, and is in no moral position to judge others.
    • Perhaps the earliest example in the series: "You will have to cut open the stomach of your dead cellmate."
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Jigsaw/John Kramer himself.
  • Body Horror: Multiple examples.
  • Booby Trap: Left behind for the police in Saw I. One of the few things Jigsaw has ever constructed that fits a rational definition of the word 'trap'.
    • The trap that Agent Perez falls into in Saw IV could fit as well.
    • And let's not forget poor SWAT team members one through four early on in Saw II.
    • Hoffman in Saw 3D, having completely abandoned even Jigsaw's twisted concept of morality, begins to use these again.
  • 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.
  • Brick Joke: The reverse bear-trap. The most iconic trap of the franchise. Eventually it was going to go off. And it looked awesome.
    • Hoffman even makes it a point to use the original Reverse Bear Trap used on Amanda, and not the newer-looking model that Jill used on him.
  • Canon Discontinuity A comic book called Saw: Rebirth was published in correlation with Saw II and was accepted by canon 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.
  • Catch Phrase
    • I want to a play a game.
    • Live or die, make your choice.
    • Game over.
      • "Game over" was said by a villain in all but one of the film endings. It was said by Jigsaw in Saw and Saw III, Amanda in Saw II, Hoffman in Saw IV, Jill in Saw VI, and Dr. Gordon in Saw 3D.
  • 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, Zepp 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 Nod: Too much to list.
  • Cowboy Cop: Tapp from part one, Matthews in part two, Rigg in part four.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Saw III had one when Lynn is shot by Amanda, and her arms stretch out as she falls into Jeff's arms.
    • Timothy on The Rack in Saw III is a particularly gruesome example.
    • Jill in the train trap in the trailer for Saw 3D appears to be doing one of these.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Nearly every major character has one.
  • Dead All Along: Inverted at the end of the first film.
    • Also at the end of Saw II where the "live feed" is revealed to be a tape, but then the boy is revealed to have been Alive All Along, with no risk of him dying without warning (and thus spoiling the trap) in the first place.
  • Dead Little Sister: Hoffman's sister.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Strahm survives Saw IV and becomes the protagonist of V, leading the viewer to believe that he might be the hero of the second trilogy and be the one to bring down Hoffman. Instead, he gets brutally offed at the end of V.
  • Demonic Dummy / Perverse Puppet: "Billy", used by Jigsaw to communicate with his victims.
    • Billy has become so iconic, many people mistake him for the real Jigsaw.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Addison who dies in the "Hand Trap" in Saw II and Brenda, the woman in the Hair Trap, who Daniel Rigg is told not to save, but saves anyway only to have her attempt to kill him as part of her "test" from Jigsaw but Rigg ends up killing her in the ensuing fight. What makes this worse is that in the Plugged In Online reviews of these movies list the fact that some of the victims are sex workers (among other offenses) as a POSITIVE ELEMENT. What the ever-loving fuck?
    • Brenda was not a prostitute, she was a pimp.
  • Downer Ending: Every film in the series, with the possible exception of Saw 3D and "Saw II" since the boy does survive.. Though if you hate Hoffman, the sixth film isn't a downer at all. He does survive, but with half his face torn off. Not that it slows him down much... Of course, that "non downer-ending" ignores the fact that the once amoral insurance agent who had grown to be more and more sympathetic, learning his lesson throughout the film was just melted with acid seconds before.
  • Drowning Pit: The third film has a really disgusting version of this trope involving liquified rotting pig corpses. It's also done in the fifth movie as well, with Strahm having a locked, watertight box placed on his head that filled with water and would eventually drown him. He only escapes by giving himself an emergency tracheotomy with a ball-point pen.
  • Electric Torture: Used for various purposes in first film; the chains around Adam's and Gordon's legs are wired up to conduct current. Also, in the fifth film, the third room involved a bath tub in the middle and five electrodes that needed to be connected, but the wires they were on were too short to just be placed in the water. Brit kills Luba and uses her body to connect the electrodes, but at the end, she figures out that if they had worked together, they could have each taken an electrode and put one foot in the tub. It certainly would have given them a shock, but it wouldn't have killed them.
  • 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.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge After being captured, persuaded to saw off his foot to escape, and subjected to intense psychological torture, Adam screams his head off while bashing in his apparent captor's head with a toilet lid.
    • Averted in Saw II, when Detective Matthews beats up the already-suffering Jigsaw, but Jigsaw still has the last laugh.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Somewhat hinted in the final film with those surviving Jigsaw's 'games' gaining newfound appreciation for their lives and bettering themselves. Subverted with Amanda.
  • Eye Scream: The first five minutes of Saw II. One trap in Saw IV forces the victim to gouge out their eyes or be dismembered. The victim in question manages to successfully get one done before getting torn apart.
    • The eye/mouth sutures come to mind, as well.
    • Pierced eyes and mouth in Saw 3D.
  • 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.
  • Fan Service: Subverted with Danica in the Freezer Room trap in Saw III; one movie critic once said that her scene may be the most un-erotic scene featuring a naked woman in all of horror movie history. This is actually a case of a Defied Trope in the meta sense; Danica was originally going to be wearing just a shirt and panties, but the director thought it would be too erotic for her to be wearing a tight t-shirt and getting wet, so he just stripped her completely. Counter-intuitively, it did in fact make the scene less erotic. Of course, as with all Fan Service (subverted or not), Your Mileage May Vary.
    • Almost played straight with Debbie in Saw VI in the steam maze. The steam causes her blouse to stick to her body rather tightly, but this is never focused on by the camera, and she dies in a rather gruesome manner before the scene can become true fan service material.
    • The girl in the opening of Saw 3D is probably the biggest Fan Service material in the whole franchise. That is, until her intestines shoot out...
  • Fatal Flaw
  • Flash Back: Extremely prevalent throughout the films, especially V and VI.
  • Flashback Echo: At the end of the sixth film, after Hoffman's Reverse Bear Trap 2.0 has gone off, and just before the shot of him kneeling on the floor with his face torn off, we get a rapid showing of every shot of someone closing the door on someone else at the end of the other films. In order, John closing the bathroom door on Adam at the end of Saw, Amanda closing the bathroom door on Detective Matthews at the end of Saw II, Hoffman closing the door on Rigg in the meat-packing plant at the end of Saw IV, Jill closing the control-room door on Hoffman just a minute before in Saw VI, and Saw 3D gives us Dr. Gordon closing the bathroom door on Hoffman, leaving him to die.
  • Foot Focus: Jigsaw victims have a tendency to wake up barefoot. Of course, most of them are kidnapped in their homes, so it kind of makes sense.
    • Also it makes the games just a touch more uncomfortable for the victims, since they usually take place in dirty, abandoned buildings.
    • This may have had something to do with the Pit of DOOM Needles in the second one.
  • Gambit Roulette: Practically every one of Jigsaw's traps require an incredible amount of blind luck to work. To say nothing of the fact that Jigsaw's plans are still driving the entire series what? Three movies after he's killed off?
    • To be fair, those three movies only take place over the course of a few days- probably less than a week.
    • It's noted in the commentary for Saw II that not every victim of the nerve gas house fell into the trap intended for them. The trap that killed Addison, for example, was intended for another person who had already died. Xavier also threw Amanda into the trap meant for him.
  • Gas Chamber: Saw II featured an entire building slowly filling with gas, in which the participants of Jigsaw's game had to escape or face death.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The Saw series has a habit of using hand waves as plot points for later films. Saws II and IV set up John Kramer's apprentices, respectively, Amanda and Hoffman. However, by Saw 3D, it is strongly implied that Jigsaw is no longer a single individual or apprentice - he's become an idea; hence when the doctor from the first film subjugates Hoffman, he has two other people in pig masks helping him. The implication is strongly made that these are the individuals from the "Jigsaw survivor group", who have been "enlightened" by the trauma inflicted upon them by Kramer. Amanda even spells this out at the end of Saw II: Kramer seeks immortality through sharing his beliefs. Ultimately, Hoffman and Amanda's mistake is to assume that they are Jigsaw, when Jigsaw has become bigger than just one or two people. Hence why Saw 3D can start with a trap open and in full public view - there's at least seven "Jigsaws" now: Kramer's goal of immortality is achieved.
      • Word of God says that the two men in pig masks with Dr. Gordon at the end of Saw 3D are Brad and Ryan from the public trap earlier in the movie.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Jigsaw's fond of these.
  • Happy Flashback
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Acid: As seen in III and VI.
  • Impossible Task: Several 'traps' have simply been designed to kill their occupants without bothering with the whole escape thing. Somewhat justified as 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).
    • In the case of Hoffman's dispatching of Strahm at the end of Saw V, it was actually an ingenious trick playing on human behavior and psychology: all Strahm had to do was trust Hoffman and get into the glass-filled "coffin" to avoid being crushed; but Hoffman, having been taught to predict human behavior by Jigsaw, knew Strahm would never do it, and thus Strahm got crushed.
      • Well, yes, he would avoid being crushed, but since he knew about Hoffman's identity, Hoffman would have probably killed him anyway if he did. If he had just arrested or killed Hoffman instead of deciding (for some reason) to put HIM in the trap, he would have killed the franchise right there and then.
    • Mark's trap from the first film is a borderline case of this. Technically it was possible to escape from the trap, but the odds of being able to find the correct safe combination out of literally thousands on the wall (written in such a way that you can't tell where one combination stops and the next one starts) and avoiding setting fire to yourself within a few hours are minuscule, to say the least. Arguably justified, since Word of God is that Jigsaw designs his traps to be harder for those he particularly disapproves of, and he really hates welfare fraud, apparently.
  • Infant Immortality: The only kid who died in this series was Jeff's son, Dylan. He died in an accident off-screen.
    • And Jigsaw's son, Gideon, was stillborn.
  • Irony: In Saw I, Dr. Lawrence Gordon is questioned by the police because he's suspected of being the Jigsaw killer. In Saw 3D, he is. Also, Bobby 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.
  • It Got Worse: Eric Matthews has it bad in Saw II, but then Saw IV rolls around, and, well, it gets worse.
  • Jaw Breaker: The "reverse beartrap".
  • 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 preexisting 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.
      • Not necessarily He's one of only two men to be told "Game Over," and then find a way out. I'm not counting him out of the game just yet.
      • Jossed. Word of God says that Hoffman did indeed die in that bathroom.
  • Kill'Em All: Not one character has survived through all seven movies. Not even Jigsaw. Dr. Gordon is the one exception, but he didn't appear after the first movie until the last movie, so he only appeared in two films, anyways.
  • Kill It with Fire: Obi's death in Saw II and Detective Hoffman's way of dealing with the equipment used to divulge his identity as the Jigsaw Killer in Saw VI.
    • Also Joyce in Saw 3D.
  • Knight Templar: Jigsaw actually thinks he's helping people by putting them into deathtraps.
  • 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 Deja 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.
  • Made of Plasticine: The human body, apparently.
  • Mad Scientist: Well, mad engineer, but roughly the same principle.
  • May-December Romance: We don't know the exact ages of John Kramer and Jill Tuck, but it's quite obvious that John was significantly older than Jill (in real-life, Tobin Bell is 21 years older than Betsy Russell).
    • John was 52 when he died, and Betsy Russell ranged from 42 to 46 while she played Jill, and considering the flashbacks in Saw IV are a few years before the "present" timeframe, it may fall just shy of being an example.
  • 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.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: It really doesn't pay to be a man caught in Jigsaw's traps. So far, Daniel Matthews has been the only long-term male survivor of Jigsaw's traps, and he was probably never really meant to be in danger to begin with. The mortality rate for women is still pretty high, but your chances are still much better, which is exemplified by the fact that every trap survivor in Saw VI is female, barring Hoffman who still gets his face ripped up something fierce.
    • This trope shows up again in the first scene in Saw 3D. This time, however, it's a subversion. Not only does the woman die, but Jigsaw introduces the game by telling the men that they have a choice between killing the other for the woman they think they love, or letting her die and "finally see her for what she truly is." In other words, she's the expendable one. Guess the producers were looking for something more gender balanced after Saw VI.
      • Another inversion is Bobby's final trap, in which he must recreate the trap he falsely claimed he was put in to save his wife. He fails and she dies.
        • It becomes Fridge Brilliance when you think about it. Hoffman is pissed at Jill for trying to kill him, and hence his traps give the impression that the women in them are stand-ins for her.
    • To be fair, there is also the one-scene character Jeff in the first film, who is saved from a shotgun collar, and none of the female survivors in Saw VI were more than one-scene characters (Emily, Addy) or particularly likable ones (Shelby and the girl at the beginning). It did annoy me with the seemingly 'a woman's more worth than a man' philosophy (which is kind of a Berserk Button of mine, but still: the lawyer who died in her trap was a woman, and one of the four left to die on the carousel was, too).
      • Then again, Jeff is later placed into another trap in the first video game, and despite being rescued (again) is later revealed to have killed himself in one of Tapp's diaries from the second game.
      • Also, we're forgetting that most of the mentioned survivors are pawns, and that aside from Amanda (and we all saw how that went) two men and two women survived being tested:Morgan from Saw IV, Brit and Mallick in Saw V, and Hoffman in Saw VI.
    • Also Dr. Gordon from Saw and Bobby Dagen from Saw 3D.
  • 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. See below.
  • Murder by Cremation: Obi in Saw II.
    • Joyce in Saw 3D. Notably, her death scene was much more graphic than Obi's (he had a surprisingly tame one), and she was one of the most sympathetic characters to boot. Poor Joyce.
  • 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.
  • 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. But most of all, nice job making things worse for everyone in the first place, Jigsaw.
    • 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.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup ...and yet time and again the bizarre Rube Goldberg devices will function exactly as they were designed to.
    • If you watch closely, his "workshops" are littered with scrapped ideas and prototype versions of various traps. Then again, if things keep going the way they have been, we may find out they were ALL used...
      • Due to the plot outline of Saw 3D, they probably have been all used.
      • Technically, the 'trap' designed by Jigsaw for the man who accidentally 'aborted' Jigsaw's baby broke before serious damage could be done...but he managed to fall into a prototype of the Barb Wire Maze Trap, where Jigsaw left him to die.
  • 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. 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 Dark Matter: 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 and a corrupt police detective. The crushing walls trap from the end of the fifth movie takes this to ludicrous levels. Somewhat justified in 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).
  • Once More, with Clarity: Nearly every climax throughout the series includes a flashback to a previous scene with a completely new meaning.
    • Saw III: Jigsaw explains the rules of the game to Lynn as she is brought into his room. In the climactic flashback of the film, we learn that the explanation, as well as the entire central game was Amanda's.
    • Saw IV: The first and last scenes are the same. It's in its proper chronological order the second time around.
    • Saw VI: William is told via video tape that if he fails he will "never see his family again". In the finale, we learn that the mother and son are in fact the real test subjects, and that Pamela is his sister/"family".
    • Saw 3D: Jigsaw had one more apprentice, a surgeon, and the only one he completely trusted; that was Dr. Gordon. This reveal is accompanied by several shots of various victims being set up in such a way that Jigsaw (a mechanical engineer) wouldn't be able to, but a Doctor could. These include the "key behind the eye" in Saw II and the "eyes sewn shut" of IV.
      • Of course, this was an attempt to seal up a plot hole that people have been complaining about for a while. It doesn't completely fix the problem though since he only worked with John Kramer, John is dead by VI, and William has a key embedded in his abdomen that got there... somehow...
  • 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. Also it 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.
    • It is worth mentioning that both Amanda and Timothy, the rack victim in Saw III, share the last name Young. Word of God says they aren't related, and Amanda's last name isn't even mentioned until Saw IV.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: In the first film, Dr. Gordon is able to saw his own foot off. In reality, nobody who didn't have superhuman strength would be able to saw through their own leg (particularly the bones of the leg) without passing out from blood loss or shock. Nevertheless, he's able to remain conscious and crawl out of the room, though the film is ambiguous as to whether or not he survived for very long. The very first scene of Saw 3D has him cauterizing the wound, and he is eventually revealed to be Jigsaw's true apprentice.
    • That is to say, it'd be a bit difficult to have so much adrenaline that the man could part his damn foot from his leg in what, minutes?
  • 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.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil: Jigsaw's philosophy, again.
  • 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.
  • Precision F-Strike: While his victims test subjects swear heavily, Jigsaw never uses any foul language until IV. While still reeling from the death of his son Gideon, John says "Get the fuck out of here" to a guy who was asking him if he was sure about cutting off his funding for Jill's drug-rehabilitation clinic.
    • The only other time Jigsaw drops an F-bomb is when he's talking to William in Saw VI and says, "Healthcare decisions should be made by doctors and their patients, not by the government. Well, now I know they're not made by doctors and their patients or the government. They're made by the fucking insurance companies."
  • Rashomon Style: The later movies recall scenes from the earlier films, but adding more details unknown to the audience in the original reference.
  • 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 hard 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.
  • The Reveal: There's at least one in every film, with many of the really big questions being answered in the sixth film:
    • Saw I: Zepp isn't Jigsaw; the man lying on the ground in the room isn't dead, and he IS Jigsaw.
    • Saw II: Amanda is actually Jigsaw's accomplice. And the events in the house are not taking place at the same time as the cops are watching it.
    • Saw III: Lynn and Jeff are married, and Jigsaw kept this information from Amanda to test her. And Jigsaw is responsible for the loss of Jeff's other child.
    • Saw IV: The film's events take place at roughly the same time as the events of the previous film; Hoffman is Jigsaw's second apprentice.
    • Saw V: Jigsaw recruited Hoffman after Hoffman killed his sister's murderer with an inescapable Jigsaw trap.
      • This is probably the weakest reveal of all, especially considering that it took place in the middle of the movie, rather than as a twist ending like all the others. The actual finale merely had Hoffman's plan to frame Strahm as Jigsaw fall into place, which had of course been openly played out throughout the entire film.
    • Saw VI: Hoffman and Amanda both knew of each others' work as Jigsaw's apprentice; Amanda killed Lynn in the third film because she was being blackmailed by Hoffman; Amanda was the person who sent Cecil into the clinic, where he accidentally caused Jill Tuck to have a miscarriage; the box Jill received in the previous film contained instructions on how to carry out Jigsaw's final wishes, including Hoffman's test.
    • Saw 3D: Dr. Gordon was alive all along, having cauterized his wound with the help of a hot pipe after escaping the bathroom. When Jigsaw discovers this, he takes Gordon in and places a prosthetic leg on him...on the condition that Gordon assist him with his work. Gordon becomes Jigsaw's true apprentice - the only one he trusted with the details of all the games - and willingly helps him with his schemes; he is shown placing the key behind the eye of Michael from Saw II, sewing shut the eyes of Trevor from Saw IV, and telling Jigsaw about Lynn from Saw III. It is also revealed that the letter Jill delivered to the medical office in Saw VI was addressed to Gordon, which contained a tape of Jigsaw telling Gordon to act against Hoffman should anything happen to Jill.
  • 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 death-dealing devices.
  • Room Full of Crazy: And Jigsaw isn't even the only one...
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • This is Hoffman's fate at the end of Saw 3D. Dr. Gordon chains him to a pipe in the same bathroom where the events of the original Saw occurred, and removed his only means of escape (the saw). If the dried corpses of Adam and Zepp are any indicator, Hoffman is never going to get out, although to be fair, he is Hoffman.
  • Secret Test of Character: Jigsaw does this to Amanda in Saw III by asking her to let Lynn go free if she could keep him alive for the duration of his last "game". She refuses and kills Lynn, but it's eventually revealed in Saw VI that she did so intentionally because Hoffman threatened to reveal that it was technically her fault that Jigsaw's wife had her miscarriage if she didn't kill Lynn.
    • Jigsaw's final test was to test Hoffman himself with a game, which was set up by his wife, who was carrying out John's final request. Hoffman managed to beat the trap and live, though after hunting down and killing Jill in Saw 3D, he is locked away by Jigsaw's true apprentice, Dr. Gordon.
  • 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.
    • William in Saw VI may well be the biggest example of this. In order, he has to hold his breath for a painful duration so that another guy will trigger a trap and get himself killed; choose whether to save an old, diabetic mother or a perfectly healthy loner; suffer severe steam burns while trying to help his lawyer escape a maze and then nearly get hacked open when the lawyer tries to find the key necessary to save her life (she fails); and then choose which two of his staff will live, condemning the other four to death. Finally, it turns out that he was never really in control of his own fate, and he dies at the hands of an angry, vengeful teenager and his equally angry, but not so vengeful mother.
  • 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 "Billy" puppet also makes cameo appearances in other horror films handled by Lionsgate.
  • Spikes of Doom: A small example would be the spikes in The Venus Flytrap in the second film. Saw 3D, however, shows proper Spikes of Doom with Bobby waking up suspended over said spikes in a cage, the bottom of which flips open after he pulls a chain above him.
  • 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 the Amanda's trap in the first film; she's (loosely) strapped to a chair.
  • Technology Porn
  • 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.
    • In the fifth film, it's revealed that Hoffman knows where Jeff's daughter is, too; he uses the knowledge after the traps of III and IV have played out to come out of the warehouse as a hero for surviving Jigsaw's trap and saving the girl.
      • Let's not forget the rather interesting clip in the Director's Cut of VI that plays after the credits.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: Jigsaw.
  • 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).
  • Tomato Surprise
  • Too Dumb to Live: Most of Jigsaw's victims spend a large part of the allotted time struggling, swearing and screaming incoherently, 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.
    • In many cases, however, this is perfectly understandable when you understand that the second of the five stages of grief is anger. I mean, if you came to realize that you were going to die within mere minutes by someone else's hand, and the only way for you to live would be to do something as horrific as cut into your own eye or crush your own hands, wouldn't you be a little pissed?
      • Especially since those last two things are fatal, considering how badly you (and exemplified by the guy with the eye-cutting task) would be shaking, the poor quality tools, and the dinky-ass location you'd be doing it in, the shock of the injury alone could cause them to pass out or outright die. No sterilized material, nothing to bite into or anything, those people were pretty much dead before they even started.
    • Congratulations Brent. You got your revenge on the man who "killed" your father. Too bad you murdered him in cold blood in front of his innocent sister thus guaranteeing that you'll be sent to jail for life and leave your mother all alone. Way to go.
    • Also Addison is II. Hmmm... putting my hand in that hole got my wrist sliced open and my hand stuck by razor blades. I'm sure the other hole will work out better.
      • Word of God says that if you look closely, you can see that the box easily opens from the top.
    • Special mention goes to the judge in III. He survives his trap, only to get shot in the face by another trap, that he has no reason to be near, completely by accident.
    • Bobby Dagen in 3D, the man who claimed to be a Jigsaw survivor, without ever having actually been in a Jigsaw trap. This wouldn't be so bad, except he started doing this well before the events of III, and Jigsaw was still at large. He knew the man was out there, did he really think he would just let it slide?
    • Not to mention Jill; She is attacked by Hoffman in the jail cell, she wounds him. Does she continue to attack him? No. Does she attempt to lock him in the cell? No. Does she pick up the loaded gun sitting on a table right in front of her that she watched Hoffman sat down? No. Does she pull the standard "Run around frantically while the killer composes himself and returns to the hunt? Of course.. Now for a normal character I'd give this a resounding "Maybe" but after all she's witnessed and been through one would hope she'd be a bit better at dealing with this situation.
      • Add Gibson and the entire police force to this. The Jigsaw case has killed pretty much every single detective and FBI agent within a ten mile radius. Figure you might have wanted to use a little caution when you went on a manhunt?
  • Took a Level in Badass: Hoffman in Saw VI, twice, and both at times when it seems like he's going down in defeat. The first: as his attempt to frame Strahm for being Jigsaw's second accomplice pitifully falls apart in front of him, Hoffman successfully pulls off a move only a desperate idiot would normally attempt - he murders two gun-carrying police officers (and fairly major characters) using only a knife, a cup of coffee and a one-shot (well, three-shot) character as a human shield; Hoffman then works to reestablish Strahm as the Jigsaw accomplice by planting his fingerprints all over the crime lab, then setting it aflame...with a still-breathing-but-rapidly-dying Agent Erickson left behind. Just minutes later, Hoffman is on the wrong end of the infamous "Reverse Bear Trap" deathtrap thanks to Jill Tuck, who reveals that this is part of John's will; as she exits the room (after delivering the obligatory "Game over" line), Hoffman bashes his way out of his restraints by using the trap, prevents the trap from opening fully, and finally rips the thing off, ripping apart the right side of his mouth in the process.
    • Jill also fits the trope in Saw VI. At first, she seems to be an innocent victim of John's schemes due to her implicit involvement as his wife. At the end, she knocks out Hoffman with an electrocuted chair and puts him in the reverse bear trap, all without a hint of remorse in her face.
    • The puppet, referred to as "Billy" by the creators (though never officially named in the films), is actually a puppet that Jigsaw was working on as a gift to his wife, Jill... then she had a miscarriage, and the puppet -- quite altered in appearance from its less-creepy "prototype" look after John Kramer's suicide attempt and transformation into Jigsaw -- became a reminder of the life he never had.
  • The Tooth Hurts: In Saw VII, a character learns that the combination to get through a door has been etched on two of his teeth. He must extract them with a pair of locking pliers in order to proceed.
  • 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.
    • Which made it all the more glaring when he personally appeared to Easton, the insurance agent who had denied his cancer treatment. Perhaps that one *was* personal...
  • Trilogy Creep: Supposed to end at three, but due to Executive Meddling, it was expanded to seven.
  • 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.
  • 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 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. [1]
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: The scene with Hoffman and Amanda in Saw VI. Oh boy. Mind you, it's the only scene they share in the entire franchise.
  • Unwinnable by Design and Mistake: Several of the traps certainly qualify.
  • 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 seventh film will supposedly include 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. YMMV on whether it was as gross as advertised.
  • 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.
  • Villain Protagonist: Arguably William Easton in Saw VI.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Was invoked in Saw V. Rare aversion in that not only does the protagonist fail to escape it, but it rather graphically shows the perils of trying to "brace yourself" to stop the walls as the bones splinter out of his limbs.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • The picture of Daniel and Detective Matthews from Saw II has Madison Square Garden in the background IIRC.
    • The map that the detectives use to pinpoint the warehouse in Saw is of Washington DC.
  • Would Hit a Girl: William in VI has no qualms about hitting Debbie when she comes after him with a portable saw.
    • And Eric Matthews in III in his fight with Amanda.
  • 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.
  • You Have Failed Me...: Essentially the point of the "Shotgun Collar" trap. Jeff's wife, Lynn Denlon, was kidnapped, put in the collar, and made to operate on Jigsaw. If Jigsaw died, then the five shotguns on the collar would go off, killing Lynn.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once Hoffman finishes Jigsaw's final test, Jigsaw has it set up (posthumously) that Jill would put him in a trap, although it could have been a way for Hoffman to really understand what it means to be in a jigsaw trap.
    • However, Word of God is that Jill, according to Jigsaw instructions, was supposed to leave a key so that Hoffman could escape and learn his lesson. By making the trap into what she thought to be inescapable, Jill sealed her own fate: both by betraying Jigsaw's 'morals' and by guaranteeing Hoffman's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • You Killed My Father: Brent at the end of Saw VI, when he flips the switch for William's trap to the "die" side after his mother is unable to bring herself to do so. He even says it as he does it: "You killed my father, you motherfucker!"


Saw[edit | hide]

  • Almighty Janitor: A last-minute subversion in Zep in the original Saw. He is still surprisingly resourceful all the same.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Adam's pathetic attempt to fool Jigsaw into thinking he was poisoned.
  • Bloodless Carnage: This installment to a degree, oddly enough, considering the massive gore-fest that the sequels become.
  • Cameo: Subverted. Tobin Bell shows up for a few seconds as one of Lawrence's patients, and the audience (assuming they recognize him at all) is probably thinking Hey, It's That Guy!. Turns out he's behind the whole thing.
  • Dead Foot Shot: The poster for the first film.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The "dead man" in the middle of the room was the mastermind. Oh yeah, he also happened to be an unconscious 1-scene patient of Dr. Gordon's
  • Foreshadowing: As Dr. Gordon is loading the cartridge into the corpse's revolver to shoot Adam, the camera briefly shows all six chambers of the cylinder to be empty. Revolvers don't eject spent cartridges and yet the guy on the floor was supposed to have shot himself. What looked to be a simple prop error is actually a subtle foreshadowing to the twist ending.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Ironically, the most violent acts in the first film - Gordon sawing off his own foot and Adam caving in Zepp's skull - aren't even shown, even in the extended cut. Gordon's detached foot and Zepp's body aren't actually seen until the end of Saw II.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Detective Tapp and Zepp fire multiple magazines at each other without managing to hit anything. For Zepp, this is somewhat understandable, since he's just a hospital orderly. However, Tapp is a detective, who should have multiple hours of marksmanship training in the police force.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: Dr. Gordon replays the part in his Hannibal Lecture-via tape that he has received from Jigsaw where Jigsaw says that "Diana and Alice will die".
  • Swallow the Key: Apparently forced on one of Jigsaw's captives, so that another prisoner would be required to cut it out of his body to stop her own rapidly-approaching demise. No, contrary to what she'd been told, the key-swallower was not dead when she started cutting.


Saw II[edit | hide]

  • Clutching Hand Trap: The movies typically go the Hand in the Hole route, but in Saw II had a more seriously played case of this with a glass case containing a syringe of antidote the characters needed for poison they'd been given. One character on the tail end of the poison's effects discovers the glass case, sticks her arm in and, due to the entry being lined with blades, can't get the arm back out causing her to bleed to death trying.
  • Cut Apart: Saw 2 has three separate groups (a police squadron, a private detective, and a pair of escaped victims) who look like they're about to meet. It's soon revealed that none of them are in position to meet each other.


Saw III[edit | hide]

  • If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him: The judge's way of reasoning with Jeff to not let him die.
  • Locked in a Freezer: One of the traps in Saw III saw this happen to Jeff and Danica (the bystander who saw Jeff's son die in a car accident); Jeff is tasked with saving her while trying to get a key that will open the door to the freezer, all while a naked Danica is sprayed with freezing cold water.


Saw IV[edit | hide]

  • Big Damn Hero: Subverted by Rigg in the beginning and done right by him in the end, much to Eric Matthew's and Art Blank's disappointment.
  • Domestic Abuser: One of the Asshole Victims in this installment. He is chained up, with spikes going through his and his wife's bodies in such a way that they are going through his vital arteries and her non-vital arteries. Jigsaw means for the wife, who has suffered physical abuse at his hands, to yank the spikes out herself, killing her abuser and enabling her own escape. She does.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: After being the main protagonist of Saw III and killing both Jigsaw and Amanda, Jeff shows up for literally five seconds before being unceremoniously shot by Strahm.
    • And the kicker? This happened literally seconds (chronologically, anyways) after Jeff had done both of those things.


Saw V[edit | hide]

  • Genre Savvy: The victims of the sewer trap in Saw V show a surprising amount of genre savvyness for the series. Examples:
    • Knowing that closing the door between the last room and their current one starts the tape and the timer for the next room. At a few points they avoid closing a door so that they have more time to plan.
    • Mallick is the only character in the entire series to offer an alternate solution to a trap. He suggests dumping the water from the tub into the handsplitter. He is quickly shot down, but it's nice to see someone actually make the effort.
    • Also, Brit collects the keys from the first room in case they are needed later. Again, it turns out that they aren't, but if William in VI had made the same effort with the circular saw he may have saved himself a lot of trouble.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: In Saw V, Detective Strahm gets his head locked up in a presumably inescapable trap that fills up with water in order to drown him. What does he do? He digs out a pen from his pocket and (while most likely not having any skill in advanced medical practice) performs a tracheotomy with it. A fucking pen.
    • Justified. A tracheotomy's not a complicated procedure. Sure, it'd be difficult and painful to do to yourself, especially in that circumstance, but the method can be taught reliably in less than a minute. It's simply something that's supposed to be a last-ditch effort over more advanced techniques (the Heimlich maneuver most famously), because it causes permanent damage, has a high risk of infection, and is useless if the airway's blocked lower than the cutting point.
  • Lighter and Softer: After the excruciating violence displayed in Saw III and Saw IV, Saw V noticeably dials back the gore a few notches. Many of the deaths are dished out in mere seconds rather than dragged out to a cringe-inducing snail's pace, reducing the graphic violence to the level of Saw and Saw II. Even the bloodiest sequences don't keep the camera panned on the grim details for too long. This decision may have been inspired by the Moral Guardians decrying the series as Torture Porn a few installments earlier, but after Saw V, the violence unapologetically spikes back up again.
  • Shown Their Work: Before filming the third room (the conductor room) in the sewer trap, the crew did out the physics involved to make sure the electrical engineering involved in the trap would actually work.


Saw VI[edit | hide]

Simone: He wanted us to learn.
Hoffman: And did you?
Simone: ...Look. at. me. Look at my goddamn arm! What the fuck am I supposed to learn from this, huh? Look at my arm!! What? What am I supposed to learn from this? Look at me!!!


Saw 3D[edit | hide]

  • All Just a Dream: Jill's death. Her first death, at least.
  • Ax Crazy: Hoffman.
  • Chained to a Railway: Kind of. The trailer for Saw 3D shows a woman (Jill) tied such that she is suspended in the air, with a vehicle with a giant blade on the front coming toward her. Unlike most examples of this Dead Horse Trope, it looks like it might actually be terrifying. It was, though this particular trap was All Just a Dream.
  • Character Blog: New main character Bobby Dagen has a Twitter page, a website and a Facebook page. The S.U.R.V.I.V.E group that Bobby Dagen leads has a Facebook page and a blog.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The SURVIVE meeting in 'Saw 3D'.
  • Death by Racism: Evan and the others in his trap in Saw 3D.
  • Heal It with Fire: Dr. Gordon does this with a hot metal pipe to his recently made stump.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Bobby of Saw 3D. His final test is his own made-up trap from his get-rich-quick scheme. Doesn't work as well when he has to do it for real though.
  • Ironic Echo: In "Saw 3D", Bobby pretends to be a survivor of Jigsaw's games and creates an acronym (S.U.R.V.I.V.E.) that supposedly the lessons that he learned in this experience. When he actually takes part in his trap, the phrases his acronym stands for are scrawled all over the walls, partially because they embody the values Jigsaw tries to instill in his victims.
  • No One Could Survive That: The ending of Saw The Final Chapter, in which Hoffman is left chained up in the bathroom from the first film with no readily apparent means of escape, acts as if that's a guaranteed death sentence -- ignoring the fact that Eric Matthews was also trapped in that situation at the end of the second film, and still managed to free himself. Then again, Dr. Gordon may have known about this, and taken more care to make sure the room was inescapable this time.
  • Space Whale Aesop: In the last one - Always tell the truth and don't make up lies to get attention, especially if it's about having survived a serial killer's deadly trap when you actually didn't or else said serial killer will kidnap your wife and friends, put them in lethal deathtraps, and put you in not one, but two deathtraps yourself, including the kind of trap that you lied about surviving. And then all you'll get for your troubles are physical and psychological scars from having tried to save your friends and wife, only to watch them die
  • This Is Sparta: Hoffman, while bashing Jill's forehead against a table:

Hoffman: "You. Fucking. CUNT!"


The games[edit | hide]

  • Decoy Protagonist: In the sequel Saw II: Flesh and Blood, the first level has you play as a character named Campbell. After the first level, however, your perspective switches to Michael Tapp, the son of David Tapp (the protagonist from the first Saw video game, and the cop from the first movie) for the rest of the game.
  • Dummied Out: In the final two chapters of the first game, you see some sewing kits. It looks like they would be tools to help make traps, but none of the ones you can make require them. It's likely there were more traps that didn't make it to the full game. Notably, you can't actually pick up the sewing kits except for one near the end which does nothing.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: You are in Jigsaw's little game, after all. And everyone wants to kill you because you have the key to the front door sewn into your chest.
    • In Saw II: Flesh and Blood the occupants of Jigsaw's game were supposedly all criminals that Michael Tapp's father had put in jail, and therefore didn't like you very much.
  • First Person Ghost: In the video game sequel, there is a brief first person section near the beginning which utilizes this technique. Also when interacting with puzzles and trap's, your view switches to a first person perspective. While in this perspective you don't see your body interacting with the pieces of the puzzle.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since it takes place after the first film, we all know Jigsaw will still be at large by the end of the game. And if you seen SAW IV, you would know that Tapp had died.
    • Ditto with the sequel which takes place soon after the first game.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The Truth ending.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: It's revealed that Obi from Saw II actually wanted Jigsaw to put him in a test. He was saved by Tapp, much to his disappointment, so he got himself recaptured.
  • Late to the Party: You come across a few rooms of others that were playing Jigsaw's games. The blood splatters on the wall should tell you how they fared.
  • Multiple Endings
    • In the first game, there's two - one canon and one alternative. In the last room of the game, you are tasked with choosing one of two doors; one is marked "Truth", and one is marked "Freedom". Jigsaw explains that "Freedom" will allow Tapp to leave the asylum alive, while "Truth" will satisfy his obsession with catching Jigaw (but will also cost him dearly).
      • Freedom: Tapp leaves the asylum alive, and is hailed as a hero by those he saves, but his obsession with catching Jigsaw eventually overtakes him and he commits suicide; due to Tapp being shown as dead during Saw V, and the plot of the sequel, this is the canon ending.
      • Truth: Tapp's pursuit of a cloaked figure he believes to be Jigsaw ends with the person dying from a Jigsaw trap; the person was actually Melissa Sing, the wife of Tapp's deceased partner and one of the victims he saves earlier in the game - she had been tasked by Jigsaw to keep Tapp playing the game in order to have a chance of seeing her son alive again. As a result of her death, Tapp suffers a complete mental breakdown and is placed in another asylum, still believing he is playing Jigsaw's game.
    • Saw II: Flesh and Blood has multiple endings as well, depending on whether or not Decoy Protagonist Campbell survives his final test.
      • If Campbell makes it through the Spikes of Doom and enters the elevator, he shows up at the end when Michael makes it to the end of his own Spikes of Doom room, preventing Michael's escape and ensuring his death (since the elevator is occupied and cannot be opened). Jigsaw then congratulates Campbell, tells him that his son is fine (he claimed to have kidnapped him earlier) and allows him to leave. Campbell, traumatized by everything he went through, tries to attack Jigsaw - and falls prey to a trap.
      • If Campbell dies, he's obviously not in the elevator, thus allowing Michael to enter the elevator and escape. At the end of his ride, Jigsaw presents him with two doors, just like Tapp was shown. One door has the evidence Michael needs to put Jigsaw away for good, while the other has the pigman costume - implying that Jigsaw is offering Michael a chance to become his apprentice. The screen cuts out before we see Michael's choice...
  • Nintendo Hard: Some of the puzzles are extremely frustrating.
  • The Social Darwinist: Jigsaw's philosophy is that those who don't appreciate their lives don't deserve to live them.
  • Spikes of Doom: Used several times in the sequel.
  • Understatement: One of the loading screen blurbs warns against activating tripwires, as they generally cause "unpleasant surprises". Tripwires are always connected to a nearby shotgun trap, so the unpleasant surprise will be Tapp's head being blown apart.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: All the people Tapp has to save blame him for being kidnapped by Jigsaw and will quickly let you know it once you free them from their traps.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: C'mon, you know full well you wanna see how many ways you can eviscerate Tapp and how the people he suppose to save eat it.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Used a lot in the sequel, adding spikes into the mix.
  • Why Am I Ticking?: Halfway into the game, Tapp gets a shotgun collar put on him. Which will start beeping when he comes within distance of a certain enemy. After a few second unless the enemy is felled or you pull back, boom. Likewise a few enemies have the same collar or the Venus flytrap one (from part two). After you kill them and walk away, you can hear the traps going off.
    • Lynn has also a shotgun collar put on her by Amanda in Saw III. If Jigsaw dies, she dies. Too bad Jeff didn't know that...
    • There is actually an achievement tied to avoiding one of these enemies until their trap activates; instantly killing him for you.



Game over. Now enjoy therapy.

  1. Saw II - Line A: Matthews and Jigsaw, Line B: The house of traps. Saw III - Line A: Lynn, Amanda and Jigsaw, Line B: Jeff. Saw IV - Line A: Jigsaw's Past, Line B: Rigg. Saw V - Line A: Hoffman and Strahm, Line B: The Fatal Five. Saw VI - Line A: Hoffman and Ericson, Line B: William. Saw 3D - Line A: Hoffman and Jill, Line B: Bobby