Over 9 Films, the ‘Saw’ Franchise Has Delighted in Twists and Reveals Worthy of Alain Resnais

Say the word “shocking” in relation to the “Saw” franchise and your first mental image is probably one of the elaborate killing machines created by homicidal mastermind John “Jigsaw” Kramer, but the appeal — and shock value — of the movies goes far beyond their graphic death scenes.

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The reason “Saw” has endured, with nine sequels and counting, is that it integrates those death scenes into a highly original and sophisticated structure in which each movie combines familiar elements of police procedurals and crime stories with a timeline that becomes increasingly complicated. The components of the films — a brilliant serial killer, investigative storylines that would feel at home on any episode of “Criminal Minds,” characters forced to reckon with their sins — are comforting in their familiarity, but the filmmakers undermine that comfort with both the psychic trauma generated by the gruesome deaths and sudden reveals.

Nearly every “Saw” movie has at least one twist that drastically alters our perception of everything that came before, not just in each individual film but in the preceding ones. In honor of the impending release of “Saw X,” IndieWire counts down the most shocking surprises of the films thus far, starting with director James Wan‘s groundbreaking original — those unfamiliar with the mythology should be warned, spoilers are plentiful. So as Jigsaw himself would say: “Let the games begin!”

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