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The Entire Saw Franchise Timeline Explained

The Saw series started out as a claustrophobic thriller about two guys trapped in a bathroom by a deranged serial killer. It has since become a sprawling horror franchise that is still going strong, many years later. Indeed, Saw has been delivering terrifying twists from the very beginning: Who could forget the jaw-dropping moment in which John Kramer (Tobin Bell) first peels himself off of a blood-soaked floor and reveals himself to be the mastermind behind the gory "games?"

Each of the subsequent Saw sequels has built upon the timeline of the first film, journeying forward, backward, and sometimes even sideways to fill in the overarching story with grisly traps, trials, and tests. We'll have to wait and see how future installments in the Saw series will build upon Jigsaw's terrible legacy, but for now, here's a look at how the full timeline of the Saw franchise stacks up so far.

John Kramer's dark beginning

John Kramer's sinister arc begins with his time as an engineer and building designer. John works with his friend, attorney Art Blank (Justin Louis), on creating low-income housing for needy families through their Urban Renewal Group. Jill, John's wife, works at an addiction recovery clinic.

John is concerned over the safety of Jill's workplace, and his fears prove to be well-founded when a patient named Cecil Adams (Billy Otis) attempts to rob the facility. He shoves a heavy door into Jill's stomach on the way out, causing her to miscarry Gideon, the son she and John have been awaiting. Cecil had been encouraged to go to the clinic by Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith), a fellow addict and patient who was once arrested by Detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg). John, who is waiting for Jill in his car, has a brief encounter with Addison Corday (Emmanuelle Vaugier), who makes a sexual advance John turns down.

John and Jill's relationship falls apart shortly after this incident. A doll John had created for his unborn son later inspires Jigsaw's ominous visage.

A healthcare crisis

Shortly after the decline of his marriage, John is diagnosed with terminal cancer by Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) of the Angel of Mercy Hospital. During his treatment, John befriends an orderly named Zep Hindle (Michael Emerson). Zep makes it clear that he dislikes Dr. Gordon. John is also treated by Dr. Lynn Denlon (Bahar Soomekh). His tumor is deemed to be inoperable because John was diagnosed too late, thanks to an X-ray labeling error by Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore).

John seeks approval for an alternative treatment option with insurance executive William Easton (Peter Outerbridge), a donor to Jill's clinic who is nevertheless tightfisted. John is warned he will lose his coverage with Umbrella Health if he pursues experimental treatment, as the company is quick to cut off clients in need of care, like cardiac patient Harold Abbott (George Newbern). This decision comes back to haunt Easton.

None of these people know they've made a grave mistake by simply being in the vicinity of John Kramer during this dark hour, but in time, they definitely find out.

A new type of treatment

After experiencing severe depression, John drives himself off of a cliff. But he survives the crash and gains a new perspective on life — and an incessant urge to force this revelation on others. He begins his deadly series of games with a bit of retribution, concealing himself with a pig mask and capturing Cecil at a carnival. John places Cecil in restraints in his lab and tells him that he has the choice to either bleed out from the wounds on his wrists, or press his face through a series of blades. If he chooses the latter, he'll become as scarred on the outside as he is on the inside. But, John insists, he'll escape with a renewed lease on life.

Cecil is unable to complete his challenge. But then, his chair breaks apart and allows him to escape. Cecil proceeds to attack John, but John murders him in a cage full of razor wire. John takes a puzzle-shaped piece of skin from Cecil's corpse as a memento and a symbol of the survival instinct Cecil lacked. This becomes Jigsaw's calling card.

The first apprentice

Jigsaw reveals Logan Nelson to have been John's first sidekick. Logan fails to wake up during the initial Bucket Head trap at Tuck's Pig Farm, and is badly wounded by the blades. But John does not believe Logan has to die due to his careless-but-innocent X-ray mislabeling. Others being put through the test have more intentional harms in their history, including Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), who sold a defective bike that fell apart and killed John's young nephew, and Anna (Laura Vandervoort), John's former neighbor who suffocated her baby and framed her husband, who later killed himself.

John rescues Logan from the trap and trains him in his philosophy, which Logan finds to be helpful. Logan has suffered from depression after his traumatic experiences serving in the Iraq War. It is not clear how long Logan works with John, but he helps him prepare some of his earliest traps, including the Reverse Beartrap. We also don't know if he had any relationship with Jigsaw's other sidekicks. What we do know, however, is that Logan eventually gets married, has a child, and maintains a career as a medical examiner.

The second lieutenants

Jigsaw's recruitment spree doesn't stop with Logan. Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) is part of the first Metropolitan Police Department team investigating the Jigsaw murders alongside Detectives David Tapp (Danny Glover), Steven Sing (Ken Leung), and Allison Kerry (Dina Meyer). He learns enough about Jigsaw to imitate his methods. Pretending to be Jigsaw, Hoffman gets vengeance against Seth Baxter (Joris Jarsky), his sister's murderer, via the Pendulum trap. Hoffman is already known for his violent and immoral ways: He previously created friction with Officer Matt Gibson (Chad Donella) after Hoffman shot a man who attacked Gibson several times, even though the man had disarmed himself. Hoffman was promoted after his unethical skirmish with Gibson, who was transferred to Internal Affairs.

Likewise, Jigsaw does not punish Hoffman, though he does admonish him for not giving Seth a chance to survive his trap. John offers to take him under his wing. The two then test Paul Leahy (Mike Butters) and Mark Wilson (Paul Gutrecht). Hoffman also helps John frame Dr. Gordon by leaving the doctor's penlight at the scene of Mark's game, after he warns John that Detective Tapp is getting close to identifying him. Tapp narrowly survives a trap laid for the police, but Sing is killed. Thus, Tapp's obsession with the case grows.

John also recruits Amanda after she survives her trap, and the three work together to create several traps, including one of the franchise's most unforgettable.

The grimiest bathroom

After Amanda agrees to become Jigsaw's second protégé, she helps John orchestrate the infamous Bathroom trap. She helps kidnap Dr. Gordon, who is having an affair with a student, and Adam Stanheight (Leigh Whannell), a photographer taking pictures of Gordon for Tapp. 

Amanda sets up the room so that Jigsaw can play his sinister game. Gordon wins by sawing off his own foot, and his wife and daughter also escape Zep with Tapp's help. Gordon drags himself through the halls of Jigsaw's lair and finds a hot steam pipe to cauterize his leg wound. Jigsaw then takes Gordon in to help him recover, even devising a prosthetic for his leg. Amanda sneaks back into the bathroom to asphyxiate Adam, who is already bleeding out, as an act of mercy. However, his death ends up being even more traumatic as a result of her interference.

Gordon goes on to become Jigsaw's secret helping hand. As revealed in Saw: The Final Chapter, he assists with some of the more medically-sensitive tests, including the Venus Flytrap from Saw II and the Mausoleum trap from Saw IV. He also suggests Lynn Denlon as a test subject in Saw III.

The hell house

In Saw II, John is finally identified as the Jigsaw killer. Eric Matthews is among the officers who finds his hideout. Little does he know, John has kidnapped Matthews' teenaged son Daniel (Erik Knudsen) and put him into a group trap at the Nerve Gas House, alongside Amanda, Addison, and several other people who'd been arrested by Matthews on bogus charges. After most of the subjects die, Xavier Chavez (Franky G) attempts to kill Amanda and Daniel, but Daniel defends them and bludgeons Xavier to death in the bathroom from the first film. Daniel is then put into a safe with an oxygen mask and hidden in Jigsaw's lair.

Detectives Matthews, Kerry, and Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) arrive with others at the scene of Jigsaw's lair, and are unaware that the footage of the group trap they are presented with was pre-taped. Instead of waiting like he is instructed to do, Matthews brutalizes John and forces him to take him to the location of the trap. While Rigg discovers that the source of the video feed is another empty house, Matthews ends up alone at the actual location, and is captured and trapped by Amanda in the bathroom. In Saw III, it is revealed that Matthews breaks his own foot to escape the shackle, but he is still captured for another game.

Amanda's test

Saw III takes place six months after Matthews is captured. John Kramer is near death. He gives his lawyer a box containing instructions for Jill. Meanwhile, Amanda is secretly resorting to self-mutilation and creating un-survivable traps, including one used on Kerry. John has a true bond with Amanda, but doesn't want to be replaced by a murderer. He devises one last test for her.

John has Amanda abduct Dr. Lynn Denlon and put her into a neck trap. Denlon is forced to keep John alive for the duration of another test, which turns out to involve her husband Jeff (Angus Macfadyen). Lynn and Jeff lost a son and have emotionally neglected their daughter, who was kidnapped before Jeff's test. Little does Amanda know, her survival depends on being able to let Denlon go. Hoffman slyly tells Amanda to kill Denlon, threatening to expose her part in Cecil's attack on Jill's clinic if she refuses.

Amanda refuses to let Denlon go and shoots her instead. Jeff enters the room shortly thereafter and kills Amanda in retaliation. For Jeff's final test, John asks him to show mercy, but Jeff cuts his throat with an electric saw, triggering Denlon's collar.

The triple trap

In Saw IV, it is revealed that Hoffman was pretending to be trapped alongside the now-haggard Matthews and Art as the events in John's hospital room unfolded. Rigg is confronted with several of Art's worst clients, including Morgan (Janet Land), who just survived a test that forced her to kill her abusive husband. Rigg is supposed to let his timer run out but instead rushes into the final room with Hoffman, Matthews, and Art. Not knowing who's rushing in, Matthews shoots Rigg and triggers a device that crushes his own head. Rigg also shoots Art in the head, thinking the tape recorder in his hand is a gun. Before Rigg bleeds out, he sees Hoffman reveal himself as Jigsaw's apprentice.

Simultaneously, FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) and his partner Lindsay Perez (Athena Karkanis) follow Rigg's trail. Perez is injured at the scene of Morgan's test. Strahm then interrogates Jill Tuck, who leads him to the building John uses for his tests. Strahm arrives at John's room just after Jeff kills John. Strahm shoots Jeff in apparent self-defense. Hoffman locks Strahm in, but he finds an exit. However, he is then captured and put into the Water Cube trap. Strahm barely survives by using a pen to perform a tracheotomy on himself. Hoffman then "escapes" and brings out the Denlons' daughter, thinking he'll be the lone survivor. He is stunned to discover Strahm also made it out alive.

Hoffman versus Strahm

John's autopsy reveals a tape that promises Hoffman will be tested. Hoffman later receives a mysterious note that warns, "I know who you are." The note is from Dr. Gordon, who'd received a tape from Jill's box, in which John asks him to watch out for Jill.

Strahm determines that Hoffman was Jigsaw's apprentice after reading up on the Seth Baxter case. Despite being removed from the case by his superior Dan Erickson (Mark Rolston), he continues to investigate Hoffman. Jill complains to Erickson that Strahm is stalking her. Meanwhile, Hoffman works to set up Strahm as a suspect. He stages a group trap involving five crooked people connected to a deadly apartment fire Strahm previously investigated. Hoffman also uses Strahm's cell phone to lead Erickson to the location of the group trap. Upon finding two victims still alive, Erickson puts out an APB on Strahm. It's all for naught, however, as Hoffman leads Strahm to the Nerve Gas House and traps him in a room that crushes him to death.

Jigsaw's final test

Hoffman stages a two-person test for a pair of loan sharks so he can continue framing Strahm. Erickson grants Hoffman unfettered access to the FBI's investigation, and reveals that Perez faked her death and is still active on the case.

Later, Hoffman carries out Jigsaw's wish for a test on William Easton, in which Easton is forced to make life-or-death decisions for a series of his employees. Easton is not the only one being tested, however: The wife and son of the late Harold Abbott must decide Easton's fate once he reaches the finale of his test. They choose to kill him.

Though Jigsaw's work is finally done, Hoffman is not in the clear: Erickson and Perez soon discover Hoffman's identity. As soon as the FBI agents realize who Hoffman is, however, he kills them and a tech who had a hand in uncovering his secrets.

Jill Tuck's trial

The last surprise to come from John's box for Jill is the Reverse Beartrap. John's box instructs Jill to use it on Hoffman. However, Hoffman manages to survive the device. Meanwhile, Jill meets with Officer Gibson and offers to implicate Hoffman in exchange for immunity and protection.

However, Hoffman manages to divert police attention by staging the grisly Horsepower trap, as well as the test of Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery), who's made a fortune pretending to be a Jigsaw survivor. After setting a deadly trap for Gibson and other officers, Hoffman manages to sneak himself into the body bag of one of the Horsepower victims to get access to the police station. He kills anyone and everyone in his way to get to Jill's holding cell.

Hoffman places Jill in the Reverse Beartrap, which kills her, and prepares to get away. However, he's met outside by three men in pig masks. One of them is Dr. Gordon, while the other two are possibly the survivors of the Public Execution trap, Brad (Sebastian Pigott) and Ryan (Jon Cor). In retaliation for Jill, Gordon shackles Hoffman to Adam's old spot in the bathroom and takes away the saw that would allow him to save himself.

The copycat

10 years after John Kramer's death, a series of Jigsaw-like deaths occur. The bodies are analyzed by Logan and his strangely Jigsaw-obsessed assistant Eleanor (Hannah Emily Anderson). Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) is drawn into the case by a former criminal named Edgar Munsen (Josiah Black), who shows up with a remote device, alerts the police, and later turns up dead.

Little does Halloran know, he's being set up by Logan. Halloran is a crooked detective who took a bribe from Munsen, the man who murdered Logan's wife. The game is a copycat version of the test Logan survived. Logan plants puzzle pieces of the new victims in Halloran's freezer, so that his partner, Keith Hunt (Clé Bennett), will suspect Halloran. Eleanor is also poised to be a witness to Halloran's culpability: After she and Logan arrive at the site of the game, she escapes an ambush by Halloran and runs for help. Logan forces Halloran to admit his misdeeds by pretending to be trapped in a two-person test with him. But after Halloran confesses, Logan reveals that he has taped him. He watches as Halloran's head is sliced to pieces in the laser collar trap. Game over — for now.