8. Saw (2004)

Cary Elwes in Saw (2004)

The Saw franchise morphed over the years to go from tightly written violent horror-thrillers to a self-perpetuating stereotype of unnecessary gore and convoluted traps. However, the first film in the franchise remains its finest, owing to its originality and its cleverly written story (which may have a few glaring plot holes, but that can be forgiven). Though later films wasted that potential, they only ever came to be because of the ingenuity of the first film, simply titled Saw.

Saw stars Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Ken Leung, Tobin Bell, and Leigh Whannell, and follows two men who awake chained to the wall in a room with a corpse, an out-of-reach phone, and two hacksaws. Despite their distrust of one another, the two men begin to unravel their situation and understand that there situation is even more dire than it seems. Saw‘s story – and the franchise it spawned – is based on the idea of people surviving grisly “games” designed to test their will to live.

The premise alone isn’t enough to make a great film, but Saw is so well-written and carefully considered that it made for one of the best horror movies of the ’00s. By delivering a cerebral horror filled with unexpected twists and turns, Saw was a huge hit. Though the quality of its sequels tarnished the franchise considerably, the film that started it all was easily one of the best horror movies of the decade.