Saw is a mystery psychological thriller and the first installment of the Saw franchise, first released in 2004. Directed by James Wan and written by him and Leigh Whannell, the film's story revolves around two men, who are locked up in a dilapidated industrial bathroom, where they are forced to play a gruesome game set up by an infamous serial killer known as Jigsaw. Thereby, it establishes the general philosophy of the killer, who would eventually become the main antagonist of the entire franchise.
Adam Stanheight , a freelance photographer, and Dr. Lawrence Gordon, a renowned oncologist, wake up in opposite corners of a dilapidated industrial bathroom, with their feet chained to pipes. Between them, in the middle of the room, lies a corpse face down in a puddle of blood, holding a gun in one hand and a tape player in the other. Each of the man finds a tape in his pocket, instructing Lawrence to kill Adam before six o' clock, while Adam is merely told to "do something about it." If Lawrence fails to kill him in time, his wife, Alison, and his daughter, Diana, will be killed.
Using a hidden clue from the tape, Adam and Lawrence find two hacksaws in the tank of a toilet. However, when they use them to cut through their chains and Adam's saw breaks in the process, Lawrence realizes that the saws weren't meant to cut through their chains but rather to cut off their feet. He tells Adam that they were abducted by the infamous Jigsaw Killer and tells him, how he himself was suspected by the police five months earlier.
Flashbacks show the homicide detectives David Tapp, Steven Sing and Allison Kerry, who investigated the case and visited the crime scenes of the killer's games, where they discovered the corpses of Paul Leahy and Mark Wilson, two of his first victims. At the location of Mark's game, Detective Kerry found a penlight with the fingerprints of Lawrence Gordon on it. Therefore, Tapp and Sing take him to the police station to interrogate him. While his alibi for the time of Mark's death quickly turned out to be true, they asked Gordon to witness the testimony of Amanda Young, a heroin addict and the first and only known survivor of Jigsaw's crimes. Lawrence was shocked to hear about her traumatic experience and even more so when she stated that Jigsaw had helped her.
Back in the present timeline, Alison and Diana Gordon are being held captive in their own apartment by a man, who observes Adam and Lawrence via a surveillance camera, which is hidden behind a one-way mirror in the bathroom. At the same time, he is observed by Tapp, who had been discharged from the police force and rented a run-down apartment across from Gordon's house as he still believes him to be the killer.
It is revealed throughout flashbacks, that Tapp and Sing had managed to locate Jigsaw's hideout in an abandoned mannequin factory shortly after the testimony of Amanda Young. Afterwards, they raided the killer's lair without a warrant or any reinforcements. Thereby, they found another victim, Jeff Ridenhour, in another trap, and were also able to take the killer by surprise. Jigsaw however activated Jeff's trap and while Sing saved the man, the killer used the opportunity to flee and thereby slashed Tapp's throat with a hidden blade. While pursuing the killer, Sing was killed by a booby trap. Following his partner's death, Tapp became obsessed with catching Jigsaw.
Meanwhile in the bathroom, Lawrence gives his wallet to Adam to show him a photo of his family. Instead of this photo, Adam finds another picture of Alison and Diana tied up and gagged. On the back, he finds a message saying: "X marks the spot. Sometimes you see things better with your eyes shut." Adam initially refuses to tell Lawrence about the photo and advises him to turn off the lights. Upon doing so, they discover an "X" painted on the wall with fluorescent paint. As Lawrence breaks the wall, he discovers a small hollow space behind it, with a small box inside. This box contains a single bullet, two cigarettes, a one-way cellphone, and a cryptic message, which tells Lawrence that the blood of the dead man in the middle of the room is poisoned and further advises him to use it to kill Adam. Lawrence and Adam plan to stage Adam's death by using one of the cigarettes. However, their plan fails when Adam suddenly receives an electric shock from his shackle. Due to the shock, Adam remembers how he was abducted from his apartment at night by a pig-masked figure. Moments later, Alison calls Lawrence on the cell phone, while being held at gunpoint by her abductor. She then tells Lawrence not to trust Adam before hanging up the call. When Lawrence confronts him with this warning, Adam finally admits that he had been paid to observe Lawrence and shows him several photos of him, which were in the toilet tank along with the saws. Due to Adam's description, Lawrence immediately identifies Adam's employer as Tapp.
As the time goes on, Adam suddenly realizes that one of the photos wasn't taken by him. It shows the abductor of Gordon's family standing at the window of their house. Upon seeing the photo, Lawrence identifies him as Zep Hindle, an orderly from the same hospital where he works. Just as he recognizes him, the clock strikes 6:00. As Gordon has failed his task to kill Adam, Zep prepares himself to kill Diana and Alison. However, before doing so, he forces Alison to call her husband to tell him of his failure. Alison embraces the opportunity and attacks Zep after having removed her restraints. As the two of them engage in a fight, Zep accidentally triggers several shots from his gun and thereby alerts Tapp, who rushes to the apartment and enables Alison and Diana to flee.
Meanwhile, Lawrence, who is only aware of the gunshots and the screams of his family, makes a last desperate attempt to save them and uses his hacksaw to cut off his foot. Afterwards, he shoots Adam with the dead man's gun and the bullet from the hidden box, seemingly killing him. At the same time, Tapp pursues Zep through an underground tunnel network. During a brief struggle, Zep kills him by shooting him in his chest, and then enters the bathroom. As he prepares himself to shoot Lawrence, Adam, who has survived the gunshot, knocks him to the ground and beats him to the death with the lid of the toilet tank.
Following Zep's death, Lawrence promises Adam to find help and crawls out of the bathroom. Afterwards, Adam searches Zep's body to find a key to his shackle, but instead finds another tape player. The tape reveals that Zep himself was merely another victim of the Jigsaw Killer and had been forced to kill Gordon's family in exchange for the antidote for a slow-acting poison in his body. Just as Adam realizes the truth, the man in the middle of the room turns out to be alive and slowly stands up, thereby revealing himself to be John Kramer, the real Jigsaw Killer and one of Lawrence's cancer patients. Due to his cancer, John tests his victims in order to make them appreciate their lives. He then tells Adam that the key to his shackle is in the bathtub. However, it was sucked down the drain when Adam initially woke up and thereby pulled the plug. Therefore, Adam attempts to shoot him by using Zep's gun, but is given another electric shock, which paralyzes him. John then turns off the lights and leaves the room. Just as Adam comes back to his senses, John closes the door with the words "Game Over", leaving him to die in the bathroom.
- Leigh Whannell as Adam
- Cary Elwes as Dr. Lawrence Gordon
- Danny Glover as Detective David Tapp
- Ken Leung as Detective Steven Sing
- Dina Meyer as Kerry
- Mike Butters as Paul
- Paul Gutrecht as Mark
- Michael Emerson as Zep Hindle
- Benito Martinez as Brett
- Shawnee Smith as Amanda
- Makenzie Vega as Diana Gordon
- Monica Potter as Alison Gordon
- Ned Bellamy as Jeff
- Alexandra Chun as Carla
- Avner Garbi as Father
- Tobin Bell as Jigsaw
After finishing film school in Australia, James Wan and Leigh Whannell started to work on their script for Saw, planning to finance the film themselves. This decision resulted in the rather minimalistic idea of having only a small, rather contained set with as few actors as possible. However, during the development of the script, it became obvious that they didn't have sufficient funds to shoot the film on their own.
The script was optioned by a producer in Sydney for a year but the deal eventually fell through. After other failed attempts to get the script produced in Australia from 2001 to 2002, literary agent Ken Greenblat read the script and suggested they travel to Los Angeles, where they had better chances of finding an interested studio. Wan and Whannell initially refused due to lack of traveling funds but the pair's agent, Stacey Testro, convinced them to go. In order to help studios take interest in the script, Whannell provided A$5,000 to make a short film based on the scene of Amanda's interrogation, which they thought would prove most effective. Whannell played David, a hospital orderly tested in one of Jigsaw's games. Working at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Whannell and Wan had connections to camera operators who were willing to provide technical assistance for the short film. Wan shot the short with a 16mm camera in over two days and transferred the footage to DVDs to ship along with the script. Whannell wanted to play the lead character in the feature film, while Wan intended to be the director.
Eventually, the short film along with the script attracted the attention of Oren Koules, Gregg Hoffman and Mark Burg, who worked as producers for Twisted Pictures. As they were fascinated with the concept of the film, they decided to produce it, with Whannell playing the leading role of Adam, while Wan directed the film. The film was granted a production budget between $1 million and $1.2 million. The principal photography started on September 22, 2003 at the Lacy Street Production Facility in Los Angeles and went on for 18 days. The bathroom was the only set that had to be built. Danny Glover completed his scenes within two days. Due to the tight shooting schedule, Wan could not afford to shoot more than a couple of takes per actor. In post-production, Wan found he did not have enough shots or takes to work with as he was basically shooting rehearsals. Having a lot of missing gaps in the final product, he and editor Kevin Greutert created shots to mend together during editing, such as making a shot look like a surveillance camera feed and using still photographs.
Lions Gate Entertainment picked up worldwide distribution rights for Saw when the films was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, only days before the film premiered on January 19, 2004. It was the closing film at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 18, 2004. Lionsgate initially planned to release the film direct-to-video, but due to the positive reaction at Sundance, they chose to release it theatrically on Halloween.
It was released on October 1, 2004 in the United Kingdom, on October 29, 2004 in the United States and on December 2, 2004 in Australia. The film was originally rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong graphic violence, but after being re-edited, it was released with an R-rating. Lionsgate held the first annual "Give Til It Hurts" blood drive for the Red Cross and collected 4,249 pints of blood.
On October 31, 2014, Saw was re-released in honor of its 10th anniversary. However, it earned only $650,051 in its opening weekend and therefore is the third lowest-grossing wide opening. At the end of its run, the release had grossed $815,324, bringing the film's overall domestic gross to $56,000,369.
The theatrical version of the film was released on VHS and DVD on February 15, 2005 in the United States. After its first week, it earned $9.4 million in DVD rentals and $1.7 million in VHS rentals, making it the top rental of the week. A two-disc "Uncut Edition" was released on October 18, 2005 to tie in with the release Saw II. The short film, also titled Saw, was included on the DVD.
The film was subsequently included in a boxed set with all six sequels entitled Saw: The Complete Movie Collection, which was released in September, 2014 in celebration of the film's 10th anniversary. The set contained the unrated editions of all seven films, though it lacked any of the special features from previous releases.
Saw was a financial success. Shot on a meager budget of about $1.2 million, it earned over $55 million at the box office in the U.S. alone and $102,917,772 worldwide.  Generally, the critical reactions to the film were mixed. It received a rating of 48% from Rotten Tomatoes, based on 181 reviews, while Metacritic gave it a score of 46 out of 100, based on 32 critics. Most of the criticism regarded the general plot as well as the ending, which were considered "convoluted."
The soundtrack was mainly composed by Charlie Clouser, which took six weeks to complete. Other songs were performed by Front Line Assembly, Fear Factory, Enemy, Pitbull Daycare and Psycho Pumps. Megadeth's song "Die Dead Enough" was originally set to be featured in the film, but was not used for undisclosed reasons. The soundtrack was released on October 5, 2004 by Koch Records.
1. Tape Deck
3. Hello, Mark
4. Reverse Beartrap
5. Are You Daddy?
6. Drill & Trap
7. X Marks
9. Out of Time
10. Tapp & Zepp
11. Fuck This Shit (Version A)
12. Fuck This Shit (Version B)
13. Zepp Overture
14. The Rules
15. Be Alright
16. Hello Zepp
1. Stürm – Front Line Assembly
2. Bite the Hand That Bleeds – Fear Factory
3. Action – Enemy
4. You Make Me Feel So Dead – Pitbull Daycare
5. Wonderful World – Psychopomps
- Originally, Adam and Lawrence were to be trapped in a lift or a basement.
- Director James Wan created Billy the Puppet for the film.
- Saw was meant to be a straight-to-video release, but due to positive screenings it became a movie release.
- The film was shot within 18 days, with pre-production lasting only 5 days.
- Shawnee Smith, who played Amanda, filmed all of her scenes within a single day and was sick during the time of shooting.
- Producer Oren Koules has an uncredited cameo as Donnie Greco.
- All scenes set in the bathroom were filmed in six days in chronological order.
- While shooting the scene of Lawrence cutting off his foot, actor Cary Elwes actually scratched his foot despite the saw being blunt.
- Leigh Whannell not only plays Adam in the film, but also played Sing during reshoots when the actor was unavailable. He plays Sing when he enters Jigsaw's hideout and when he gets shot later on. In addition, his hands were used as stand-in for Shawnee Smith's hands during close-ups of Amanda sifting through Donnie Greco's intestines.
- Sing's chase after Jigsaw was the last scene to be filmed.
- Director James Wan did not get paid and instead got a percentage of the profits.
- The map used by Tapp and Sing when reviewing locations of fire alarm reports was that of Washington D.C.
- After Lawrence cut off his foot, in the scene where he tries to shoot at Zep with and empty revolver, Cary Elwes wore a black shaggy sock to cover his foot.
- While filming the scenes of Paul's death and the investigation of the crime scene, camera operator David Armstrong accidentally bumped against the ceiling of the set and had to be taken to a hospital due to a mild concussion.