Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
Saw Movie Poster Image
"Torture porn" gore-fest is more grisly than scary.
  • R
  • 2004
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 92 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 237 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Attempts to add a sense of destiny and philosophy to the victims; they've all committed some sort of wrong (lying, bigotry, cheating, etc.) and are now being shown the error of their ways. But the extreme gore involved in the punishment heavily outweighs the original crimes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No admirable characters here.


This is a "torture porn" movie with exceptionally graphic/bloody and disturbing images. Constant peril, death by many grisly methods, life of a child threatened, reference to suicide, many characters die, references to molestation. Some shocking jump scenes.


Sexual innuendo. References to adultery. Flashback includes a cleavage shot. Crude references.


Frequent use of strong language, including "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "damn," "hell," "a--hoie," "goddamn," "oh my God," "crap," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking, references to drug addiction, talk of getting a beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Saw is the stuff of nightmares, even if a jaded horror aficionado might not find it scary. The images of torture and death are brutal and explicit, lingering in mind long after the movie ends. There are multiple on-screen deaths, a child's life is threatened, characters die, a father is forced to make terrible decisions to protect his family, and there are no scenes free of peril. There are also references to suicide, adultery, drug addiction, madness, and self-mutilation. There's strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more), and characters smoke. Underlying the killer's motive is the notion that everyone deserves to be tortured and that there are no innocents.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydudeman123 November 3, 2010

One of the greatest horror flicks of all time

How can common sense actually give Saw 1 out of 5 stars.. terrible review. Common sense just tries to get people to think saw is a terrible movie because it is... Continue reading
Adult Written bywill m. August 4, 2017

Most inaccurate review for saw

Ok here we go. I don't know why you wouldn't let a 14 year old watch this film as they are either going to watch it with you or not. The Saw series is... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byHunterJumper13 December 21, 2010

Great for mature tweens-teens

I'm 13,and I thought this movie was terrific. I mean, I'm a horrer movie connesuer, I've been raised on Chucky, Jason X, etc etc. I found this mo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byElot July 1, 2016

Extremely creative film!

The whole thing about saw being a "torture porn" gore fest is a complete lie. It's actually a deeply clever and elaborate thriller film that uses... Continue reading

What's the story?

In SAW, a serial killer named Jigsaw traps a doctor (Cary Elwes) and a voyeuristic photographer (Leigh Whannell) in a windowless room with a corpse. Together with the clues that they've been given -- including a mini-cassette player, photographs, and two small saws -- they seek to solve the riddle and escape.

Is it any good?

A thoroughly intriguing -- if ghoulish -- premise, some original nightmarish images, and a young director eager to show off his talents make this movie atmospheric and intense. But the whole thing gets caught in the razor wire of shoddy acting, a sociopath who makes you go "huh?", a lack of engaging characters, and a morass of internally inconsistent details. The bitter taste in your mouth when Saw's over won't be fear, but rather disappointment that what could have been a smart, original horror-fest turned into such an uneven wannabe.

Director James Wan and Whannell (who wrote the script with the director) clearly have been influenced by modern horror stalwarts like Seven, 28 Days Later, and The Ring, which results in a stilted form of brinksmanship where the end game is the most memorable gruesome image. Tying the scenes together, much less ending the movie with a tight little knot, is beyond their story-spinning ken this time. But they deserve recognition for aiming high and for providing an engaging if ultimately disappointing ride.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the killer's motivation in Saw. How would you describe it? Do you understand it? Are the deaths consistent with that motive? What might the characters have done differently?

  • How do the gory images in movies like this impact viewers, especially young ones? Why do you think there's been a trend toward these "torture porn" movies?

  • Discuss the resonance (or lack thereof) of movies where characters face death and re-evaluate their lives and priorities. Do Lawrence and Adam become more appealing characters as you get to know them better and as their fate looks bleaker? Do their choices become clearer as they reassess their priorities? What do you think the "right" life would be like so as not to attract the killer's attention?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

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