Star Wars Glossary: Force Lightning

Force lightning
Emperor Palpatine using Force lightning in Revenge of the Sith. Lucasfilm Ltd.

Definition: Force lightning is a Force attack in the form of electrical energy. It takes the form of blue or purple lightning channeled through the wielder's hand or fingertips. Because Force lightning is almost exclusively a dark side power, it is also known as Sith lightning.

In Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Darth Vader uses what appears to be Force lightning against Luke. The novel Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader and the Revenge of the Sith Visual Dictionary, however, establish that organic flesh is necessary to project Force lightning; Vader cannot use it because of his mechanical arms.

In-universe: Force lightning is difficult to block and often deadly. Skilled Jedi, however, can deflect Force lighting with a lightsaber (as Mace Windu did when he fought Palpatine) or even with bare hands (as Yoda did against Count Dooku).

The painful and devastating effects of Force lightning have led Sith and Dark Jedi to use it as a means of torture as well as to kill. If the victim survives the attack, long-term health effects can result. For example, after Emperor Palpatine tortures Luke with Force lightning, he suffers from calcification of the skeletal system and muscular microseizures.

Most Jedi believe that Force lightning is inherently corrupt, opening up the user to the influence of the dark side. However, several Jedi taught themselves to use Force lightning in times of need, including Luke Skywalker himself.

Further Reading

  • Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, by Ryder Windham (2007)
  • The Truce at Bakura, by Kathy Tyers (1994)
  • Dark Nest I: The Joiner King, by Troy Denning (2005)