Lightsaber: Wikis


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Prop of Luke Skywalker's second lightsaber hilt
A plot element from the Star Wars franchise
First appearance Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Genre Science fiction
In story information
Type of plot element Energy sword
Affiliation Jedi, Sith

A lightsaber is a science fiction weapon in the Star Wars movies and Expanded Universe. The lightsaber consists of a polished metal hilt which projects a blade of energy (plasma) about one meter long. The lightsaber is the signature weapon of the Jedi order and their Sith counterparts, both of whom can use them for offence, or to deflect blaster bolts. Its distinct appearance was created using rotoscoping for the original trilogy, and digitally for the prequel trilogy. The lightsaber first appeared in the original Star Wars film (1977) and every Star Wars movie to date features at least one lightsaber duel. In 2008, a survey of approximately two thousand film fans found it to be the most popular film weapon.[1]

The lightsaber's blade cuts through most substances without resistance. It leaves cauterized wounds in flesh, but can be deflected by another lightsaber's blade, or an energy shield or wall. Some vibroswords and shields made with cortosis are also able to deflect them, as seen first in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and, later on, in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, and The Force Unleashed. An active lightsaber gives off a distinctive hum, which rises in pitch and volume as the blade is moved rapidly through the air. Bringing the blade into contact with an object or another lightsaber's blade produces a loud crackle.

The term "lightsaber" has been applied to other similar weapons in science fiction.



Visual effects

Animator Nelson Shin was tasked with drawing the lightsaber to match the film scenes that the film producers brought. Shin explained to the people from Lucasfilm that since the lightsaber is made of light, the sword should look "a little shaky" like a fluorescent tube. He suggested inserting one frame that was much lighter than the others while printing the film on an optical printer, making the light seem to vibrate. Shin also recommended adding a degausser sound on top of the other sounds for the weapon since the sound would be reminiscent of a magnetic field. The whole process took one week, surprising his company, and Lucasfilm demonstrated the film to him, having followed his suggestions, including using an X-Acto knife to give the lightsaber a very sharp look.[2]


The lightsaber sound effect was developed by sound designer Ben Burtt as a combination of the hum of idling interlock motors in aged movie projectors and interference caused by a television set on an unshielded microphone. Burtt discovered the latter accidentally as he was looking for a buzzing, sparkling sound to add to the projector motor hum.[3]

The pitch changes of lightsaber movement were produced by playing the basic lightsaber tone on a speaker and recording it on a moving microphone, generating Doppler shift to mimic a moving sound source.[3]

Off film, advanced micro controller boards are now used to produce lightsaber sounds. These are commonly referred to as "sound boards".

Prop construction

For Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the original film prop hilts were constructed from old camera-flash battery packs and other pieces of hardware. The "switched-on" sword props were designed with the intention of creating an "in-camera" glowing effect. The "blade" was three-sided and coated with a retroreflector array—the same sort used for highway signs. A lamp was positioned to the side of the taking camera and reflected towards the subject through 45-degree angled glass so that the sword would appear to glow from the camera's point-of-view.


Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn wielding their activated lightsabers in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Lightsabers were present in the earliest drafts as mundane laser weapons that were used alongside laser guns.[4][5] The introduction of the Force in a later revision made the Jedi and the Sith supernaturally skilled, eventually the only swordsmen. The lightsaber became the Force-user's tool, "...not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age."[6]


Lightsabers are described as hand-built as part of a Jedi's or Sith's training regimen. Each lightsaber is as unique as the one who built it, though some may bear resemblance to others (such as those sported by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker). Lightsabers can be wielded as either one-handed or two-handed weapons. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace introduced a double-bladed lightsaber—essentially two lightsabers bound together at the pommels—for Darth Maul, and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones introduced a lightsaber with a curved hilt, wielded by the sith lord Count Dooku. The Lightsabers of the sith Assajj Ventress can be connected together to form a double-bladed lightsaber.

The series' "Expanded Universe" of novels, comic books and video games adds several lightsaber types, including short,[7] dual-phase (changeable length),[8][9] those attached to the end of a staff, those connected by a tether to emulate nunchuku, and those bearing a resemblance to a tonfa.


Lightsabers depicted in the first two released films, "A New Hope" and "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back," had blades that were colored either blue (for the Jedi) or red (for the Sith). In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker's newly-constructed lightsaber was colored blue during the initial editing of the film, and appears so in both an early movie trailer and the official theatrical posters, but it was ultimately colored green in order to better stand out against the blue sky of Tatooine in outdoor scenes. Green would later become another standard blade color for Jedi lightsabers in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Mace Windu's purple-bladed lightsaber, as first seen in Attack of the Clones, was a personal request from actor Samuel L. Jackson as a way to make his character stand out among other Jedi. Purple is also Jackson's favorite color.[10]

A multitude of blade colors appear in the Expanded Universe and in other Star Wars products. The original Kenner figure of Luke Skywalker in his Tatooine costume from Star Wars was released with a yellow-bladed lightsaber. While no yellow-bladed lightsabers appear in the films (with the exception of an extremely brief glimpse of one at the top-left of the screen during the beginning of the arena battle in episode II), they have appeared in several computer games, such as Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, and Jedi Academy. The Knights of the Old Republic video games further expand the number of colors, adding cyan, viridian, violet, silver, and orange,[7] and The Force Unleashed video game adds black, gold, and pink in the Nintendo DS version. With the release of The Clone Wars film and series, a build-your-own lightsaber kit was released in toy stores, and included red, blue and green shards that when put into a lightsaber you built, can light up. More than one shard can be inserted, resulting in mixed colors.

Multiple sources refer to a focusing crystal in the hilt as the source of the blade's color, mainly from the video game Star Wars Galaxies.[7] In the Star Wars universe, the color of a lightsaber's blade is determined by a crystal that is built in the center of the lightsaber and is reflected out as a light beam by the lightsaber's emitting energy core.


The technical lightsaber choreography for the original Star Wars trilogy was developed by Hollywood sword-master Bob Anderson. Anderson trained actor Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and, in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, performed all the stunts as Darth Vader during the lightsaber duels wearing Vader's costume. Anderson's role in the trilogy was highlighted in the film Reclaiming The Blade where he shared his experiences as a fencer developing the lightsaber techniques for the three original movies.

The lightsaber duels in the Star Wars prequel trilogy were specifically choreographed by stunt-coordinator Nick Gillard to be miniature "stories". For these films, Gillard was the primary sword instructor for actors Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader) among others. His goal in choreographing the action for The Phantom Menace was to create stunts that flow from the story; "You can't just think, 'I'm a stunt coordinator, I'm going to make a big stunt happen'," Gillard said. "It's all about making it tie in nicely with the film so that you don't notice the stunts."[citation needed]

In writing the prequel trilogy, Star Wars creator George Lucas said he wanted the lightsaber combat to be "reminiscent of what had been done in the previous films but also something that was more energized. We'd seen old men, young boys, and characters who were half-droid, but we'd never seen a Jedi in his prime. I wanted to do that with a fight that was faster and more dynamic — and we were able to pull that off."[11]

According to Gillard (who would later go on to perform a cameo role in Revenge of the Sith), various lightsaber combat styles were devised for the prequels and intended to further characterize their practitioners.

I developed different styles for the characters, and gave each of them a flaw or a bonus. So with Obi, for instance, he's got a very business-like style — when he was younger he could border on the flashy and might twirl his lightsaber a bit, because he was taught by Qui-Gon. Qui-Gon was brash, that rubbed off on Obi and Obi then taught Anakin, who was way too old to learn anyway.[...]I think the style really worked well. The Jedi style of fighting is an amalgamation of all the great swordfighting styles. Melding them together is the difficult part — to move from a Kendo style to, say, Rapier requires a complete change in body and feet movement, and this must look effortless. The style moves seamlessly between the different disciplines, but remains technically correct throughout. It's unlike any other style of fighting and I think it's beautiful to watch.[12]

For The Phantom Menace, Gillard set out certain styles and faults for the saber-wielding characters.[13] He added that the Jedi's use of such "a short-range weapon" meant "they would have to be very good at it"; combining a variety of disciplines from various swordfighting styles to martial arts "with a touch of tennis and tree chopping", he created the style seen in the Episode I lightsaber battles.[14]


  1. ^ Sophie Borland (2008-01-21). "Lightsaber wins the battle of movie weapons". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  2. ^ "Interview with Nelson Shin". CNN. 2007-11-09. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  3. ^ a b Burtt, Ben (1993), Star Wars Trilogy: The Definitive Collection, Lucasfilm, "...the microphone passed right behind the picture tube and as it did, this particular microsophe produced an unusual hum. It picked up a transmission from the television set and a signal was induced into its sound reproducing mechanism, and that was a great buzz, actually. So I took that buzz and recorded it and combined it with the projector motor sound and that fifty-fifty kind of combination of those two sounds became the basic lightsaber tone."" 
  4. ^ Lucas, George (May 1973), The Star Wars, story synopsis, "An alarm sounds. The rebels are forced to fight their way out of the prison with "multiple lazer guns" and swords." 
  5. ^ Lucas, George (May 1974), The Star Wars, rough draft, "Ten troopers break out of the ranks and take up the chase. Starkiller runs down a corridor and rounds a corner, reaching a dead end. The troops round the corner and confront the trapped Jedi." 
  6. ^ Lucas, George (1977), Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 
  7. ^ a b c BioWare. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. (LucasArts). PC. (2003-11-19)
  8. ^ Anderson, Kevin J. (1994). Dark Apprentice. The Jedi Academy Trilogy. Bantam Spectra. 
  9. ^ Foster, Alan Dean (1979). Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Ballantine Books. 
  10. ^ "Samuel L. Jackson". Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. 2002-06-02.
  11. ^ Bouzereau, Laurent; Duncan, Jody (1999). Star Wars: The Making of Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Hardcover ed.). New York: Ballantine Publ. Group. ISBN 0345431111. , page 99
  12. ^ "March-Interview with stunt co-ordinator Nick Gillard (Mr. Optimism)". Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  13. ^ "Nick Gillard Talks ROTS Game". TheForce.Net. 2005-05-08. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  14. ^ Episode I Video: Prime of the Jedi -(part of the "Making Episode I" series).

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