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Star Wars: What Is Force Lightning & How Powerful Is It?

At the tail end of 1983's "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi," fans of the galaxy far, far away are introduced to a new Force ability. To punish Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) for turning down the chance to become his apprentice, the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) casts Force lightning upon him. The crackling bands of electricity flow from the Imperial figurehead's fingers, sending Luke crashing to the ground, writhing in agony. In the decades since, Force lightning has appeared elsewhere in the "Star Wars" franchise, allowing fans to learn more about it.

Force lightning is generally considered to be an immensely powerful dark side ability that, quite simply, is used to inflict pain and even kill those on the receiving end. In fact, it's so strong that it has even been shown to obliterate entire ships, as seen in "Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker" when Rey (Daisy Ridley) unexpectedly sends bolts flying from her fingers and blows up a First Order transport. In that same film, the Emperor uses it to disable an entire fleet of ships during the Battle of Exegol.

Even though Force lightning is very much lethal and is used by the most committed dark side users, that's not to say that it can't be countered. 

How can one counter a Force lightning attack?

From Darth Maul (Sam Witwer) to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), some of the strongest Force users in the "Star Wars" universe have been struck by Force lightning. While this may make it seem like the Force ability is next to impossible to counter, there are some defenses one can employ against it. For lightsaber wielders, it's possible to use the legendary weapon to defend against Force lightning. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and later Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen/Matt Lanter) successfully absorb it into their blades during their duels with Count Dooku (Sir Christopher Lee), while Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) and Rey redirect it in their respective battles with the Emperor.

Alternatively, it's possible to take the full might of Force lightning with one's bare hands. Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) demonstrates this ability against Dooku and later against the Emperor, absorbing their lightning attacks and turning them into balls of electric energy with nothing more than his hands and the Force. He appears to be able to deflect some amount of lightning and send it careening back at the one responsible for it. Also, using his absorption ability against the Emperor, he pushes back against the Sith Lord until the electric energy in his hands touches the Emperor's fingertips. This causes an explosion, sending the two in opposite directions.

Evidently, Force lightning is a remarkable ability that shows just how skilled in the Force the individual behind it truly is. Therefore, it's no surprise that it takes someone equally skilled or at a similar level to avoid being fried by it.