If there is one single iconic visual in "Star Wars," it's an ignited lightsaber ready to take on the forces of evil. Lightsabers are synonymous with Jedi and the Force, so they are often shown at the heart of all the drama and conflict in the galaxy far, far away. In fact, one of the most important items in the saga is the Skywalker family heirloom of Anakin's lightsaber, which carries with it a storied history of triumph and loss.
But not all lightsabers are the same. Some are the simple single-bladed weapons, but there are many that follow completely different configurations. The double-bladed lightsaber made famous by Darth Maul is famous in its own right, as is Kylo Ren's crackling crossguard saber. We're sure to get even more kinds of lightsabers in the future, but for now we've got all the major variants down below.
The classic and to many still the best. A single blade of focused energy that can cut through just about anything, the lightsaber is a great multipurpose weapon "for a more civilized age." Even when fighting opponents with blasters, if you're a skilled Force user, you can deflect their shots back at them. In fact, just about the only things a lightsaber can't cut through are another lightsaber, an electrostaff, and (in the EU) the mineral known as cortosis.
But more than its benefits as a weapon is its status as a symbol. The lightsaber represents the grandeur of the Jedi Order and the ideals it represents. Just having one out while it's not even turned on can change the tone of an entire room. If you're in the middle of "aggressive negotiations," for example, it can make all the difference to whip out a symbol with the potential to kill everyone in the room.
14 Curved Hilt
The curved hilt may not seem like it would be a bid deal, but in many cases it can mean the difference between victory and loss for some Jedi. In the case of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, they were easily bested by Count Dooku during the Battle of Geonosis because they were unprepared for his type of fighting style. A curved hilt supports Form II of lightsaber combat, which puts an emphasis on precise movements during dueling.
The hilt is held more in the palm and allows the user the change the angle of attacks quickly. This fencing style of combat allowed for a finesse that most Jedi near the end of the Republic simply weren't used to. After all, there hadn't been any true lightsaber wielding enemies around for thousands of years. In "Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones," Dooku very much changed that perspective when he defeated the combined strengths of Obi-Wan and Anakin in a matter of minutes.
13 Tonfa-Style Lightsaber
Known as the "guard shoto," the tonfa-lightsaber is a very rare design that involves holding the saber at a perpendicular handle. This design is larger that usual to account for forearm and elbow support. What makes these sabers so difficult to defend against is their unpredictability. The extra forearm support means that the user can block strong blows more easily, but it also means they can retaliate quickly. The longer hilt allows for more reach and the handle allows for quick sweeping motions that can take an opponent by surprise. Many Force wielders who use these designs also line their hilts with materials resistant to lightsabers in order to prevent them from being destroyed in combat.
The design was employed by the padawan Maris Brood in the "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" video game. The only other individual known to use the design was Sinya, a bodyguard for a Black Sun Vigo who was defeated by Darth Maul in a lightsaber duel.
Seen prominently in the "Jedi Academy" trilogy of books and its companion novel "I, Jedi," the dual-phase lightsaber is a simple yet novel innovation to the single hilt design. Instead of using just one crystal to focus the lightsaber blade's energy, the dual-phase saber uses two crystals. This means that the user can extend the blade to twice the length of a normal lightsaber. Depending on the color of the crystals, this can also mean that the blade's color will change in addition to the length.
The most famous use of a duel-phase blade was Corran Horn, who created his saber out of a speeder bike throttle assembly. He installed a control for the blade length that could be activated in an instant in combat. That way, the extended blade could be used to surprise an enemy when they least expect it. Horn used the trigger to great effect against several opponents including the Yuuzhan Vong.
11 Great Lightsabers
Most beings are of a size where a regular a lightsaber is just fine. But sometimes, you get an atypical Force user who needs something a little different in order to wield effectively. Such is the case with Gorc, a Force-sensitive Gamorrean who became a Dark Jedi and disciple of Jerec. Gorc (who first appeared in the game "Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces") and his tiny companion, Pic, became known as the "Brothers of the Sith" and a force (no pun intended) to be reckoned with. When it came time for Gorc to build his lightsaber, however, a regular sized one just wasn't going to cut it for a Gamorrean.
Therefore, Gorc built a giant lightsaber proportional to his body. This required multiple crystals and a special power system, but it was able to produce a blade up to three meters in length - three times the size of a normal blade. These blades, however, are exceedingly rare and typically only seen among the largest Force-wielding species.
10 Short Lightsabers
While it may seem silly to make a shorter lightsaber, there are actually several advantages to making lightsabers with shorter blades. Far from the substandard loot you pick up in the "Knights of the Old Republic" video game, short sabers contribute to several different styles and functions. First and foremost, shorter lightsabers are easier to wield by smaller species. Yoda, for example, carries a lightsaber with a blade shorter than the full meter employed by most Jedi and Sith. After all, all that flipping around can be dangerous and a longer blade would just lead to more problems.
As for beings of a more typical size, short lightsabers are useful for users who prefer to dual-wield weapons. After all, using two lightsabers doubles the risk that comes with carrying just one of the weapons. By keeping the blades short, it allows the wielder to get in close to their opponent, which in many cases is the best tactic when fighting with a lightsaber.
9 Training Lightsabers
Lightsabers are dangerous and powerful weapons, so training with them constantly is incredibly important for a Jedi Knight. The problem is, of course, that if you make one wrong move during a training session, you may be rushing back to the nearest med bay, begging a droid for a cybernetic limb. That's why training lightsabers were invented. Given to younglings before they built their own proper lightsabers, training sabers are weaker, non-lethal alternatives to the genuine article. If you are hit with a full-on strike, at best you'll experience some bruising and at worst you'll have some minor burns.
Fully grown Jedi are known to use training sabers during sparring sessions as well. Typically the true lightsaber masters are the ones who spar with real lightsabers, as they are skilled enough to use them in training exercises with minimal risk of an accident. The Sith, of course, don't believe in training lightsabers at all.
8 Crossguard Lightsaber
An ancient design dating back all the way to the Great Scourge of Malachor, crossguard lightsabers are a practical design to answer an age-old problem of possibly losing fingers during a battle. In addition to the typical lightsaber blade, this weapon has an additional two blades emitted from a pair of raw power vents called quillons. In order to achieve this effect, an array of activators were used to split the energy of the crystal into the three emitters.
This style of lightsaber isn't without risk. If handled improperly, the smaller blades can hit the user. That's why you'll typically see Jedi or Sith who use this weapon employ broad and sweeping movements. The smaller blades are also useful in a saber lock, as the wielder can push them into the body of their opponent without sacrificing their defensive posture. Sometime during the reign of the Republic, however, this style of blade fell out of use until it was brought back by Kylo Ren in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
7 Double-Bladed Lightsaber
Now a classic made famous by Darth Maul in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," the double-bladed lightsaber (also known as a saber staff), is an iconic piece of "Star Wars" history. Basically a long hilt made of enough components for two lightsabers, the double-bladed lightsaber is a weapon that requires a great deal of skill to wield. Allowing for a full 360-degree attack arc, it allows an adept user to take on multiple enemies at the same time. Because they have the vulnerability of a long hilt, double-bladed lightsabers are seen to be aggressive weapons best used for offensive wielders.
The first major figure to employ a double-bladed lightsaber was the Jedi-turned-Sith Exar Kun. Ever since, the weapons have had something of a stigma for being associated with the Sith, though, several Jedi fought with them including the temple guards. Because both sides of the weapon is its own independent lightsaber, one can be destroyed without effecting the use of the other.
An exceedingly rare weapon in the galaxy, the lightwhip is as dangerous to the user as it is to any opponent. Rather than using one crystal to produce a single blade, lightwhips use several small crystals that send energy up a flexible cords hanging from the hilt. The blade itself was not as strong as a traditional lightsaber. It could cut through flesh easily, but it's far more difficult for it to cut through metals and armors. Because of the whip's difficult to control nature, it could often lead to some pretty horrible accidents, so finding someone who wielded one was exceedingly rare.
In the case a Jedi did come across an opponent with a lightwhip, it proved to be a unique challenge. The lightwhip had a much longer reach over a regular lightsaber, which made it very difficult for enemies to push in to close range. The whip could also wrap around a lightsaber blade and pull it out of its user's grip. The first time a lightwhip was encountered was in Marvel Comics' classic run of "Star Wars," in issue #95 by Mary Jo Duffy and Cynthia Martin.
5 Inquisitor Lightsabers
A unique variation on the double-bladed lightsaber, the Inquisitor sabers were made to function in an age where the primary enemies were wayward Jedi Knights and non-Jedi Force users. Larger than a single-bladed weapon but not large enough to use with two hands, the Inquisitor sabers aren't supposed to be used like the traditional double-bladed saber wielded by Darth Maul. The blade emitters run on tracks that spin quickly, effectively making the weapon a massive buzzsaw that's perfect for both defensive and offensive maneuvers.
When the blade is spinning, blaster bolts are completely ineffective at penetrating its defensive barrier. Even enemy lightsaber strikes also have a tough time contending with the force of the spin. In fact, the spinning mechanism is so powerful it can create lift, allowing its users to glide through the air. The biggest downside of the weapon is its complexity. If someone cuts through the disk while it's spinning, the weapon will fly apart and put its user in extreme danger. The Inquisitors' Fifth and Eighth Brothers were killed by weapon malfunctions such as these.
4 Lightsaber Pike
A variant of the double-bladed lightsaber carried by the Jedi Temple guards, the lightsaber pike is the first weapon in the post-EU canon to have a yellow blade. It also features a thicker and shorter pair of blades that carry a large intimidation factor. Temple guards are assigned to Jedi sanctuaries to protect their inhabitants from internal squabbles and external threats, thus the sweeping blades serve to block the ways of violence.
The Expanded Universe's "Force Unleashed" game also featured another version of the lightsaber pike used by Kazdan Paratus. This weapon featured a very long handle made from lightsaber-resistant material with a single blade protruding from the end. His blue-bladed weapon was used to protect a recreation of the Jedi Temple made from the junk of Raxus Prime against Darth Vader's secret apprentice. Unfortunately, he ended up losing the duel after a long struggle and the apprentice took the lightsaber.
3 Lightsabers That Use Unstable Kyber Crystals
Generally looked upon as undesirable, cracked or unstable kyber crystals provide several benefits and drawbacks to a lightsaber. When activated, the crystal's lack of structural integrity makes it difficult for it to contain the energy running through it, resulting in an unstable and crackling blade of energy. Often, streaks of electrical energy or flares of plasma shoot off from the blade, making it incredibly unpredictable and dangerous. It also makes the blade easier to short out, which can lead to a massive disadvantage in a fight.
The unstable blade is also capable of doing more damage than a regular lightsaber due to their crackling energy. Cuts are less clean from the unstable blade and thus harder to repair and heal from. The only on-screen example of this kind of weapon is the one used by Kylo Ren in "The Force Awakens," which had to be turned into a crossguard saber to allow for venting of the excess power from the crystal, so that it didn't shatter during use.
An ancient black-bladed lightsaber created by the first Mandalorian to ever become a Jedi. The weapon became an heirloom, passed down through generations of the Mandolorian clan Vizsla until it reached the hands of Death Watch leader, Pre Vizsla. He was killed in single combat by Darth Maul (during "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"), who kept the weapon for himself and used it as a symbol of his dominion over the Mandalorian people. After Maul was driven off Mandolore, he took the darksaber with him. It was later taken by Sabine Wren on Dathomir during "Star Wars Rebels."
Its obsidian-black blade with a white aura and angular hilt are one-of-a-kind. Shaped with a sharper edge than the typical round lightsaber blade, the darksaber has a distinct sound and feel. It's also a bit shorter than a normal lightsaber, making it perfect for dual-wielding. Darth Maul used it in conjunction with his own lightsaber in a battle against Darth Sidious.
1 Synthetic Crystal Lightsabers
While most Jedi go through a special ritual to obtain their natural lightsaber crystals from caves on planets such as Ilum or Lothal, the Sith made their own crystals from scratch. Forged in a special furnace and imbued with the Dark Side of the Force, synthetic crystals were typically stronger and created a heavier blade than their natural cousins. In fact, their power is so impressive that they have the potential to "break the blade" of natural lightsabers by burning them out through an overload.
Unfortunately, synthetic crystals are also unstable themselves and carry with them the possibility of harming the user. Though it happens rarely, applying too much stress or power on an synthetic crystal may cause it to break, thus destroying the lightsaber. While these weapons were usually relegated to the Sith and carried a stigma among Jedi, in the expanded universe, several Jedi have been known to use them.
Be sure to tell us in the comments which type of lightsaber is your favorite!