Lightsabers are, without a doubt, the most iconic weapons of the past 40 years, maybe even of all time. The chosen weapon of Jedi, Sith and Force-sensitive folk alike, even in a world of blasters and planet-destroying weapons, these crystal-powered blades are still mythologized as being the most awesome thing that anyone can wield. “An elegant weapon for a more civilized age,” as Obi Wan put it. It’s easy to see why lightsabers’ appeal has endured for so long, too. Glowing weapons are aesthetically pleasing, and as the logical, futuristic evolution of the traditional metal sword, their design is classic and sleek yet also endlessly adaptable.
We’ve seen green, blue, red, purple, gold, white and black sabers; double-ended sabers; sabers that spin around; sabers with crossguards; pike sabers; shoto sabers and we’ll likely only see more and more varieties as the Star Wars canon continues to grow. But, as cool as lightsabers are, they’re certainly not the only laser weapons out there, and they’re not even the most powerful or creative, either. You can find a laser sword or laser-based weapon in every single corner of pop culture. Even high fantasy properties like Dungeon & Dragons have found ways to sneak them into its medieval-era canon. Because laser-type weapons are so widespread, we couldn’t limit this list to sword-shaped examples only, so don’t be surprised to see a few other weird and wonderful killer creations, too.
20. BLAZING SWORD (VOLTRON)
“Voltron, form BLAZING SWORD!” The only thing cooler than a giant glowing sword is one that you can summon from nowhere with a mighty shout. Voltron, the iconic animated mech from the classic ’80s series (and currently ongoing remake) of the same name, has an entire arsenal of amazing weapons: spinning laser blades, Lion torches, ion darts, eye beams, stingray missiles and two flying Lion head projectiles.
The lion lariat — nunchucks that can fend off enemy attacks — and lion saber — that functions as a javelin — are among the Legendary Defender’s best but nothing beats the Blazing Sword. Voltron touches its hands together and, as it pulls them apart, the shining blade is formed. It’s an unstoppable sword for an unstoppable giant robot. Robeasts better beware.
19. PSYLOCKE’S PSIONIC KNIFE (X-MEN)
Some blades are powered by ancient crystals and some by actual laser beams. But, possibly the most impressive source of power for a glowing weapon is something completely intangible… well, until they cut into an unsuspecting enemy. The X-Men’s Psylocke is these days considered to be one of the most powerful mutants around, boasting telepathic powers rivalling those of Jean Grey and Professor X.
Her powers enable her to psionically and physically manifest force fields and an array of telekinetic weapons like katanas, crossbows, spiked flails and even X-23-style claws. By far the strongest weapon at her disposal, however, is her psionic knife, said to be “the focussed totality of her psychic powers.” Charged with her cerebral energy, the blade can directly penetrate an unfortunate target’s mind.
18. BATMAN’S LASER SWORD (BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD)
Yes, that’s right — even Batman is packing a lightsaber knock-off. The Caped Crusader is infamous for having a gadget for every occasion ready to whip out of his packed utility belt, from the classics: batarangs, his grappling hook and smoke bombs, to the more, uh, specialized: bat-shark repellant, fake vampire teeth and the best-forgotten harpoon: the “batpoon.”
Batman: The Brave and the Bold was the perfect playground to satirize and celebrate the Dark Knight’s silliest moments, including the more ludicrous items he’s pulled out of… somewhere in that famous belt. In the very first episode, faced with an army of clock robots, Batman took the whole belt off to reveal that he keeps a blue laser sword sheathed in it at all times. Now that’s preparation.
17. OPTIMUS PRIME’S ENERGON AXE (TRANSFORMERS)
It’s Optimus Prime… with a laser axe. Enough said, really. This amazing weapon has been used on very few occasions in Transformers history, most notably for longtime fans during a battle on the Sherman/Boulder dam in the Generation One animated series. Newer fans will recognize it from Dark of the Moon, where Optimus used it (in tandem with a sword) to execute Megatron.
Optimus seems to only use this baby to take on the Decepticons at their worst, like when Megatron is wielding his Energon Mace (yes, a LASER MACE) or to decapitate drones driven wildly off course by the time-displaced spectral form of Starscream. (See The Battle of the Star Gate manga for more on that.) Its sparing use is perhaps why it’s so alluring to fans, that and, you know — it’s a glowing axe sticking out of Optimus Prime’s arm. What’s not to love?
16. THUNDARR’S SUNSWORD (THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN)
What barbarian would be complete without a trusty sword at his or her disposal? This short-lived Saturday morning cartoon classic from the early ’80s gave us not only another iconic barbarian but another iconic, enchanted sword: the Sunsword. Forged by a mysterious wizard and gifted to Thundarr by Princess Ariel, the blade is “pure energy.”
Capable of slicing through anything (other than bronze, weirdly) it only has one weakness: “Negative Lightning,” which saps its energy away. There’s a quick fix for this issue though — a dip in the “Pool of Power” will bring it up to full charge again. Those familiar with the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons will see the obvious similarities with the D&D weapon of the same name. Both can be lit and extinguished at will by their wielder, and double as a torch.
15. WHIPLASH’S LASER WHIPS (IRON MAN)
Previously known as Backlash, Whiplash is one of Iron Man’s oldest foes. Most will be more familiar with the revamped version, Anton Vanko, created for Iron Man 2 that re-purposed his titanium, cybernetic whips for a pair of jazzier, electrified ones. These newly energerized ones were cooked up after Vanko spent months pouring over a stolen Iron Man Mark 29 suit.
The whips are connected to and powered by the Whiplash armor. They’re 25 feet long and can slice through solid wood, metal, brush away bullets and even allow Vanko to lift off the ground when spun fast enough. If he reverses their polarity, he can also turn them into makeshift grappling tools, too. He’s also not the only laser whip wielder out there. The villain Whisper rocked similarly electrifying versions in Young Justice.
14. ENERGY SWORD (HALO)
According to Thel ‘Vadam, the Type-1 Energy Sword is “a noble and ancient weapon [that] requires great skill and bravery to use and inspires fear in those who face it […]” As a weapon of the Covenant Empire, the sword is only used by the Sangheli, or “Elites” as humans know them, as a close-combat melee weapon, or more specifically: an “envelope of plasma that’s held in shape by electromagnetic fields.”
When equipped with the Elites’ active-camo, it can also turn invisible, making it incredibly handy for sneaking up on enemies for a quick and quiet kill. Really, the only drawback to this incredible sword is that its size means you have to get right up in an opponent’s grill to use it, meaning only the very best tend to use it in Halo lore.
13. THE DIGITANA (SCOTT PILGRIM)
Aside from Digimon and Tron (which we’ll get to later), this might be the only digitally powered laser weapon out here. In Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original comics, the katana is much more conventional-looking; pulled out by Gideon Graves to face Scott for the climactic battle in Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour. The most unusual thing about it is that it’s sheathed in Envy Adams’ dress.
In Edgar Wright’s movie adaptation, the katana gets a swishier upgrade to match the video game influences that run so strongly through Scott Pilgrim. After Scott gains “The Power of Self-Respect,” Gideon must also step his game up, too; so he pulls out his ultimate weapon: a katana comprised entirely of pixels, which destroys Scott’s own glowing blade easily. Suitably, the katana also made an appearance in the video game adaptation.
12. BEAM SABERS (GUNDAM)
Unlike lightsabers that have origins steeped in cosmic mysticism, Gundam‘s beam saber technology is rooted firmly in sci-fi. Beam technology is a staple of the entire Gundam franchise, and through various incarnations, the mecha genre in general. After all, if you’re going to create a world of giant, interstellar robots, you might as well stick a few giant laser weapons in their mechanized hands, too.
Beam sabers manipulate electromagnetic fields to create a glowing blade while superheating particles to enable it to be able to physically deal damage. The saber is recharged every time it’s sheathed in the mobile suit’s socket. Other beam weapons include the Mega-Particle Cannon, beam rifles, beam spray guns, beam axes, beam shields, beam rotors and the mighty Beam Smart Gun — the heaviest hitter in a mobile suit’s arsenal.
11. LASER BREAD KNIFE (HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE)
Douglas Adams’ spoofy sci-fi novels are probably the second best-loved British contribution to the genre right after Doctor Who. Those living outside of the British Isles might be more familiar with the radio adaptations or the 2005 movie starring Martin Freeman. Fans of said movie might also remember a certain scene that took place in a kitchen that looked like it had taken style tips from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Zooey Deschanel’s Trillian marvels at the space kitchen on a spacecraft (in space) and then pulls out a laser kitchen knife (cue Star Wars sound effects that sounds almost copyright-infringing in their accuracy) and demonstrates, like a cosmic QVC host, to Martin Freeman’s Arthur Dent that the heat from the blade makes for a great two-in-one bread slicer and toaster. It could probably double up as a good burglar deterrent, too.
10. LIGHT SWORD (TRON: LEGACY)
Also called “Light Katanas” (because of the flatness of the luminous blade) Tron: Legacy‘s Light Swords are one of many objects that the Batons — the Swiss army knives of programs — can create. Anything from an umbrella to a staff to a light cycle can burst out of one or two ends of this handy rez tool, though once a particular object is picked, they don’t seem capable of becoming much else.
We first saw the Light Sword/Katana in action at the “End of the Line” club being expertly used by Olivia Wilde’s Quorra, the mysterious acolyte of Jeff Bridge’s Flynn. She even duel-wielded during the scrap; using the sword to attack and block, and her Identity Disc as a make-shift shield, just proving how much more there is to her than meets the eye.
9. UNICORN HORN ENERGY SWORD (THE NEW ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD)
On a list that includes toast makers and blades created by nothing but the power of thoughts, this entry is still one of the weirdest. This live-action late ’90s series fitted in well with its other fantasy-action contemporaries, Xena: The Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. It also fleshed out the British folk hero’s legend with magical elements, most of which seemed borrowed from King Arthur stories.
In the Season Three episode “The Devil’s Bride” the fantasy contingent was kicked up a gear when, in order to rescue Maid Marion from the lovesick clutches of a demon god, Robin Hood obtains a magical unicorn horn that turns into different energy weapons — including a sword. Of course, the demon god is packing some energy sword heat too, leading to a very Star Wars-esque duel.
8. PSIONIC BLADES (STARCRAFT)
Psylocke isn’t the only person in pop culture to have mastery over psionic weapons. Blizzard’s popular sci-fi franchise StarCraft began life as a single video game in 1998 and has since blossomed across multiple platforms spanning a whole heap of lore surrounding the four warring alien races. Psionic Blades are used by the tech-savvy (and proud of it, too) Protoss race.
The psionic energy a Protoss is able to generate is funnelled through a focuser that forces the energy into the form of a blade, mounted on the arm of the user’s armor. Talented users like Executor Tassadar can form the blade without needing the focuser though. Once focused, a psionic blade can chop through pretty much anything except another similar weapon or a Warp Blade.
7. PULSE BLADE (MORTAL KOMBAT)
A version of the Pulse Plade known as the “Saber of Light” was previously used by Cyrax in Mortal Kombat Gold, before being upgraded to the aforementioned model. The blades are really just straight up laser swords; powered by cybernetics and used normally by cyborg ninja characters like Cyrax and Sektor. Takeda Takahashi is a notable human exception, dual-wielding a pair in Mortal Kombat X that doubled up as mines.
Speaking of laser-based weapons in Mortal Kombat, what about Fujin’s impressive plasma crossbow? The wind god’s weapon from Mortal Kombat 4 and Mortal Kombat Gold was exactly the same as a standard, medieval crossbow, except it shot green plasma bolts instead of regular ones. Practically, it’s a real head-scratcher thinking about how he would safely load them, though…
6. XEMNAS’ INTERDICTION (KINGDOM HEARTS)
With a name like that, you know Xemnas isn’t playing around with this signature weapon. These laser swords, or “Ethereal Blades,” (because Square Enix villains are also so extra) are used by the leader of the sinister Organization XIII in Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. (And, if you got a kick out of that word salad of a name, other titles include Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance.)
Described as “a powerful weapon that draws from its wielder’s true worth,” the Interdiction come as pair and stand out from other similar laser swords for having no hilt or mount. Instead, they shoot out directly from Xemnas’ palms. They also double up as blasts as well if he releases them fast enough. And, in case you were wondering, “Interdiction” means “punishment,” just in case you weren’t quite sure of the villain’s true colors.
5. ABIGAIL WHISTLER’S AV ARC LASER BOW (BLADE: TRINITY)
Though most fans don’t look back on the third installment of the Blade movie trilogy fondly, it did give us some memorable moments — the AV Arc Laser Bow being one of them. The bow is used by expert archer, Abigail Whistler (played by Jessica Biel) the illegitimate daughter of legendary vampire hunter, Abraham Whistler. Like her dad, Abigail can take out vamps with frightening efficiency and, unlike Ryan Reynolds’ Hannibal King, she takes that job very seriously.
After sporting a normal bow (and some not-so-normal “hypertechnological UVA” arrows) Patton Oswalt’s Hedges upgrades her to the Arc Laser version, with a UVA string that can slice through vampire’s necks like a knife through butter. This means she’s capable of both long and short range combat, making her even more of a threat to the undead than she was before.
4. ZERO’S Z-SABER (MEGAMAN)
Zero was created by Dr. Albert Wiley to be the best of all of his creations — even better than Megaman. (He’d definitely win in a “Best Ponytail” contest, hands down.) He also provides some pretty stiff competition when it comes to beam sabers too. His Z-Saber is described as an “energy blade” and is his main weapon through the Megaman X and Megaman Zero games.
Though it’s not especially original in the laser sword world when it comes to design, it does have most others beat when it comes to the variety of attack types it can perform. Zero can send out bursts of energy to attack enemies from a distance, change its length, shape and power levels and even its composition to fire or ice, which defies science… but, who cares! It’s really cool.
3. ENERGY BLADES (DRAGON BALL)
Dragon Ball characters have been known to do some pretty neat and incredible things by channeling their ki energy. So, it’s probably not that surprising that in a post-Star Wars world, channeling it into some kind of beam sword shape is also an option. One of the most well-known versions is Vegito’s (Goku and Vegeta’s fused form) “Spirit Sword,” which is a cross between a sword and an energy blast.
Future Trunks’ “Light Sword” is probably the most conventional-looking example — energy focused into replacing Trunks’ broken sword blade — as is the Buster blade-sized “Sword of Hope” he brandishes when he goes Super Saiyan. And, if we’re going to talk about that, we also have to mention the amazing “Sickle of Sorrow” used by Goku Black in his Super Saiyan Rose form in Dragon Ball Super.
2. BLACK KNIGHT’S PHOTON SWORD (AVENGERS)
Dane Whitman was the inheritor of the “Ebony Blade” (that is exactly as awesome as it sounds.) Forged by Merlyn, the sword was also cursed, though that didn’t stop Dane from wielding it. He used it to become a double agent in the Masters of Evil, eventually proving his mettle to The Avengers. Unfortunately, the Ebony Blade met its (apparent) end but Black Knight got an equally impressive replacement.
His “Photon Sword” also goes by the description “Sunsword” or “Neural Sword” because of its appearance and ability. The glowing blade is a “neural disruptor” that can give a nasty shock to the nervous system of anyone on its receiving end, usually dispatching them pretty quickly. Black Knight can also reverse the energy to form around his fist to deliver the attack as a punch.
1. SUSANOOMON’S CELESTIAL BLADE (DIGIMON FRONTIER)
The “Ultimate War God” deserves the ultimate weapon, and Susanoomon’s “Celestial Blade” certainly fits the bill. This Mega level Digimon shares a name with the mythological Susanoo, the Shinto god of sea and storms from Japanese legend. Like his namesake, Susanoomon is a god capable of both devastating destruction and “cleansing” rebirth, if a network system failure occurs.
The Celestial Blade is how he gets the job done; a super massive sword of energy that extends from a huge piece of artillery, it can cleave the entire Digital World in two — and any poor soul in its way — making it probably the most over-powered laser sword ever created. Essentially, this thing can delete existence so that its master can remake it, like a cosmic pencil with an eraser tip.
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