Star Wars character Darth Vader consistently ranks at the very top of movie villains. His use of the force is epic, his lightsaber abilities are inimitable, and even the sound of his breathing strikes fear into movie-goers everywhere.
So why can’t the toughest villain out there use one of the best Sith powers: force lightning?
Since the first time we saw Darth Sidious aka Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) electrocute Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) with force lightning in Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi, force lightning has been one of the most powerful weapons in the Sith arsenal. It seems like it would go right along with Darth Vader’s signature force choke, and yet we never see him use it.
There has never been an official answer to this within Star War’s cannon, but the reason is pretty easy to infer. Force lightning, according to the official website, is shot “from (a Sith’s) hands by calling on their hatred and aggressive feelings.”
Darth Vader definitely has the aggressive feelings, but what he’s lacking are…the hands. Having lost both arms by the time he was fitted into the Darth Vader suit, force lightning power isn’t possible. The suit also plays a role in the secondary reason Darth Vader can’t use force lightning.
Darth Vader’s trademark suit does more than just make him look imposing; it literally keeps him alive and is sensitive to electrical impulses. So even if he had the hands to create the force lightning, it would probably short out his suit.
Luckily for Darth Vader, he has plenty of other nefarious tools at his disposal. Is he disappointed he can’t zap people with electrical blue lightning? Perhaps, but it’s probably not worth it to him to ‘force’ the issue.