In all of cinema history, few images are as iconic as a lightsaber igniting before a fight between good and evil. A distinctive symbol of Star Wars, the sabers provide an undeniable thrill when they flare in the dark of a movie theater. But that’s quickly replaced by a distinct chill if the blade is red. Whether it’s Darth Vader boarding a rebel ship or Count Dooku in the caves of Geonosis, a red blade unmistakably belongs to a member of the Sith Order.
Unlike Jedi, who wield various colored blades, those Force-sensitives who have fallen to the Dark Side only wield red sabers.
Sith don’t have much of a choice when it comes to accessorizing their lightsabers. Those in the thrall of the Dark Side can’t connect to the Force in the same way as Jedi. That’s clear in many of their thoughts and actions.
The physical manifestation of offensive attacks like force lightning, which is always intended to cause pain, and their inability to transcend death as a Force ghost are just two examples of the Sith’s relationship to the Force. In Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, we see the resurrected Emperor Palpatine, Darth Sidious, illustrate the Sith approach to both of those. When rejuvenated, the Sith unleashes a tempest of Force lightning beyond the planet’s atmosphere, incapacitating a vast fleet of ships. However, he’s skulking on the Sith planet Exegol because of the complicated, flawed cloning process that his followers hoped would bring him immortality.
Just as they don’t believe, or probably can’t understand, the ability of certain Jedi’s to become one with the Force and achieve immortality as a Force Ghost, they can’t attune to lightsabers. The Sith are motivated by the physical, so it’s not surprising they don’t have the same relationship with the Force as their opponents.
Bleeding a lightsaber
In Star Wars lore, lightsabers are powered by Kyber crystals. These rare Force-sensitive crystals are scattered around various planets and are colorless until they adopt a Jedi.
We’ve seen the flash of white, purple, yellow, orange, and many other lightsabers throughout Star Wars history. Most common are the green blades wielded by wise Jedi like Yoda and the blue blades sometimes carried by Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
But red lightsabers are different. That flaming color results from the unnatural way Sith generate their lightsabers. Lacking a synergy with Kyber crystals, Sith are forced to steal or forge. In various parts of the Star Wars Legends expanded universe, Sith have been known to steal Kybers or synthesize their own. Without any resonance that can empower the force-sensitive crystals, Sith instead imbue genuine or substitute crystals with the fate, hate, and anger inherent to the Dark Side. The way their dark power fills and dominates the crystal has earned the name bleeding.
It’s thought that every Sith seen in the movies has undertaken this process when creating their distinctive lightsaber. From the elegantly curved handle of Darth Sidious’ saber to Darth Maul’s dual blade and Kylo Ren’s rough weapon. The Sith may be limited when it comes to imaginatively colored weapons, but they know how to wield them with deadly style.