The Force (Star Wars)

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The Force is a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas. Introduced in the first Star Wars film (1977), it is wielded primarily by the Jedi and Sith monastic orders and is a part of all subsequent Star Wars works, including the Star Wars Legends collection of comic books, novels, and video games. The line "May the Force be with you", spoken in each of the Star Wars films, has become part of the pop culture vernacular and is iconic of the series.


In the original Star Wars film (1977), later dubbed A New Hope, the Force is first described by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi:

The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.[1]

Throughout the series, characters exhibit various paranormal powers that rely on the Force, such as telekinesis and empathy. The Force has a negative and destructive aspect called the "dark side", which feeds off emotions such as fear, anger, greed, pride, jealousy and hate. Jedi Master Yoda explains to his pupil Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back (1980):

Anger, fear, aggression! The dark side of the Force are they ... a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack.[2]

As the Force connects all living things, Force-sensitive individuals may feel what is called a "disturbance in the Force" when death or suffering occurs on a massive scale, when a Jedi or Sith rises in power or when in the presence of such a person. When the planet Alderaan is destroyed in A New Hope, Obi-Wan senses "a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced".[1] In The Empire Strikes Back, Emperor Palpatine feels a similar disturbance upon realizing that Luke poses a threat to him. The Force is naturally stronger in some people than others, and some who are not significantly gifted can still be sensitive to the Force in varying degrees. Force-sensitive individuals may be able to sense each other's presence and emotions across distances, as Luke and Princess Leia do in The Empire Strikes Back.

Related abilities [edit]

The Force can enhance natural, physical and mental abilities, including strength, stamina, speed and accuracy. In A New Hope, the Force aids Luke in launching proton torpedoes with precision into a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port on the Death Star.[3] Count Dooku, Emperor Palpatine and Yoda, despite age or size, are able to competently fight younger or larger opponents than themselves in the Star Wars prequel trilogy of films.[4]

A number of other paranormal, psionic Force powers are demonstrated in the film series, including telekinesis, levitation, hypnosis, and mind control, as well as extra sensory perception based abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and enhanced empathy. Darth Vader telekinetically chokes Admiral Motti using the Force in A New Hope,[5][6] and Jedi and Sith can telekinetically summon their lightsabers into their hands from across a room.[7] They are also able to influence and control the minds of others by making use of the "Jedi mind trick", or using the Force to implant suggestions with which the subject is compelled to comply.[8] Obi-Wan uses this ability in A New Hope to convince a stormtrooper that "These aren't the droids you're looking for."[9] This same trick is used by neophyte Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).[10] In that film, First Order commander Kylo Ren uses the Force to restrain others in a paralyzing telekinetic hold, suppress their motor skills, levitate them in the air or render them unconscious. He uses telekinetic force to interrogate and torture Poe Dameron and Rey by invading their thoughts, emotions and memories in a manner that causes discomfort and pain. He is also able to suspend in mid-air, a blaster bolt fired at him.[11][12]

The Sith are able to generate a lightning-like manifestation of the dark side of the Force that can be used either in combat or as an instrument of torture, as demonstrated by the Emperor in Return of the Jedi (1983).[13] Conversely, Yoda demonstrates an ability to absorb, dissipate and deflect these energy attacks in Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).[4] In the 2008 animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Force is used to manipulate memory and thoughts. The Force can be also used to control animals to an extent, connecting to them through an empathic link as shown in Attack of the Clones and the 2014 TV series Star Wars: Rebels.

The development and use of Force abilities requires intense willpower, discipline and concentration, which becomes easier with practice. Use of the Force requires considerable effort and energy, and can be physically draining.

In the Star Wars Legends works, which take place in an alternate continuity, the Force can be used to manipulate and erase thoughts and memories, turn victims to the Dark Side, destroy the mind completely, give the victim hallucinations, cause a victim pain and torment, heal or drain the life force of others, increase resistance to attack, warp space and resist pain.

The dark side[edit]

The dark side of the Force is a concept which represents a corruptive and addictive aspect of the Force that is rejected by the Jedi, who view it as evil.[14] The series' villains, the Sith, embrace the dark side in order to seize power.[15] As portrayed in all Star Wars-related media, the dark side provides powers similar to those of the Jedi, but draws energy from passion and violence, an energy that is enhanced by negative raw and aggressive emotions and instinctual feelings such as anger, greed, hatred, and rage. It is embraced by the Sith as their source of power. Extended indulgence of the dark side creates a loss of humanity, morality, empathy, and the ability to love, leaving the Sith amoral, cruel, selfish, sadistic and violent. Considering this dark change in personality to be a transformation into a different person altogether, when some turn to the dark side, they take on different names, as their former persona and identity is dead and destroyed. This is a common practice among members of the Sith, who use the title of Darth; for example, Anakin Skywalker assumes the name "Darth Vader" when he becomes a Sith Lord. The Jedi's compassionate and selfless use of the Force has come to be known by inference as "the light side." In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it is explained that two versions of the Force exist: the Living Force that resides in all life forms and the Cosmic Force which feeds on the Living Force and binds everything together through the midi-chlorians.

The Force Awakens depicts a new organization of dark side users, the Knights of Ren, who serve under the First Order's Supreme Leader Snoke.


The prequel film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) introduces the concept of midi-chlorians:

Midi-chlorians are a microscopic lifeform that reside within all living cells and communicate with the Force. ... Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force. — Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson)

Every living being has a connection to the Force, but one must have a high enough concentration of midi-chlorians in one's cells to become a Jedi or a Sith.[16][17] Lucas notes that the midi-chlorians are based on the endosymbiotic theory.[18] He told Time in 2010:

Midi-chlorians are a loose depiction of mitochondria, which are necessary components for cells to divide. They probably had something–which will come out someday–to do with the beginnings of life and how one cell decided to become two cells with a little help from this other little creature who came in, without whom life couldn’t exist. And it’s really a way of saying we have hundreds of little creatures who live on us, and without them, we all would die. There wouldn’t be any life. They are necessary for us; we are necessary for them. Using them in the metaphor, saying society is the same way, says we all must get along with each other.[19]

In the prequel films, an ancient prophecy foretells the appearance of a Chosen One imbued with a high concentration of midi-chlorians, strong with the Force and destined to bring balance to it. Qui-Gon Jinn assumes the Chosen One is Anakin Skywalker, who possesses the highest concentration of midi-chlorians the Jedi Council has ever seen. It is postulated that Anakin had possibly been conceived within his mother Shmi Skywalker by the midi-chlorians themselves through a form of parthenogenesis.[16]

In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin that a Sith Lord, Darth Plagueis, had the ability to use the dark side to influence midi-chlorians to create life and to prevent people from dying. Having foreseen the death of his wife Padmé Amidala, Anakin is seduced to the dark side in the hope of acquiring this power.

Force ghosts[edit]

Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi appearing as Force ghosts in Return of the Jedi (1983)

In The Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan (who dies in A New Hope) appears as a ghost to Luke on Hoth, and again to Luke and Yoda on Dagobah. In Return of the Jedi, Luke converses with the ghost on Dagobah after Yoda's death, then sees their two spirits alongside that of Anakin during the celebration on Endor at the end of the film. Luke had previously heard the voice of a dead Obi-Wan in A New Hope, saying "Run, Luke, run!", and again during the Battle of Yavin.

Yoda and Obi-Wan's body is seen to vanish upon death, leaving behind only clothing. This and his enigmatic final words appear to perplex Darth Vader. Yoda's body also disappears upon his death, while Anakin/Vader's does not appear to. Luke later burns Vader's armor in a pyre, including his helmet and faceplate; the novelization of the film explains that Anakin's body did disappear and that the armor is empty.

In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn's body does not vanish after his death fighting Darth Maul, and his remains are burned in a pyre on Naboo. In the film's DVD commentary, Lucas indicated that this apparent discontinuity was a plot point that would be revisited. Revenge of the Sith establishes that the ability to return as a Force spirit is a recently discovered and complex discipline unknown to most Jedi. Yoda informs Obi-Wan that the late Qui-Gon Jinn discovered "the path to immortality": the secret of how to retain his identity after death by absorption into the Force. Yoda says that Qui-Gon's spirit will instruct Obi-Wan in this discipline during his exile on Tatooine. The four-part series finale of the Clone Wars series details how Yoda also acquires the right to learn the technique from Qui-Gon, who reveals that he had not fully mastered manifesting a semi-physical form at the time of his death compared to Yoda and Obi-Wan. George Lucas has since indicated on the Revenge of the Sith DVD commentary that the appearance of Vader's former self, Anakin Skywalker, as a Force spirit at the end of Return of the Jedi is due to Yoda and Obi-Wan's spirits helping him extend his identity out of the Force.

Influences and themes[edit]

Lucas has attributed his inspiration for the Force to the 1963 abstract film 21-87 by Arthur Lipsett. The film contains an audio conversation between artificial intelligence pioneer Warren Sturgis McCulloch and cinematographer Roman Kroitor, who later developed IMAX. With McCulloch arguing that "living beings are nothing but highly complex machines", Kroitor suggested that "Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God." Lucas said that his use of the term "the Force" in Star Wars was "an echo of that phrase in 21-87". He added, "Similar phrases have been used extensively by many different people for the last 13,000 years to describe the 'life force'."[20]

Asked whether the Force is God in the Star Wars universe, Lucas replied:

I put the Force into the movies in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people. More a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system. The real question is to ask the question; because if you have enough interest in the mysteries of life to ask the questions "Is there a God?" or "Is there not a God?" that's for me is the worst thing that can happen. If you asked a young person "Is there a God?" and they said "I don't know" I think you should have an opinion about that. I think there is a God, no question. What that God is or what we know about that God, I am not sure. The one thing I know about life and the nature of the human race is that the human race has always believed it's known everything. Even the cavemen thought they had it all figured out and they knew everything there was to know about everything because that's where mythology came from. It's constructing some kind of context for the unknown. I would say that cavemen on a scale understood about one. Now we've made it up to about five. The only thing is that most people don't realize is that the scale goes to a million.[21]


"May the Force be with you" redirects here. For other uses, see May the Force be with you (disambiguation).
"May the Force be with you"
Character Han Solo
Various others
Actor Harrison Ford
Various others
First used in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Voted #8 in AFI's 100 Movie Quotes poll

The expression "May the Force be with you" has been held as the most memorable quote from the films, and is iconic of the franchise. The line has been said by at least one character in each of the Star Wars movies.

In 2005, the line "May the Force be with you" was chosen as number 8 on the American Film Institute list, AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes.[22] May 4 is Intergalactic Star Wars Day, taken from the pun "May the Fourth be with you".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in Star Wars (1977).
  2. ^ Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) in The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. ^ Casey, Dan (2015). 100 Things Star Wars Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. Triumph Books. ISBN 978-1629371641. 
  4. ^ a b "The 10: Best Fights". September 9, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Richard LeParmentier Dead: Star Wars Actor Dies At 66". The Huffington Post. April 17, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  6. ^ Gower, Eleanor (April 17, 2013). "Star Wars actor Richard LeParmentier dies aged 66... 35 years after he was choked by Darth Vader". Daily Mail. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  7. ^ Lucas, George (2005). "200 Int. Mustafar - Main Control Center - Day". Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Illustrated Screenplay. Del Rey Books. ISBN 978-0345431356. 
  8. ^ "Databank: Jedi Mind Trick". Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  9. ^ Shapiro, Ben (December 5, 2012). "Jedi Mind Trick Nation". Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  10. ^ Kain, Erik (January 4, 2016). "No, Rey From Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is Not A Mary Sue". Forbes. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  11. ^ "14 things Star Wars fans will love about The Force Awakens". The Telegraph. December 17, 2015. Retrieved December 29, 2015. 
  12. ^ Leon, Melissa (December 27, 2015). "Emo Kylo Ren: Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Polarizing Villain". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 30, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Databank: Force Lightning". Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  14. ^ Decker, Kevin S.; Eberl, Jason T. (2005). Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine. Open Court. ISBN 0-8126-9583-6. 
  15. ^ "Databank: Sith". Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Brooks, Terry (1999). Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. New York: Ballantine Books. 
  17. ^ Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) says in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace: "...the reading's off the chart... over twenty thousand. Even Master Yoda doesn't have a midi-chlorian count that high!" Later, at a Jedi Council meeting, Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) says: "His cells contain a high concentration of midi-chlorians." Ki-Adi Mundi: "The Force is strong with him."
  18. ^ Rolling Stone, June 2005
  19. ^ Narcisse, Evan (August 10, 2010). "20,000 Per Cell: Why Midi-chlorians Suck". Time. 
  20. ^ Silberman, Steve (May 2005). "Life After Darth". Wired. 
  21. ^ The Mythology of Star Wars (2000 documentary)
  22. ^ American Film Institute. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes". 
  23. ^ Star Wars day: May the 4th be with you, My Fox Chattanooga, May 4, 2010 .

Further reading[edit]

  • Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Revised Core Rulebook, hardcover, 2002. Bill Slavicsek, Andy Collins, J.D. Wiker, ISBN 0-7869-2876-X
  • Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Power of the Jedi Sourcebook, hardcover, 2002. Michael Mikaelian, Jeff Grubb, Owen K.C. Stephens, James Maliszewski, ISBN 0-7869-2781-X
  • The Dark Side sourcebook, Wizards of the Coast, 1st printing, 2001. Bill Slavicsek, J. D. Wiker, ISBN 0-7869-1849-7
  • The Tao of Star Wars, John M. Porter, Humanics Trade Group, 2003, ISBN 0-89334-385-4.
  • The Dharma of Star Wars, Matthew Bortolin, Wisdom Publications, 2005, ISBN 0-86171-497-0.
  • The Making of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Laurent Bouzereau, Jody Duncan, ISBN 0-345-43111-1
  • Galaxy Guide 4: Alien Races (Revised and Expanded), Troy Denning, West End Games, 1994, ISBN 0-87431-208-6
  • Empire Building: The Remarkable, Real-Life Story of Star Wars, Garry Jenkins, Citadel Press; Revised & Updated Edition, 1999, ISBN 0-8065-2087-6
  • Life After Darth, Steve Silberman, Wired Magazine, May 2005
  • The Sith War, 1st edition trade paperback, 1996. Kevin J. Anderson, ISBN 1-56971-173-9
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Novelisation, 1st edition paperback, 1999. Terry Brooks, George Lucas, ISBN 0-345-43411-0
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Novelisation, 1st edition hardcover, 2005. Matthew Woodring Stover, George Lucas, ISBN 0-7126-8427-1
  • Tales from Jabba's Palace, 1st edition, 1995. Kevin J. Anderson (editor), ISBN 0-553-56815-9
  • "Of the day's annoyances: Bib Fortuna's tale", M. Shayne Bell
  • Vision of the Future, 1st printing, 1998. Timothy Zahn. ISBN 0-553-10035-1

External links[edit]