A look at whether the myth that the number of a times a lightsaber is ignited in a Star Wars movie correlates inversely to its critical reception.

Is the reception of a Star Wars movie inversely correlated to the number of lightsaber ignitions?

While not directly related to the Kitbashed mission statement of telling the story of the making of Star Wars through its influences, I've often seen the argument that the movies are inversely as good as the number of times a lightsaber is ignited. Without passing any judgement, I'd like to put some numbers on that theory by comparing the uses of the lightsaber in the individual Star Wars movies to the reception they've had with critics and the general public. So using a video of all of the on-screen ignitions and retractions, I counted the number of ignitions and charted it up against the average review scores of the movies, based on scores from MetaCritic, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, to look for correlation.

Episode Ignitions MetaCritic RT IMDb Average
IV 3 91 93 88 91
V 3 78 97 88 88
VI 5 52 79 84 72
I 18 51 57 65 58
II 25 53 67 67 62
III 35 68 80 77 75

Ignition Count vs. Average Review Score

Review Scores

It's striking just how little lightsabers were used in the original trilogy, while prequels has no less than six times the on-screen ignition of lightsabers. Which of course, it should be said that the story in which the prequels take place naturally leads to. That however is irrelevant to the cold hard numbers, and besides, while there could be said to be some inverse correlation between lightsaber ignitions and the reception of the film, it's worth noting how each of the prequels have both an increasing amount of ignitions, as well as an increasing average review score.

In other words; while you could argue that there's a general tendency when look on a per trilogy basis, the reception of each individual film doesn't actually support this.


Howard Chaykin & The Swashbuckling Space Pirates

Michael Heilemann

6-18-67 (1967)

Michael Heilemann
Early Career