[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Do not read this article unless you’ve seen the film!]
When promotional material for Star Wars: The Force Awakens showed Finn wielding Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber on the snowy surface of Starkiller Base, most people presumed that he was the one “awakened” with a sensitivity to the Force. However, the movie revealed that Finn didn’t have any abilities with the Force at all and used the lightsaber in battle (multiple times) because it was what he happened to have on hand.
Non-Force users typically have problems wielding a lightsaber as they’re specifically made for those strong in the Force. In fact, Finn joins a very exclusive list of non-Force users in the Star Wars universe who have used lightsabers, either as a tool or as a weapon in battle. Here are five other examples in the Star Wars universe where a non-Force user has wielded a lightsaber:
Han Solo (Empire Strikes Back)
There’s only one instance of a non-Force user wielding a lightsaber in the Original Trilogy and it’s rather messy. After discovering Luke in the wintery wastelands of Hoth suffering from severe frostbites and injuries from a wampa attack, Han Solo tries to bring his friend back to the Rebel’s base. Unfortunately, as the temperatures continue to drop and a cold storm brews overhead, Han realizes he needs to act quickly before the cold temperatures kill them both. Using Luke’s lightsaber, Han cuts open his tauntaun (who had already succumbed to the cold temperature) and sticks Luke inside its entrails to keep him warm until he can build a makeshift shelter. It isn’t a pretty (or clean smelling) solution, but Han’s quick thinking saves the day and they both make a quick recovery just in time for the Empire’s attack on the planet.
General Grievous (Revenge of the Sith)
Unlike Han Solo, who only used a lightsaber as an emergency tool, General Grievous, the cybernetic leader of the Separatist armies, delighted in dueling his Jedi foes with lightsabers. Thanks to special cybernetic brain enhancements, Grievous could wield up to four lightsabers at once, spinning them in unison to fight multiple foes simultaneously. Although the Separatist general fought off a small army of Jedi during his first appearance, Grievous was no match for Obi-Wan Kenobi. During their final duel, Obi-Wan killed the cyborg not with a lightsaber, but rather with the general’s own blaster.
Cad Bane (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
A notorious bounty hunter operating during the Clone Wars, Cad Bane often ran afoul of Republic forces after Separatist forces began hiring him for dangerous missions. While Bane preferred using twin blaster pistols, he did use a lightsaber in a fight against Obi-Wan Kenobi and fellow Jedi Quinlan Vos. After defeating Vos, Bane briefly fought Obi-Wan with Vos’s lightsaber. Although Obi-Wan quickly disarmed Bane, the bounty hunter regained the upper hand by electrocuting Obi-Wan and escaping before Vos could catch the bounty hunter.
Pre Vizsla (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
Another Clone Wars character, Pre Vizsla was the leader of the Death Watch, a Mandalorian terrorist organization dedicated to returning Mandalore back to its warrior roots. Although Vizsla wasn’t a Jedi, he wielded the Darksaber, a special black-bladed lightsaber stolen from the Jedi during the ancient Mandalorian Wars. After failing to overthrow the Mandalorian government on his own, Vizsla teamed up with a resurrected Darth Maul to stage a fake attack on the Mandalorian capital and set up the Death Watch as the heroic saviors. When Vizsla’s plan worked, he double-crossed Maul, leading to a lightsaber duel to determine who was the true leader of the Death Watch. While Vizsla had spent a lifetime training with the Darksaber, he was no match for Maul and his Sith abilities. Maul beheaded Vizsla and established himself as the new leader of the Mandalorian’s army (and took the Darksaber as a bonus).
LEGENDS: Boba Fett (Legacy of the Force: Revelation)
While this final entry doesn’t “officially” count as it’s part of the now defunct Expanded Universe canon, the prospect of Boba Fett using a lightsaber is just too cool of a concept to pass up. After her twin brother Jacen turns to the Dark Side, Jaina Solo (the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia) travels to Mandalore to train under Boba Fett, knowing that one day she’ll have to kill her twin brother. Although Fett’s never had any formal training with a lightsaber, he held his own against the Jedi during sparring sessions and taught her how to level the field against a superior opponent. Jaina took Fett's lessons to heart and she eventually killed her brother in an epic and brutal lightsaber battle.
Fett also wielded a lightsaber against Darth Vader in a non-canon Star Wars Tales comic, in one of several brief but brutal duels between the two fearsome villains.