There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is the best "Star Wars" character and those who are wrong. This article is tailor-made for the former, but it may sway folks from the latter view. Regardless of your position on scoundrels, there is little doubt that Han has had a ton of memorable moments across the four "Star Wars" films he's been in. This article delves into the best of those.
One scene you won't see included is Han shooting Greedo (first!) before the Rodian can kill him. If we had easy access to the original cut, this scene would be a no-brainer, as it firmly establishes who Han is right from the beginning. It is rare indeed to start a heroic character's arc with a murder, justified or not. Since the Special Editions edited out this scene, we're reluctantly leaving it off our list.
You've Never Heard Of The Millennium Falcon?
Apart from the memorable opening in which the star destroyer hijacks the much-smaller Rebel starship, the very first "Star Wars" film starts really slow. The droids wander the desert, get droid-napped, and end up adopted into Luke Skywalker's (Mark Hamill) family. Then, we get into Tatooine domesticity, a monotony of chores and lectures soothed only by blue milk. It's no wonder R2-D2 runs away. Things get more interesting once Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) enters the story, but even that's more intrigue than excitement.
"A New Hope" doesn't come to life until Han Solo enters the picture. Obi-Wan warns Luke about the type of people they'll encounter in Mos Eisley, but Han is something noticeably different. He carries himself like an old-fashioned snake oil salesman selling elixirs out of the back of his wagon — charming, yes, but with a notable sheen of disrepute — which is why his initial sales pitch is so humorous. He expects the mere name of his ship to shock and awe his potential customers, but neither Obi-Wan nor Luke has ever heard of it. You can see Han almost deflate as his carefully constructed mystique is so indifferently punctured.
Han is always nimble on his feet, and he counters with the infamous line, "It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs." Obi-Wan and Luke respond with blank expressions, which prompts Han to brag about outrunning Imperial starships. Han settles the matter by declaring the ship is "fast enough for you, old man." It is a memorable introduction to one of cinema's greatest anti-heroes.
Hokey Religions And Ancient Weapons
After shooting his way out of Mos Eisley, escaping Tatooine (I'm sure we'll never go back to that boring old dustball, right?), and demonstrating that the Millennium Falcon really does "got it where it counts," Han comes out of the cockpit to lounge with his passengers. He mostly wants to brag about how great of a pilot he is, but nobody pays attention. Obi-Wan and Luke are engrossed in lightsaber training.
Han starts laughing when Luke gets stung by the training droid and offers his own bit of hard-won pragmatism. "I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny." His pessimism remains in place even after Luke successfully deflects three laser bolts with a blast shield over his face. "Good against remotes is one thing. Good against the living? That's something else." This scene firmly establishes exactly who Han Solo is, even more so than his introduction in the cantina.
Boring Conversation Anyway.
We finally learn the truth about Han Solo midway through "A New Hope." Beneath the bluster and bravado, he's a bit of a doofus. Han has a habit of reacting instead of stopping to think. He's an incredible improviser and can squeak out of most situations because of it, but sometimes, he's just a lovable goof making things worse.
Luke plays to Han's inherent greed to convince him to help rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). They slap a pair of handcuffs on Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and stride into the detention center as easily as you please. Then, they shoot up the place. While Luke goes to spring the princess, Han turns to the command console and answers an incoming call.
Han tries to convince the Imperial on the line that everything is alright, "situation normal," but his awkward attempts only escalate the situation. First, he claims there is a weapons malfunction, which sounds pretty ominous, and then, he ups the ante by saying they are dealing with a reactor leak! It's no wonder the Imperial demands to know who he's talking to. In true Han fashion, rather than hanging up the call, He shoots the console. Front to back, this is one of the most hilarious scenes in all of "Star Wars," and my favorite Han Solo moment.
While returning to the Millennium Falcon, Han and the others turn a corner and come face-to-face with a group of Stormtroopers. Ever the impulsive one, Han instinctively blasts one of the Stormtroopers and then charges into them. Incredibly, the stormtroopers run!
Han pursues the stormtroopers down a corridor, yelling as he goes. Stealth is out the window at this point. It's hard to imagine what exactly Han has in mind here. The only logical explanation is that he has nothing in mind. Eventually, his head will catch up with his feet, and he'll ask, "What are you doing?!?" Until then, charge!
He rounds a corner and finds his quarry has stopped to wait for him … along with about 30 more stormtroopers. In the original cut, Han stumbles into the room to find only a handful of stormtroopers and hits the brakes. This is one of the few places where the Special Edition improved on the original. Han's reaction to seeing all those stormtroopers is priceless, and he quickly reverses course.
After Han delivers on his promise and rescues the princess, he immediately starts loading all those containers of credits onto the Falcon. Money is no good if you are dead, and he knows what is coming. Luke tries to talk him out of leaving but ends up frustrated. Even Chewie seems aggrieved that they aren't staying to help their new friends. Han claims he knows what he's doing, and in a sense, he does. He's looking out for himself.
The Rebels climb in their meager assortment of starfighters and proceed with their plans to attack the Death Star. Han says the plan is suicide, and he's right. The fight isn't going well for the Rebels. After nearly everyone in Red Squadron is wiped out, it falls to Luke to save the day. Unfortunately, Darth Vader himself is on Luke's tail.
Han arrives in the nick of time, riding to the rescue like the cowboy he is. He gives a hearty "yahoo!" over the radio, distracting Vader. Han fires at the Dark Lord of the Sith and his wingmen, freeing up Luke to take the pivotal shot. The climax of "A New Hope" remains thrilling no matter how many times you see it. However, the highlight is not Luke making the shot. There's a reason this feels almost anticlimactic. The rising action concludes with Han's return. Luke is the story's hero, but the resolution of Han's character arc is just as important to the film.
I Thought They Smelled Bad On The Outside,
In the "Star Wars" of old, the only people who used lightsabers were either Jedi or dark siders (the term Sith is not introduced in the films until 1999's "The Phantom Menace"), which is why it was a fun surprise when Han uses one briefly in "The Empire Strikes Back." My reaction upon first seeing it was basically, "You can do that?"
It turns out he can! After Luke goes missing on Hoth, Han sets out to find him despite the plummeting temperatures and the assurance that his Tauntaun will freeze before he reaches the first marker. This is a marked difference from the guy willing to run at the first sign of trouble. Han finds Luke unconscious in the snow, mumbling incoherently. As Han sorts out what to do, his Tauntaun keels over and breathes its last. Han has a brief "oh crap" moment and then quickly gets to work.
Han ignites Luke's lightsaber and slices open the Tauntaun's belly. Entrails come pouring out. Han then shoves Luke into the Tauntaun. It's an ingenious way of keeping his friend alive, but man, talk about gross!
Never Tell Me The Odds.
The evacuation of Hoth goes swimmingly for everyone not aboard the Millennium Falcon. Part of that is due to Han's reluctance to leave until he's sure Leia is on a transport. A collapsing tunnel means the Millennium Falcon becomes that means of escape. Unfortunately, they can't get the ship to start because Chewie tore out half of its system for repairs. This leads to a close call when Darth Vader himself enters the hangar. The ship limps into space, and in the immortal words of Anakin Skywalker, this is where the fun begins.
The Falcon leads several Star Destroyers on a merry space chase amid Han's attempts to fix the broken hyperdrive. This sequence (and the following one in which Han flies directly at a Star Destroyer and secretly docks with it) is Han Solo at his best: scrappy, barely holding on by his fingernails, and defying all odds. Speaking of odds…
Han takes the arrival of asteroids as a godsend and decides to fly into the chaotic field of spinning space rocks. As he points out, "They'd be crazy to follow us." The asteroids pulverize the pursuing TIE fighters and provide a convenient place to hide and attempt to repair the ship. That Han never fixes the hyperdrive just adds to his charm.
Bringing A Gun To A Lightsaber Fight
Despite Han's best efforts, his luck finally runs out, thanks largely to his good "friend," Lando (Billy Dee Williams). Through the magic of hyperspace technology, Darth Vader and his goons arrive at Bespin long before the Millennium Falcon can limp its way there. Vader "negotiates" with Lando and sets a trap for Han.
Han arrives, oblivious to what's going on, and spends some time luxuriating on Lando's dime. After our heroes are settled and cleaned up, Lando invites them to join him for refreshments. On the way, he talks Han's ear off about business and some mysterious deal he's just made to keep the Empire out of Cloud City. Before Han can question that, Lando opens a door, revealing Darth Vader sitting at a long dinner table.
Always the gunslinger, he draws his blaster and starts firing. However, Darth Vader has the Force, and unfortunately for Han, it's not a lot of simple tricks and nonsense. Still, considering Darth Vader is the most intimidating being in the galaxy, Han's quick-draw reflexes are most impressive.
Despite the hilariously awkward attempts of "Attack of the Clones," "The Empire Strikes Back" is the most romantic "Star Wars film." Han and Leia had a mostly contemptuous relationship in "A New Hope." Luke seemed a better match along any axis (except for that whole "we're siblings" retcon). The sequel changes that by placing Han and Leia in close quarters and letting them get their hands dirty as the Empire breathes down their necks. It turns out, Leia does like scruffy-looking nerf herders. It probably helps that Han Solo is one of the most courageous characters of all time.
Unfortunately, their budding relationship is put on ice — or Carbonite. Darth Vader's purpose in pursuing Han and Leia is to use them as bait for Luke Skywalker. He decides to do a little experimenting with carbon freezing, electing to use Solo as the guinea pig. Interestingly, Vader allows Leia and Chewbacca to observe the procedure and say their goodbyes. Maybe he's just being cruel.
Faced with the very real prospect that Han may die, Leia confesses her true feelings. Han responds as only he can, with a confident "I know." There is no gloating in the statement, only assurance and regret. That Harrison Ford ad-libbed the line solidifies the moment as one of the greatest in cinema history.
Chewie, We're Home.
Objectively, this moment is nothing special. If anything, it's kind of sad. Sometime in the 32 years between "Return of the Jedi" and "The Force Awakens," Han Solo goes from being General Solo, hero of the Rebellion and Princess Leia's bae, to a washed-up has-been who lost his most prized possession to a third-rate junker named Unkar Plutt (Simon Pegg). My, how the mighty have fallen.
Yet, from a meta perspective, the moment when the Millennium Falcon's hatch opens and Han Solo and Chewbacca step onto the fabled ship again is very special. It's the kind of thing that makes grown men cry. Again, it had been 32 years since we'd last seen these characters. Unlike Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, there was genuine doubt that Harrison Ford would ever return to the galaxy far, far away. The fact that he was back as the infamous Han Solo felt like a genuine miracle, and that imbued our first glimpse of the scoundrel with special meaning.
It's True. All Of It.
Though Han's antics in "The Force Awakens" make it seem like nothing's really changed (for better or worse), he is no longer the cocksure young pilot he used to be. Never is this more evident than when he admits to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) that he knew Luke Skywalker. He then becomes their Obi-Wan and starts teaching them about the Force.
"I used to wonder that myself. Thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. A magical power holding together good and evil, the dark side and the light. Crazy thing is, it's true. The Force, the Jedi, all of it." It's not just Han's admission that the Force is real that makes this such a great moment or even the complete 180 from his cocky assurance that the Force was nonsense and cheap tricks. It's the look on Han's face. His emotions are nakedly visible: sadness, regret, and chagrin. This scene is a brilliant bit of acting from Harrison Ford.
I Never Ask That Question 'Til After I've Done It.
It doesn't take long to realize how Han could've lost the Millennium Falcon. Soon after we reunite with our favorite scoundrel, two parties to whom he promised cargo to arrive to collect. As amusing as it is watching Han squirm in a trap of his own making, the situation quickly escalates when said cargo escapes and starts eating everyone.
Han and Chewie shoot their way out and reunite with Finn and Rey at the Falcon. As Finn tries to corral the wounded Wookiee, Han and Rey meet in the cockpit. Han indicates that they'll be jumping to lightspeed from the hangar, which is the "Star Wars" equivalent of going from zero to 100 with the parking brake on. Han's confession that he doesn't know if it's possible — and that he doesn't even consider plausibility until after he's attempted something — explains much about how he makes the impossible probable. Call it the power of positive thinking or simply the bliss of ignorance, but Han manifests his own destiny.
That's Not How The Force Works!
Desperate to rescue Rey from Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Finn talks his way into accompanying Han and Chewie by claiming he can bring down Starkiller Base's shields. After they land on the planet, Han discovers that Finn has no practical experience with shields at all. He worked in sanitation. It's the same brand of "fake it till you make it" that Han is an expert at.
If Han recognizes the irony, he doesn't take it well. "People are counting on us! The galaxy is counting on us…" Finn cuts him off with a simple solution: They'll use the Force. Han is rightfully incredulous. He knows just as well as we that the Force doesn't work like that. It's a fun bit of role reversal that ties together Han's entire history with the Force, from disinterested skeptic to firsthand witness. Yet, what sells the scene is Han's disgust and anger. He takes it personally.
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