ByErik Arndt, writer at
writer, critic, and fan of stories and all the ways they're told / @proven_fiction
Erik Arndt

"Han Shot First" has become a rallying cry for hardcore Star Wars fans. Suppose for a moment that Han shot second — would that really be so bad? If you're reading this article, I'd wager that you're already familiar with the classic scene — the one that serves as Han Solo's introduction — so I won't bother going into detail to explain the context. Let's take a closer look at the controversy, why it matters and why the alternative isn't so bad after all.

The Problem

If you look back at the original cut, it's unclear who shot first. Instead, there's just noise and a cloud of smoke, then Greedo falls over dead. In the 1997 special edition, Greedo clearly shoots first. George Lucas claims that he was clearing up the situation, but many fans believe he changed the scene.

Not all that long ago, the original script revealed that Han was supposed to shoot first, but Lucas insists that he had always intended to direct it such that Greedo shot first.

So which is the "real" version?

Does It Matter?

Yes, it does. Since this is the audience's introduction to Han Solo, his actions tell us a lot about his character. This establishes our first impression of the character. We have a different perspective on who Han is depending on whether he shot first or second.

'A New Hope' [Credit: Lucasfilm]
'A New Hope' [Credit: Lucasfilm]

Why Han-Shot-First Is A Good Thing

If Han shot first:

  • He is immediately established as a rogue, which is a big part of his charm.
  • He is seen more as an antihero, making his development as a hero more rewarding.
  • He proves himself to be someone you don't want to mess with.

Most outspoken fans favor these attributes, but is the alternative any worse?

Why Han-Shot-Second Is Also Good

If Greedo shot first, but Han still won the firefight:

  • He's good at reading people, knowing just when Greedo was about to shoot and dodged it just in time.
  • He is instantly proven as a competent gunslinger. He pulls the trigger a fraction of a second after being fired at, and his shot from the hips didn't miss.
  • His subsequent swagger shows that he can easily handle tense situations, even life-and-death ones.

Fans already know how good Han is at what he does, but a first-time viewer might be more impressed with Han's skill upon first meeting him if Greedo had shot first. I might even argue that the three points for Han-Shot-First also apply here, even if they are diminished somewhat. Wouldn't that make Han-Shot-Second a better option?


Either way, Han is someone you don't want to mess with. One, because he is ruthless, and two, because he is quick and skillful. In both scenarios, he's an arrogant badass. I'm not trying to convince anyone that Han shot second, but I just wanted to show that Greedo shooting first isn't that bad, and it still has really interesting implications about Han Solo's character.


Which of Han Solo's character traits is more important to you?


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