If you are a Star Wars fan, or a Han Solo admirer, you may be familiar with the phrase, “Han Shot First”. A notable phrase spoken by enthusiasts, it has been used by individuals to offer their opinion on a scene from Episode IV: A New Hope. In this scene, we witness a standoff between Han Solo, and bounty hunter Greedo. What happens next is the true root of the origin of Han shot first.
Who Shot First?
The standoff between Han Solo and Greedo first appeared in the original 1977 Star Wars film. In this version, the series of events in the standoff is pretty straightforward: Han Solo is the first and only person to fire a shot, killing Greedo.
However, the issue of who shot first is complicated in the special edition re-release version of the film, which includes various edits, additions, and revisions. In this alternate version, which was released in 1997, much of the scene sets up the same way. However, when it comes time for Solo to fire his shot, we actually see Greedo shoot first. Shortly after, Solo responds with a shot of his own, still killing Greedo.
With two different versions showing different accounts of what happened, the question at hand is, who really shot first? This issue has led to the popularity of the phrase Han shot first, which fans use to assert that the scene from the original, 1977 theatrical release is correct. The phrase discredits the changes made to the film by George Lucas, the series creator. In a broader sense, Han shot first can also be used to express displeasure at the special edition re-release version altogether.
Han Shot First Background
When Star Wars was first released in 1977, people instantly became enamored by the fictional worlds and characters from this galaxy far, far away. Fans and critics alike were quick to heap praise on the film.
However, in the years following its initial release, George Lucas would from time to time state that he was not happy with how everything turned out throughout the film and its successors. To mark the 20th anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars, Lucas re-released a Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition in 1997.
Lucas was not happy with how the standoff between Han Solo and Greedo was depicted. He would alter this scene, and many others. Most changes Lucas made were more aesthetic. Using CGI, he would try make the worlds he had initially created more vibrant and active. However, while most people didn’t seem to mind the small additions he made in the background of certain scenes, it was his decision to fundamentally change some that upset fans the most.
The standoff scene in particular would rile fans. Many would argue that the new addition, where Greedo shoots first and misses, was not an accurate depiction of what was supposed to actually happen. Lucas would eventually alter the scene once again in an even later release, with both characters shooting at the same time.
While fans debate who shot first, Lucas himself has been quoted as saying “to me, [the original movie] doesn’t really exist anymore… I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be.”
Regardless of how the scene is actually supposed to play out, there is no question that the changes to the original version have polarized fans. In fact, some die-hard fans were so distraught by the scene change, they created an online petition demanding the edits to be retracted.
Many fans feel that the new scene diminishes the character of Han Solo a bit. To some, Greedo shooting first seems to alter Han’s initially morally ambiguous character. Others feel that it makes Solo seem inept. And then you have others, like Harrison Ford, the actor who portrayed Solo, who say “I don’t care,” loyal more to the films, than the specifics of what happens in them.
Whether you are a die-hard fan, have never watched the films, or simply can’t be bothered with all the nitty gritty details, at least the next time you hear “Han Shot First”, you can smile, knowing if nothing else, you know what it means!
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.