- "I happen to like to shoot first, Rekkon. As opposed to shooting second."
- ―Han Solo
To say "Han shot first" is to refer to George Lucas's changes to the original trilogy. Often cited by film purists, this phrase more specifically refers to a change made to the A New Hope Special Edition, in the scene involving the characters Han Solo and Greedo in the cantina. In the original version, after Greedo says, "I've been looking forward to this moment for a long time," Han replies, "Yes, I bet you have" and shoots Greedo under the table while Greedo is pointing a blaster at him. (Thus, Han didn't merely shoot first; he was the only one who fired.) The change was due to Lucas not wanting Han to come off as a cold-blooded killer, but rather acting in self-defense, with one rumor stating the scene, in its unaltered form, risked giving the entire Special Edition a PG-13 rating, thus limiting the audience for the theatrical run.
In the Special Edition, Greedo shoots at Han and misses, without explanation, from point-blank range, and then Han shoots him. Later, it was altered again to have Han and Greedo shooting at almost the same time (though Greedo still shoots first), with Han dodging out of the way of Greedo's shot. With such a short time between each shot, it could be assumed that Han was already planning to shoot Greedo, rather than reacting to Greedo's shot.
The principal objection from critics seems to be that the change dilutes and compromises Han's rebellious and ruthless nature. The change is felt to detract from Han's antiheroic qualities, and diminishes the character's growth and development over the story from a Machiavellian smuggler who cares only about himself (and his co-pilot Chewbacca) into a committed member of the Rebel Alliance fighting to bring freedom to the galaxy, as his shot is clearly in self-defense.
A secondary objection considers the improbability that Greedo would miss at that range if he fired deliberately. Thus, his gun must have discharged accidentally, a rather unromantic death.
This retroactive sanitizing was loosely paralleled in a 2002 DVD version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, in which the firearms held by police officers in the original 1982 film were digitally altered to two-way radios.
The scene in various media
In the scripts
The January 15, 1976 script portrays the scene thus:
Yes, I'll bet you have.
Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of light. Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the other patrons look on in bemused amazement. Han gets up and starts out of the cantina, flipping the bartender some coins as he leaves.
The March 15 version of the script is identical in this scene except that Greedo is referred to simply as "Alien."
In the novelization
In the novelization, this scene is vague. The book only says that "light and noise filled the little corner of the cantina"; it never specifies who shot first.
In the comic
One of the deleted scenes included in this CD-ROM is an alternate take of the cantina sequence, including the encounter between Greedo and Han. It is a black-and-white work print that lacks any added music or sound effects. Greedo speaks English with a Received Pronunciation accent, speaking his original lines as in the 1976 script. Han shoots him before he can fire a shot.
Behind the Magic plays this earlier cantina sequence side by side for comparison with the modified "Special Edition" version of the same scene from 1997, making it clear that Greedo shooting was added later.
In new canon
A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy contains the first retelling of this scene released following the decision to discontinue the Expanded Universe in favor of a new canon continuity. As described in the novel, Solo reaches for his blaster and slides it from the holster under the table as he is telling Greedo that he doesn't have the money with him. When Solo states "Over my dead body!," Greedo draws his own blaster, points it at Han's heart and replies, "That's the idea. I've been looking forward to killing you for a long time." Solo replies, "Yeah. I'll bet you have." The narration then says that "Greedo disappeared in a blinding flash of white light as Han pulled the trigger. The thump as Greedo's body slumped onto the table made the other cantina patrons look over." There is no mention of Greedo having fired a shot. When asked regarding the matter in an interview slightly before the release of the title, the book's author, Alexandra Bracken, replied "Han, of course!"
However, Star Wars: The Original Trilogy – A Graphic Novel, a 2016 graphic novelization of the films, depicts the scene as it's presented in the 2004 DVD version, with the two characters shooting at approximately the same time and Greedo's shot missing far wide and up. Star Wars: A New Hope Cinestory Comic, a similar title, depicts the scene the same way.
"The Luckless Rodian" is a story from the 40th-anniversary anthology From a Certain Point of View, presenting the events of the scene entirely from Greedo's point of view. Greedo is at no point said to have fired or even considered firing a weapon, and it is said that the last thing he saw was a flash of bright light and his last memory was of bitter injustice. When asked if this depiction made Episode IV's theatrical version the canonical version of the film, however, Lucasfilm Story Group's Matt Martin reiterated that the canon one is the revised version, as the nature of book included making various contradictions.
When A New Hope was released in Disney+, The Walt Disney Company's streaming service, on November 12, 2019, a slight change was added to the scene. While the scene is practically the same from the revised version of 2004, Greedo seems to speak one last word with no current translation before shooting at Han. According to Vanity Fair, this change was made by Lucas himself prior to selling his company to Disney.
George Lucas weighs in
In a February 9, 2012 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, George Lucas indicated that Greedo fired first, even in the original film, and pointed out that the exchange of blaster fire between Han Solo and Greedo was shot in close-up which made the scene ambiguous. This ambiguity, along with viewers' desire for Han Solo to be a cold-blooded killer, caused the audience to draw the wrong conclusions; that is, they only thought Han shot first. Wide shots he added in later releases of the film served to make the actual results of the encounter more obvious. The suggestion, coming several years after the first occurrence of the alleged "change," appears to contradict the film's script and other evidence suggesting that Greedo originally did not fire at Han.
Repercussions in Star Wars media
- Han said that he prefers shooting first, "as opposed to shooting second," in the novel Han Solo at Stars' End, which was published nearly seventeen years before the Special Editions were made.
- In the Shadows of the Empire novel, Wedge Antilles states that the second rule of self-defense is to shoot first and ask questions later.
- In the game Star Wars: Battlefront II it is possible, while playing as Solo, to hear the enemy troops exclaim, "It's Solo, and he's shooting first—that's not fair!"
- A cutscene in LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga shows a LEGO Greedo slamming his fist on the table, attempting to shoot Han and missing, and Han shooting him, which blows Greedo into LEGO bricks, causing him to fall in a pile of limbs.
- At the end of the LEGO Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick mini-movie Greedo can be seen throwing darts in the cantina and, despite standing no more than two feet away, has missed the board with at least five darts, a possible tongue-in-cheek explanation for the unlikeliness of Greedo missing Han.
- Aaron Allston, by way of his novel Legacy of the Force: Betrayal, has chimed in on the subject with a reference of his own. After a gun battle, when queried as to the status of her husband, Leia replies that he is fine. "Han shot first," she glibly explains.
- In the story "A Hunter's Fate: Greedo's Tale" from the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina anthology, Greedo's perspective is shown to be overconfident to the point that he seems to actually believe Han's words moments before his death, believing that he and Han may actually become friends after they iron out the transaction. Although his death is not shown from his perspective, it is heavily implied that Han shoots first.
- After the assassination of Thrackan Sal-Solo in the novel Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines, Boba Fett remarked that Han should learn to shoot first.
- In Legacy of the Force: Revelation, Jaina tells Fett that if he plans on fighting Han Solo he should "remember to shoot first."
- Greedo appears as a minor character in the board game Star Wars: Epic Duels. His power attack is a card labeled "Desperate Shot": a decently powerful attack, but if it does not kill the target, then Greedo is immediately killed instead. It is the only card where an attacker's miss is automatically fatal.
- Wizards of the Coast released a scenario for the Star Wars Miniatures game featuring the cantina shootout between Solo and Greedo. It is referentially titled "Who Shoots First?".
- In Underworld: A Galaxy of Scum and Villainy (Star Wars Insider 89), an in-universe report states that Han "is prone to 'shooting first.'"
- In the Star Wars Tales non-canon spoof "The Emperor's Court", Han Solo is prosecuted in court by Greedo's mother, Neela, who claims that her son was shot first. The case is declared in Neela's favor, and Han is sentenced to be frozen in carbonite and sent to Jabba the Hutt.
- In LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga for Xbox 360 and iOS, there is an achievement titled "Shoot First" which is acquired by killing Greedo using any variant of Han Solo.
- In Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, in the Ord Mantell cutscene, Col Serra says that although Han doesn't shoot first when it came to bounty hunters, the rest of the squadron does.
- The Star Wars: The Old Republic Developer Blog entry "Creating the Smuggler" states, "Jedi may see things before they happen, but Smugglers always shoot first."
- In LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out, when Han shot a stormtrooper, C-3PO commented, "Oh, my stars! Han shot first!" to which Han replied, "Of course I did. It was me or him. Why wouldn't I?" C-3PO stated, "That is a matter of some debate.".
- In the 2012 mobile game Angry Birds Star Wars, one of the levels takes place on Tatooine. During an introductory slideshow in the Mos Eisly Cantina, Greedo spies on Solo, Chewbacca, Skywalker and Kenobi from a window. Solo then blasts Greedo.
- In the 2012 game Kinect Star Wars, one of the dance moves that can be performed by Solo, as well as Lando Calrissian, during the song "I'm Han Solo" is called "Han Shot First".
- Timothy Zahn's 2013 novel Scoundrels features a scene very similar to the interaction between Greedo and Han, with another bounty hunter in Greedo's place. Han does not shoot first, and the shot is missed due to intervention from Chewbacca.
- In William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope, a non-canon retelling of the story of the original film in the style of William Shakespeare, the stage directions for the play state simply "They shoot, Greedo dies." This is then followed by Solo apologizing to the innkeeper and then stating as an aside: "And whether I shot first, I'll ne'er confess!" The audio edition of William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return: Star Wars Part the Sixth includes a supposed conversation between Shakespeare and author Ian Doescher in which Shakespeare tells Doescher that he should have stated plainly that Han shot first. When asked about the matter directly for an "About the Author" for the series' official website, Doescher stated, "Han Solo, says me and every other true fan out there."
- In Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, a cantina customer states that he wasn't sure who shot first.
- The narration of the novelization of Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens states that when Finn first observed Han Solo, he worried that Solo might be the type of guy "who shoots first and asks questions later."
- In the 2015 EA Star Wars Battlefront Companion mobile game Base Command, the Han Solo hero unit has the First Strike perk, where he "Fires first in combat."
- In LEGO Star Wars: The Resistance Rises episode "Hunting for Han" one of patrons in Maz Kanata's castle remarks that Han shot Greedo; prompting another to interject that Greedo shot first.
- In the mobile phone game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, Greedo's unique is called "Who Shot First?" and Han's unique is called "Shoots First."
- In the humor book 99 Stormtroopers Join the Empire, a title depicting the unfortunate demises of various stormtroopers, "One stormtrooper fails to shoot first" and is killed by Greedo.
- At the end of the 2018 movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, in a confrontation between Han Solo and Beckett, Han shoots his opponent mid-sentence. Afterwards, Beckett admits that Solo made a "smart choice," as he had been about to shoot and kill him. Lawrence Kasdan who wrote the script of the movie with his son Jon Kasdan said about it that "There can be no question that Han shoots first." Kasdan Sr. thinks that Han indeed shot first as he expressed during an interview with StarWars.com.
- In The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special the time-space portal opens on Tatooine, dumping many characters from many eras on the desert. Among them were Greedo and two versions of Han Solo - old and young. Greedo expressed his bewilderment when he saw them. After that old Han Solo asked the young version of himself: "Do you wanna shoot first?", the young one replied: "After you" and they both shooting Greedo at the same time.
- In "Decommissioned" and "Battle Scars", two episodes of the animated television series Star Wars: The Bad Batch, there is a slot machine called Lucky Shot, with the slogan "Always shoot first" written in Aurebesh.
- In the Marvel comic issue Han Solo & Chewbacca 1, Han says to Greedo, "If you try to screw me over, double-cross me, do anything that gives me a bad feeling... I'll shoot first and ask questions later."
- In LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, the quest which unlocks Greedo, entitled "Ma Klounkee Most Foul", is started by speaking to three Stormtroopers who are investigating the incident, and wanting to know who shot first. The player is required to speak with six witnesses who evenly claim that either Han or Greedo shot first. The Stormtroopers end the quest by stating they think the debate will never by resolved.
- The phrase has been enshrined as a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Han Shot First." The shirt seller is Scott Kurtz, author of the webcomic PvP. Purportedly, the product advertises the wearer's geek credentials and disagreement with Lucas' modification. The PvP strip shows Kurtz wearing the T-shirt when he breaks the fourth wall.
- In the 2001 movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Ben Affleck refers to the creation of a Jay and Silent Bob movie as "the worst idea since Greedo shooting first."
- In the 2005 movie Serenity, the main character, Malcolm Reynolds, shoots no less than three unarmed people, one of whom was even surrendering to him. Director Joss Whedon stated in the audio commentary that it was in part "a reaction to the Greedo incident in the revised Star Wars."
- In the 2006 movie Clerks II, Jason Lee makes a reference to clerks Randal and Dante wasting their time "fighting over who shot first, Han or Greedo."
- Irregular Webcomics has an alternate explanation for the discrepancy between versions of Episode IV, and has touched on the issue at other times.
- In the bunny reenactment on Angry Alien's website, an outtake shown at the end of the Macromedia Flash movie has Han shooting first.
- The fourth season of the TV show House, M.D. opens with a young man trying to convince his girlfriend to go with him to a screening of the original theatrical version of A New Hope. To make it more appealing, he points out that it is the "pre-Lucasized version" and that there is "no Greedo shooting crap."
- In the RiffTrax for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones is set upon by beggars, causing Bill Corbett to riff "Oh, great. Fanboys. Look, I told you, I don't give a damn who shot first!"
- In the RiffTrax for Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, when Han punches Lando, Kevin Murphy exclaims, "Han punched first!"
- On the website "How It Should Have Ended.com" in a parody of The Empire Strikes Back an add-on at the end of the clip shows Han, Chewie, Lando and Leia open a door where Darth Vader is standing on the other side. Han shoots Vader three times and Vader blocks the shots and then uses the Force to grab Han's gun. Vader, looking confused, exclaims, "Whoa, whoa! What are you doing? You... You shot first." To which Han replies, "Yeah... Why wouldn't I?" Vader finishes the scene with "I, uh... I don't know the answer to that."
- In the Geek & Sundry series TableTop, when explaining the rules of Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game, Wil Wheaton emphasizes "Han always shoots first."
- In the TV show MythBusters, Grant and Tory, while making gunpowder for the "Bamboo Bazooka" myth, talk about Han shooting first or not. Tory said that Han did shoot first.
- In the Angry Video Game Nerd episode 94, "Nintendo Days Revisited", the Angry Video Game Nerd makes a joke regarding this subject.
- In episode 99, "Star Wars Games", when discussing the Famicom game, the Angry Video Game Nerd notes how Luke drives his landspeeder into the cantina, and imagines an alternate version of the scene, where neither Han nor Greedo shot each other, and Luke killed Greedo by ramming his landspeeder into him right after Han says "Over my dead body!", remarking how he wants to see that version of the scene in the next Special Edition.
- The "Han Shot First" episode of the PJ Media show Afterburner focused on this controversy. Bill Whittle, the host, explained how negative the change was, and used some of George Lucas' quotes on the matter to demonstrate as much, as well as the current situation in Hollywood. At the time the episode aired, George Lucas had just stated his controversial reasons for the change in The Hollywood Reporter newsletter (see above). On an unrelated note, Whittle in the same episode referenced George Lucas' admission that he based the Ewoks on the Viet Cong, and pointed out the implication that the Galactic Empire was based on America.
- In the "Trilogy Time" episode of season 7 of How I Met Your Mother, Barney whispers to Ted's baby daughter, whom Ted is holding, that Han shot first, after the episode depicted the characters watching the Star Wars original trilogy over a number of years.
- The season 5 episode of Castle titled "The Final Frontier" features a character who makes toy laser guns and wears a "Han shot first" T-shirt.
- In a 2014 Reddit Ask Me Anything, Harrison Ford replied to the question about who shot first with "I don't know and I don't care." One year prior, Chewbacca portrayer Peter Mayhew responded with "Uughghhhgh uughghhhgh huuguughghg."
- The season 1 episode of The Flash titled "The Sound and the Fury" features Team Flash member Cisco Ramon wearing a "Keep Calm and Han Shot First" T-shirt.
- In season 5 of The Flash, the episode titled "Blocked" features another member of Team Flash, Ralph Dibny, whispering "Han shot second" to Cisco Ramon, which makes him angry.
- "Yeah, I really was livid about that one. I think it was a total – it ruins the scene, basically. The scene was never intended that way. Han Solo realized that Greedo was out to get him and he had to blast him first or he would lose his life. It shows you how much of a mercenary he is. That's what the point of the scene was. And so the way they've changed it around, it loses the whole impact of that whole aspect of it."
- ―Gary Kurtz on his opinion about the "Han shot first" controversy
Like most revised changes to the Star Wars original trilogy, the alteration of the Han/Greedo scene proved to be controversial not only for fans, but including some of the filmmakers. A New Hope producer Gary Kurtz even feels that the change ruined basically the scene, because in the scene, Han realizes that Greedo is out to get him and must blast him off first or he would lose his life, showing how much of a mercenary he is; the change having made the whole impact of that whole aspect to be lost.
In 2004, HanShootsFirst.org started as a rant/petition site for the release of an unadulterated, non-revisionist, theatrical release of Star Wars, their stated mission being "Preservation of a Star Wars that Doesn't Suck". In 2006, The Star Wars Fan Bois released HanShootsFirst.org 2.0, allowing fans to express their opinions and rants about the Star Wars universe, as well as continuing with their original mission. Over the course of two years, Han Shoots First became the de-facto website for the "Greedo incident." Han Shoots First enjoyed exposure from Forbes Magazine and Movies.com, as well as receiving much fandom acclaim.