In his 1990s re-edit of Star Wars, George Lucas decided to show Greedo taking a shot at Han and missing before Han shot and killed him. Of course in the original scene, Han fired before Greedo could get a shot off.

The rumor I have heard from many people is that Lucas did it to make Han look less cold-blooded, but this explanation makes no sense. Shooting Greedo in self defense did not make Han look cold-blooded. What made Han look cold-blooded was calmly walking away from the scene and joking with the bartender about "the mess" (which Lucas left in the movie).

Does anyone know why Lucas made this change?


2 Answers 2


Yes, the rumors about this are, that Lucas added Greedo shooting first, to make Han look less cold-blooded. You have answered your question yourself - "Shooting Greedo in self-defense did not make Han look cold-blooded". That is exactly what Lucas did, he made it look like Han killed Greedo in self-defense. But in the original cut, where Greedo didn't shoot first, it was not self-defense. He just straight up murdered a guy who came to ask for money. That was cold-blooded.

Edit: George Lucas said:

“Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ ” Lucas asks. “Because I was thinking mythologically — should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, ‘Yeah, he should be John Wayne.’ And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.”

  • Do you have a source for this answer? Otherwise you are just repeating the OP
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 11:54
  • 1
    Greedo was going to turn Han in to a murderous gangster. Responding “That’s the idea” to Han’s comment of “Over my dead body” suggests he was going to kill him and bring him in dead. Han’s only chance was to pay with money he didn’t have. Definitely self defense.
    – ruffdove
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 14:30
  • @ruffdove You can't argue what counts as self-defense on a lawless planet. To most people watching, if you shoot first, you are a murderer, it doesn't matter what the victim would or would not do.
    – TK-421
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 17:16
  • @TK-421 I wasn't arguing that. The law (or lack thereof) and the perceptions of witnesses are irrelevant. If someone kills a person who he has good reason to believe is about to kill him (or turn him over to certain death), then he has killed that person out of self-defense and we cannot conclude that he is a cold-blooded murderer. He might be, but plenty of non cold-blooded murderers in that situation would also take the shot to save themselves.
    – ruffdove
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 18:33
  • 2
    Upvoting and accepting this answer because the added quote from Lucas clarifies that the rumors were true. I find it perplexing that he made the self-defense even more obvious (unnecessarily so), but left the casual, joking reaction by Solo afterward and thought it made the character look less cold-blooded.
    – ruffdove
    Commented Sep 5, 2020 at 18:37

It is worth noting that George Lucas claims that Han never shot first:

The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down.

Combined with the more recent quote in the Washington post, it is fair to say that Lucas edited the movie in order to make it clearer that Han Solo would "let them have the first shot".

You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

While Lucas has a reputation as somewhat of an unreliable narrator when speaking of his early Star Wars plans, I don't think there is enough evidence to say definitively either way who shot first in the 1977 film.

The two best sources of information are the original film, and the original scripts.

In the original film, no blaster bolt appears at all, but there are 2 flashes of light.

First, there is a flash of light over Han Solo: Han Solo, mid shot

Then the shot reverses, and we see Greedo, followed by a screen flash and a pyrotechnic. Greedo, smoked

You can check it out yourself on Youtube.

Neither interpretation really lines up with blasters in the rest of the film: Han is firing his gun in close-ups only a few scenes later (while they take off from the spaceport), and there is no full screen washout effect. And most (but not all) blaster shots leave some damage to the walls they hit.

Scriptwise, Peter Mayhew's original shooting script says this:

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.

Some people have pointed to this script as "proving" that Han shot first (including Mayhew in that tweet), but there's no smoking gun: all it says is that there was a flash of light, and that Han "won" the shootout. This mostly lines up with the film we have access to, but says nothing as to whether Greedo fired. (Note also that Greedo is called "Allen" in the script)

  • 2
    I find Lucas's assertions to be bizarre. You can say there is not enough evidence either way, but in fact there is no evidence in the original cut or the original script that Greedo fired. That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without argument. Lucas's attempt to retcon his intentions is not even worth consideration.
    – ruffdove
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 15:27
  • If you put it that way, then there’s no evidence in the film that Han fired, either. The script says that Han’s gun is smoking, but it isn’t in the film. Going only by the film, there’s just as much evidence to suggest Greedo tried to shoot him, but his gun exploded. We do not see Han pull the trigger, and we do not see a blaster bolt. I don’t think he should have changed the film, but your question is about why he changed it. Why ignore his stated reason of “I intended this scene to be read differently, and I wanted to make it clearer”?
    – Ben Murphy
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 15:54
  • There certainly is evidence Han fired—there’s a corpse, and there’s Han taking responsibility for it with the bartender. I reject Lucas’s statements because as someone else pointed out, he has proven unreliable in what he says about original intent. His overtly hostile attitude toward purist fans—marked by his refusal to allow a quality original version to be sold on DVD—is another reason to doubt his refutations of them.
    – ruffdove
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 16:23
  • Can you offer some better evidence for your theory about the flash, other than your highly subjective and debatable opinion that it “doesn’t appear to be practical.” Do you at least have experience in film special effects to qualify that opinion?
    – ruffdove
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 16:26

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