It’s a running joke in Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), and carried over into Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), that the Millennium Falcon looks like a piece of junk: Luke, “What a piece of junk!” when he sees it for the first time, and Leia later says sarcastically “You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.” And Rey dismisses it initially until her alternative is destroyed.

But to me the Falcon doesn’t look any worse or more battered than any of the other ships we see in any of the films. What's wrong with it?

(Note I’m not talking about the hyperdrive problems, which only happen in The Empire Strikes Back and aren’t apparent from the outside anyway.)

  • 74
    A spaceship isn't really cool unless it has an Infinite Improbability Drive.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 22:49
  • 12
    @randal'thor: In which case it is infinitely cool. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:43
  • 16
    @Zommuter: Yes, but finitely improbable. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:54
  • 14
    Let's not forget "She's the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy" (Lando) Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 19:09
  • 3
    Do we ever actually see a "well maintained" YT-1300, or any other merchant ship, for comparison? Almost all of the ships seen in the movies are military vessels, and the difference between well-maintained Imperial ships and limited budget rebel ships is pretty distinct. About the only half decent comparison to the MF that I can recall is Slave 1, and even that ship looks better than the MF, faded paint job and all.
    – Jason K
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 16:43

11 Answers 11


Just a moment after Luke's “What a piece of junk!” line we see a prime example of why it looks so junky:

Millenum Falcon blast hole; 52:21 in Star Wars (Harmy's Despecialized Edition)
52:21 in Star Wars (Harmy's Despecialized Edition)

A big 'ol blast mark, right next to the boarding ramp.  It looks deeper than “carbon scoring”— there appears to be exposed mechanical elements peeking through.  If that doesn't make you feel completely unsafe about flying through the deep cold vacuum of space, you're living in the wrong galaxy.

It has since become a running joke, but it seems Lucas originally intended the ship's state of disrepair to be obvious and indisputable.

  • 12
    Awsome find!!! Next question: just WHAT got hit with that blast? Anything vital behind that place? Like hyperdrive motivator maybe? Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 3:54
  • 8
    I don't have any sources, concerning your last sentence I remember reading that Lucas' direction for the movie was to have the audience be able to hear "every loose bolt rattling around in the engines" or something to that effect for the Falcons scenes. Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 6:38
  • 19
    When I looked at your picture, my first thought was "UGH, an enormous spider!"
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 22:50
  • 3
    @DVK: Given how often the Falcon has been modded, there's no way to know what got hit, or whether something vital will be put back into that spot next week. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:45
  • 3
    Funny story, but the Stormtrooper was actually aiming at a Jawa. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 20:20
  1. The Falcon is an old ship. According to EU/Legends, it was built 60 BBY.

    While the pace of innovation may be debatable, most people wouldn't consider an average freight truck from 1955 to be anything but a piece of junk in 2015.

  2. The Falcon is a cargo hauler. YT-1300 is well known model.

    Imagine if you were to make a daring escape, and someone proposes to give you a lift on one of these:

    black and white image of a 1940s-era gasoline truck

  3. It wasn't even a new ship in a sense of the original hull. It was a rebuilt refurbished model ("Millennium Falcon" EU book)

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    +1 for specifically addressing the observable reasons for why people would immediately see the Falcon as un-spaceworthy.
    – bignose
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 23:05
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    Imagine if someone gave you a lift in the USS Nimitz, at 41 years old. Comparing spacefaring ships to seafaring ships is probably a fairer comparison than spaceships to trucks. Ships represent a costlier investment than trucks, and tend to be better-maintained and receive upgrades throughout their lives (although the Millennium Falcon likely did not receive much in the way of upgrades).
    – user31563
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 22:56
  • 9
    @Snowman- Actually, the Falcon had quite a few upgrades. That's both in the EU and Han said it himself in A New Hope- "I've made a few modifications myself". There's a Wookiepedia article on the Falcon that lists the modifications made. Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 9:37
  • 16
    On point 2, it's also worth noting that if someone from a technological era before even that truck was around (say 1800 or so), they likely wouldn't see the obvious difference between it and more modern vehicles, just like we don't see the "obvious" differences between Star Wars ships. Commented Jan 5, 2016 at 21:52
  • 13
    I don't buy the Nimitz analogy. A 3-man freighter is nothing like an aircraft carrier.
    – Almo
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 15:04

Although it's a bit circular, the reason why everyone thinks it's a hunk of junk is because it looks really really crappy. Luke's first impressions of the ship are quite instructive:

That battered ellipsoid which could only loosely be labeled a ship appeared to have been pieced together out of old hull fragments and components discarded as unusable by other craft. The wonder of it, Luke mused, was that the thing actually held its shape. Trying to picture this vehicle as spaceworthy would have caused him to collapse in hysteria — were the situation not so serious. But to think of traveling to Alderaan in this pathetic …

“What a piece of junk,” he finally murmured, unable to hide his feelings any longer. They were walking up the rampway toward the open port. “This thing couldn’t possibly make it into hyperspace.

Star Wars: A New Hope - Official Novel

As are Rey and Finn's thoughts about it.

He pointed at a dilapidated, disc-shaped Corellian freighter that was one of Plutt’s personal clunkers. “How about that ship? It’s closer — and if nothing else, we can get out of sight.”

“That one’s garbage. We need something that’ll move, not just get off the ground,” Rey said.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Junior Novel

You have to remember that these people live in the Star Wars universe. Just as you or I would be able to tell the difference between a fancy car and a dreadful car, their eyes are accustomed to telling the difference between a fancy ship and a naff one.

There's also the fact that he's let it go to wrack and ruin on purpose, at least according to the (no longer canon, but still excellent) Star Wars: Incredible Cross Sections

Image from a page of "Incredible Cross Sections."  The text reads "A Long History:
Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon from his old friend and fellow smuggler Lando Calrissian in a heated game of sabacc.  Lando had no right to complain, having come to own the Falcon through gambling in the first place.  Over many years, dozens of minor laser hits and micrometeoroid punctures have been patched with micro-panels (or even left alone), giving the ship a dilapidated appearance.  Han Solo now refuses to clean up his ship's appearance as a matter of pride."

  • 10
    This answer, though it cites the novels, is largely a “I know it when I see it” response. It doesn't say much about what they see which leads them to make such a snap judgement.
    – bignose
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 23:41
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    @bignose - Dilapidated, made of old parts, hull fragments, etc
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 23:57
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    @bignose - re: Luke - Luke admits to amazement that the Falcon can even hold itself together because it's a very piecemeal-appearing ship - a ship made out of parts that would be "unusable" to other crafts and pieces that include "old hull fragments". Imagine someone is going to give you a lift in a car that looks like it has a hood from one car, doors from another car, and a driver's side mirror that's from yet a third car. Even IF the car proves itself to be an ultimately safe vehicle (and the Falcon is), the piecemeal appearance alone is enough to make one wonder.
    – Aith
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 0:35
  • 3
    @bignose - re: Finn and Rey - Finn observes that the Falcon is in a "dilapidated" state. It looks broken-down and falling apart... from either age or neglect... or both. In this case, both.
    – Aith
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 0:38
  • 2
    Even with Star Wars standards, Falcon looks shiny..
    – user931
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 0:54

Pictures explain it best.

Behold Queen Amidala's ship which looks to have been modeled on the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

amidala's ship on tatooine

Behold Millennium Falcon, which at least apocryphally is based on a hamburger with a pickle on the side.

millennium falcon on tatooine

Placed side-by-side Falcon looks like it is still under construction, despite the image of Amidala's ship being from 20+ years prior.

  • 28
    How did you manage to find THE ONE lens flare in the entire 2 trilogies? :) great contrast, BTW, +1 Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 1:00
  • 8
    Nice answer, though to be fair, one is the personal cruiser of the queen of an entire planet and the other is a freighter... Ferraris always tend to look better than Honda Civics
    – TylerH
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 21:45
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    "based on a hamburger with a pickle on the side" oh, definitely a +1 for that!
    – DA.
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 7:26
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    @DVK I don't see any lens flair. I see a very shiny hull reflecting a bright source of light (i.e., a sun or two).
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 9:17
  • 4
    @TylerH ^Cadillacs always tend to look better than Honda Civics. But it's not always easy to tell whether a given Honda Civic is just plain-old factory-stock, or is a sleeper (stock exterior; 300+HP Acura/VTEC/turbo/etc under the hood). Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 5:09

TL;DR: People think the Millennium Falcon is a piece of junk because... well, because the Millennium Falcon is a piece of junk.

Update: Disney Canon:

The terrible Aftermath canon novel series sheds some light on this. Norra Wexley was a rebel pilot, and escorted the Millennium Falcon into - and out of - the second Death Star during the Battle of Endor. Flying alongside it in a Y-Wing, she had been extremely impressed with the Falcon.

In Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt, she finds herself aboard the Falcon, sitting in Chewbacca's seat, and she is absolutely horrified.

The Falcon slices through hyperspace.

“You look nervous,” Han says to Norra, sitting in the copilot’s chair— a chair that has a very deep seat and is lower to the floor than the other. A chair worn most often by a much bigger individual.

Like, say, a Wookiee.

“I’m not nervous,” she says.

She’s nervous. It’s hard not to be. She’s admired this ship a great deal from afar— how could she not? This should be a clunky, junky freighter. But she’s seen it move. The way it whips and dips through the chaos of battle is a thing to behold— performance like that steals your breath just watching it. She in her Y-wing followed the Falcon— then piloted by Calrissian and his Sullustan copilot— into the mazelike innards of the second Death Star. It was a thing to marvel. A sight she will never forget.

That’s from the outside.

On the inside? She’s surprised this thing holds together. It’s got the structural integrity of a sack of spare parts. Nothing matches. Things dangle. Wires lie exposed. Panels don’t match their moorings. The console doesn’t even look original to the ship— it’s like her son built it in his workshop back on Akiva. Bits sit welded to other bits or, worse, are stuck together with wound-up wads of bonding tape and shellacked over with shiny epox.

Norra is afraid this thing might break into pieces right here in the middle of rocketing through hyperspace.

Solo, for his part, seems like he’s embraced the chaos of it. Sometimes an alarm goes off, or part of the dash goes dark— and then he pounds it with the side of his fist or jiggles the wires hanging underneath. Then it all comes back online. He smirks and winks.

Norra, in order to not talk about the orbital garbage fire in which they are currently traveling, says: “We sure Aram gave us good info?”
Star Wars: Aftermath: Life Debt

Even Chewbacca gets it:

When the boy from Tatooine, Skywalker, had seen the Falcon for the first time back in Mos Eisley, he’d described it as “a piece of junk.” Solo had taken it personally, but the Wookiee could understand why Luke had thought so. He didn’t agree, of course, but he understood. The Falcon looked like just another Corellian YT-1300 light freighter, and there had to be thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of them in service throughout the galaxy. Her cockpit, for reasons no one but the designers back at Corell Industries could understand, was posted to the starboard side, and jutted at an odd angle instead of being mounted on the center line. Her engines were overpowered for her size, but her controls were so sensitive as to be paranoid, which meant she was temperamental and needed a pilot and copilot to manage her in flight. Even then she was liable to slip out of control if both operators didn’t know exactly what they were doing.

That was just the YT-1300 series as a whole.

But the Falcon took all those characteristics and multiplied them exponentially. She was bruised. She was dented. She needed paint and near-constant maintenance. Easily half the money they pulled in doing runs for Jabba the Hutt or whoever else went to upkeep, new parts, fuel. She drank fuel like she’d been wandering the Dune Sea for weeks without water. Her gravity emulators had an annoying— and, frankly, alarming— tendency to cut out during sharp maneuvering, which would send you across the cabin if you weren’t strapped in when it happened. The multiple computers that worked to keep everything on the ship running in concert not only had developed, over the years, their own dialects, but at times seemed to feud among themselves. And you didn’t want to get the Wookiee started on the state of the ion flux stabilizers, or the way the Duvo-Pek acceleration compensators would not just seek to compensate but would instead do precisely the opposite.
Star Wars: Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo and Chewbacca Adventure

The Falcon is like a crappy old 1910 freight truck with an insane number of modifications, and the engine of a modern high performance race car. This causes all kinds of problems, which require an endless succession of repairs and jury rigged quick fixes. This wouldn't be so bad, if the guy responsible for most of the work wasn't Han Solo:

Animated loop from "The Empire Strikes Back"  The Falcon is parked in the main hanger of the Rebel base on Hoth; Han is kneeling on top of the Falcon on the starboard side of the main section opposite the cockpit.  As he starts to coil up the power cable for the tool in his hand the component he was just repairing flares up in a burst of sparks and smoke.  He jumps up, yelling "Oh, turn it off!  Turn it off!"

The same shot as above, but viewed from a point underneath the cockpit corridor looking up at the side of the Falcon with Han on top.  He jumps up as the sparks fountain up, yelling "Turn it off!"

And Chewbacca is great and all, but he did put C-3PO's head on backwards.

Still from "The Empire Strikes Back" of Chewbacca repairing C-3PO.

These two dudes are awesome characters and great pilots, but they aren't the best mechanics in the galaxy.

Animated loop from "The Empire Strikes Back" of Chewbacca, in an access space under the cabin floor, tilting his head back to yell then raising a tool in his hands overhead and striking a component in front of him, which flares.

In Universe:

As has been pointed out before, the Falcon is frequently in very bad shape in the original trilogy:

Hyperdrive fail:

Percussive Maintenance:

Animated loop of Han striking the arch of the cockpit entrance with his right hand, and the systems turning on.

Percussive maintenance is used so often on the Millennium Falcon that it was one of the predictions in Darths And Droids: The Force Awakens Bingo.

Han Solo used [percussive maintenance] to fix a sputtering Millennium Falcon, in The Empire Strikes Back. Given the general state of the ship and Han's personality, it's a minor miracle that he only does this once.

In the Expanded Universe, he does it often enough that he and Lando (the Falcon's previous owner and one of Han's best friends) refer to it as "Emergency Repair Procedure Number One".
TV Tropes

Han isn't the only one who subjects the Falcon to physical abuse in the name of repairs:

Chewbacca and Solo spent hours modifying and tinkering on their beloved Falcon, souping it up far beyond its original performance specs. Although the Falcon's upkeep was a labor of love, many a time Chewie unleashed his legendary temper on the recalcitrant freighter, banging his massive furry hands against delicate components that refused to behave.

And there has been a lot of work done on the Falcon, giving both Han and Chewie plenty of chances to smash the hell out of it:

All of [the Falcon's] modifications come at a price. They haven’t been professionally installed and, while Solo and Chewbacca generally have a handle on things, the huge amounts of unlicensed components have made for a ship that’s almost constantly under maintenance.
Screen Rant

Which causes problems, because Han is the worst mechanic ever:

Han knows that the only things keeping the Falcon in one piece is duct tape and positive thoughts:

Leia: [to Han] We've lost lateral controls!

Han: [to Leia] Don't worry, she'll hold together!

Han: [quietly, to the Falcon] Come on baby, hold together!
A New Hope

As does Lando:

You know, that ship's saved my life quite a few times. She's the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy!
The Empire Strikes Back

And this is confirmed on the Star Wars Databank website:

Despite her humble origins and shabby exterior, the Millennium Falcon has played a role in some of the greatest victories of the Rebel Alliance and the New Republic. The Falcon looks like a worn-out junker, but beneath her hull she’s full of surprises. A succession of owners, from Lando Calrissian and Han Solo to Gannis Ducain, have made special modifications that boosted the freighter’s speed, shielding and firepower to impressive – and downright illegal – levels. The price of such tinkering? The Falcon can be unpredictable, with her hyperdrive particularly balky.
Star Wars Databank

And numerous other sites, including Wookieepedia:

The cobbled-together nature of the ship presented many problems throughout her smuggling days and during the Galactic Civil War. Systems were barely held together and apparently had many incompatibilities, resulting in numerous malfunctions. C-3PO commented that he wasn't quite sure where the ship learned to communicate... Years after the Battle of Endor, Han Solo and/or Chewbacca appeared to have resolved these difficulties, much to the relief of Leia Organa...The resolution of those problems may have involved a virtual rebuild of her internal operation systems; this was never discussed in detail.

In an effort to reduce his expenses and maintain his privacy, Solo modified the Falcon so that most of her major systems could be accessed through the cockpit or the engineering station in the main cargo hold. The myriad of ship control functions were funneled through what was once a Hanx-Wargel SuperFlow IV computer. It has since been modified with three droid brains, which caused the Falcon to have schizophrenic arguments with herself.

The Falcon's unkempt interior matched her dilapidated exterior. The interior corridors were littered with all sorts of mechanical gear.

In fact, a real life engineering company has said that the Falcon's unreliability must make her upkeep and maintenance costs astronomical (no pun intended):

SGS Engineering, a UK company specializing in hydraulics, did the calculations and figured that Han Solo must have a considerable fortune stashed away somewhere.

The engineering firm took the Millennium Falcon out of its fictional universe and treated it as if were a real vehicle in our world. SGS worked out that it would cost over $3 million (about £2 million, AU$4.2 million) just to keep the spaceship up to date on repairs and maintenance for a year. And that's for a "good year," not counting the toll taken by hiding in asteroid fields or fighting the forces of the Empire.

SGS cites the Falcon's reputation for being unreliable along with its age (over 50 years) when sorting out the cost of parts and labor to keep it flying as the fastest ship in the galaxy. The figure is based on data taken from the annual maintenance costs of commercial jets, fighter jets and labor rates from our real world.

"Anything mechanical that is known as a hunk of junk is going to be expensive to upkeep," notes SGS owner and founder Andy Wyatt. "We're not professing that these are definitive calculations, there is a certain amount of conjecture in there -- after all there's not much to base a replacement hyperdrive on -- but they do give a good idea of just how much of a financial burden the Millennium Falcon would have been on Solo."

Out of Universe:

People think the Falcon is a piece of junk because it looks like a piece of junk, and it looks like that because Lucas wanted it to. He didn't want to make another pristine science fiction movie, he wanted his world to look real and lived in; a smuggler's cargo ship in such a world would look battered and beaten up, not nice and pretty.

[Lucas] didn't want anything [in Star Wars] to stand out, he wanted it all real and used. And I said, "Finally somebody's doing it the right way." All science fiction before was very plastic and stupid uniforms and Flash Gordon stuff. Nothing was new. George was going right against that. My first conversation with him was that spaceships should be things you see in garages with oil dripping and they keep repairing them to keep them going, because that's how the world is. So we had the conversation and I got hired. I was the third person hired on Star Wars, in fact.

The Millennium Falcon was difficult, because I had to train prop men to break down jet engines into scrap pieces and then line them all up into different categories and stick them to the walls.
Esquire interview with Roger Christian, who designed the Falcon

It was always Christian's intention for the Millennium Falcon to "look like an old car that had been repaired many times, rugged and dripping with oil." And in creating Solo's second-hand smuggling vessel, he took a very literal approach.

"The cockpit was the first set we ever build," says Christian. "I just kept having to buy more and more junk. It was eating it up. ... Then I gave the set a spray to make it look grimy.
CNN interview with Roger Christian

This is part and parcel of the "Used Future" Lucas helped to create, as TV Tropes explains:

Of course Star Wars more or less defines this trope, where every ship is covered with dings and scratches, and [the trope is] epitomized by the Millennium Falcon, which looks like it is almost ready to fall apart. This extends to the sound design as well, apparently George Lucas's instructions were that he wanted to hear every loose bolt in the engines.
TV Tropes

1 "Percussive maintenance" is a tongue-in-cheek term used to describe the act of 'repairing' something by smacking it as hard as possible.

  • 4
    The hyperdrive failure wasn't caused by the ship's condition; it was sabotage. Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 14:22
  • 3
    @Daniel Griscom IIRC, the failure Wad's referenced was just after the battle of Hoth— definitely because of the ship's condition, since they had been there a while and there were no (canon) saboteurs at Hoth. Later, the hyperdrive fails after leaving the Cloud City of Bespin, and a moment later Vader tells us that the hyperdrive was deactivated. There's the sabotage. Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 22:51
  • @SlippD.Thompson ... guess I should have watched the video, huh? (thanks...) Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 1:19
  • @DanielGriscom - As Slipp said, you're confusing the hyperdrive failure I'm talking about with the one that happened after the hyperdrive was sabotaged on Bespin. My hyperdrive fail happened because the Falcon is a piece of junk (albeit a very fast and awesome piece of junk); the one you're talking about is different, and happened because the Empire is tricksy and false, much like Hobbitses.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 4:19
  • 2
    @WadCheber: Great answer, and +1 for referencing the canon. I'd add that Luke and Rey seem to call it a junker before seeing it in action.
    – jvriesem
    Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 21:50

I think a better analogy would be that of the "moonshine runner" during prohibition in the U.S. Illegal booze would be smuggled in old vehicles modded for superior performance ("souped-up jalopies" in the parlance of the time). They wouldn't waste any money on the body because it would reduce profits, plus the poor appearance acted as camouflage and reduced expectations of law enforcement which would give them a head start in any high speed chase. The Millennium Falcon was an old freighter retrofitted to be a smuggling ship, so it would look like crap on the outside but have custom parts on the inside capable of breaking speed records.

  • 7
    The sleek appearance of Amidala's ship is merely aesthetic. In space, streamlining is irrelevant. But a queen should of course have to look good. A cargo vessel, legal or not, has no reason to waste money on aesthetics.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 5:02
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    @WGroleau Largely, but not completely irrelevant. They do have to traverse the atmosphere to land on the surface of a planet.
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 5:13
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    But do they have to do it quickly? Their technology would allow for vertical descent at any speed.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 5:15
  • 3
    @WGroleau If they're being shot at, moving fast helps, both in and out of atmosphere.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 9:58
  • 1
    This is an excellent answer.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 15:28

This answer comes late, but you've touched a nerve here.

We know the Millennium Falcon is fast, that "she's got it where it counts". And we see it in context keeping up with military-grade fighters. We also know it's a smuggler's light freighter. That often leads to a mental picture of something like this:

Cool fast car with guns from the set of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"

But I think we often miss lines like "What a hunk a junk", or forget words like "old", "light freighter", and the full meaning of the word "smuggler", which as much as anything else would not want to stand out in a crowd. In other words, I believe a better analog for the Millennium Falcon is something like this:

Non-descript white cube van

Now that looks like a light freighter. Give it a big V10 engine, special transmission and modified suspension, and maybe an armored rear cargo door or even a nitrous oxide injector hidden somewhere, and we're starting to get the idea. It's the kind of thing that, if you saw it on an aircraft carrier, you might say, "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought." Sure, any decently-equipped sports car could still outrun it, but how many of those attempt a Kessel run in the first place?

If you want cool, I think the furthest you could go and still be on the mark is the A-Team van. But considering Han's character at the start of the movies, rather than the character he grew into later, and that this movie came out in the 70's, and maybe a shag van would be a better fit.

"That 70's Show" van

But I think you understand all this already. Your real question is about the visuals. From what you can see, the Millennium Falcon is just as nice as anything else.

I think the problem here is frame-of-reference. We get such a small glimpse into the world of Star Wars, and what we do see often has a lot more to do with the "Wars" part of the name, where the other vehicles we see also often bear marks of combat. We see the utility of the Millennium Falcon, as it out-performs a number of military vehicles, we see the coolness of the Millennium Falcon, because for those of who have never left the planet anything that can travel through hyperspace and shoot lasers has a certain element of cool, and we see the uniqueness of the Millennium Falcon, which adds to the "cool" effect. But mainly, we lack a real frame of reference to know the difference between quality and crazy.

You can see examples of this in real life. Imagine an Audi sitting next to a Kia of the same class and vintage. One of those is clearly better than the other, but it's mainly the brand which indicates it. If you couldn't see the logos clearly, you'd need a much closer look to know which is which. How much time do you really get over the course of a movie? Now imagine the Kia is '96 model year. That's kind of what we have here. But you have to know something about cars to see the differences. The visuals won't stand out until you have a practiced eye.

All in all I believe that, like you, more people fall into the trap — and see the Millennium Falcon more like the first image — than avoid the trap and identify the Millennium Falcon more closely with the later images. But the movies address this problem; the important reason we know the second image is more accurate is because the movies tell us so... "What a piece of junk." ... "That ship's garbage" ... "You came in that thing?"

The real problem here is there is a disconnect between what the movies tell us and what the movies show us. This is a real flaw in the movies, but it's one that is (in my opinion at least) more than made up for in other ways.

One interesting thing to come out of this — a side note really — is it seems like the militaries of the Star Wars universe are missing out on a valuable class of vehicle. Imagine a Millennium Falcon designed from the ground up as an anti-fighter platform. Give the cargo space over to make room for a bigger power plant, where the new capacity is mainly fed to better shields. Now you have a small-crewed vehicle that is easily a match for half a wing of fighters.

It may be that such a ship would be too easy prey for the ships of the line in a real fight... vulnerable to big turbo lasers where snub fighter are able to evade them. The only examples we have of the Millennium Falcon in combat are when the Empire purposefully allowed it to escape the first Death Star (so the base itself never targeted it, only the perimeter fighters) and during the assault on the Second Death Star, when the Star Destroyers were not really part of the attack and even the Rebel plan was to get the ship "safely" inside the Death Star as quickly as possible.

You can imagine this vulnerability, or some other effect, led to a diminished combat role for this kind of platform, and therefore when one appeared the opposition found itself unready to counter it. Perhaps it was the will of the Force ;) But even with the weakness, it seems ships like this would be valuable in a defensive role, kept close to defend your own cruisers or installations from fighters. There seems otherwise a large disparity between even the smallest capital ships and largest snub fighters.

  • 4
    +1 for your side note. As the YT-1300 series are designed for extensive modding, I like the idea of modding one into an anti-space-superiority-fighter (space inferiority?) platform. Now we're talking about a cool hedgehog or porcupine gunship. (Everywhere, there are "guns. Lots of guns.") Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:53
  • It's something I've thought about before, and may be a good question for this site. But also note the weakness of the idea. Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 18:58
  • Your out-of-universe example actually has a real-life, documented instance. See a clip from a Top Gear episode here: youtube.com/watch?v=F7hfSiYQQF4
    – Ellesedil
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 0:02

Han Solo is a smuggler so the ideal ship attracts the least attention while being the fastest in the galaxy. A smuggler needs a ship that looks normal, can hide, can carry a cargo and is fast. Han literally uses it's junky appearance to escape the imperial star cruiser by drifting away amidst it's actual junk, he's done it before, it's one of his old tricks, one Boba Fett is wise to.

His modus operandi is always to pass unnoticed, though it's often botched, and to speed away if that fails. He acquired the ship from Lando, and would have followed the same principles as whoever first turned it into a smuggling ship - take an ordinary old truck and soop it up with the fastest engine possible, hidden compartments, defensive lasers and comms decoders. The reason it keeps failing is not because it is a piece of junk (it only looks like one) but because it is a custom high performance machine.

When you customise things you alter their normal assumed operation which tends to lead to glitches and break downs but because you know the system well you can usually fix it with running repairs. That's why the Falcon often breaks but Han, having personally, say, wired up that bypass to overclock the hyperdrive subroutines, instinctively knows that's where the wire has come loose and can bang the panel to kick it back in.


When I first saw STAR WARS in the 1970s, it struck me that Lucas had read a bit about Allied "Q-ships." The concept of the "Q-ship" really dates from the First World's War, but had come to the fore in WW2: It's a medium-sized or smaller freighter (existing ships were drydocked and overhauled, instead of a Q-ship being "purpose-built") with beefed-up engines, that had been armed to the teeth.

Large-bore WW1 field guns would be mounted to the decks amid-ships and quick-knock-down sheds had been built to camouflage them. High-pressure steam-lines would be laid from the boilers, if possible, and "Holman Projectors" attached to the deck (Holmans fired modified Mod.36 Mills Bombs with rifle-grenade cup-discharger discs attached--this allowed ships to fire frags about 300 yards; or almost into the faces of dive-bomber pilots, or right above the heads of sub-mariner deck-gun crews.)

Toward the end of anti-sub warfare, "Hedgehog Projectors" were also fitted to Q-ships--- these fired a circular cluster of impact-fused bombs at a submerged sub; they were very accurate--more-so than "oil-drum" depth-charge launchers, and were lethal against subs at periscope-depth. Plus, Q-ships were provided with as many .30-caliber machine-guns and hopefully, even .50-caliber heavy machine-guns, as could be found.

These "hunter-killer freighters" looked like cargo ships, and ran with them in convoy, but had been charged with engaging German subs that surfaced among freighters to use the deck-gun to engage ships. This was economics--ammo for deck guns was cheaper than "tin-fish," and more shells could be carried than torpedoes---plus a sub could surface and hit several freighters below the waterlines before any obvious warship got close enough to engage the subs.

The Q-ships had intentionally been kept scruffy-looking and unprepossessing, so as to not arouse suspicions on the part of sub-mariners.

The same philosophy was followed during the 1950s, and the rise of the "Cold War:" All the major powers had been intensely curious about what their opponents had been saying, and had commissioned supposed "trawlers" and other "tenders" that sailed with the nations' fishing fleets that were packed with electronics. Almost every sailor of the time heard tales of "Soviet trawlers" that never caught fish, but which had masses of quickly-camouflaged radio antennae, with which to eaves-drop on the Pentagon's radio-traffic.

The trawlers, and their companion "fishing-fleet tenders," had looked as disreputable and unkempt as other fishing-fleet boats. They had unused nets and trawl-arms to keep up the image; and if they were sneaking over the "Continental Limit" and might be boarded by the "Coasties," [Coast Guard] the crews even "looked and smelled like Russian fishermen." Within the "fish holds," however, were the espionage-electronics and the KGB spooks who eaves-dropped on Uncle Sam.

All the big nations had supposedly fielded "spy-trawlers" and similar ships. The Chinese supposedly had dozens if not hundreds. Even the Israelis had supposedly deployed several of their own unique sorts of spy-ships.

All this was supposedly "common-gossip" among Coast Guardsmen and merchant marine sailors, as well as most others who spent time at sea.

There was also ANOTHER class of "covert craft" that had supposedly been sailing under various flags during the 1970s and 1980s---the so-called "Black-Ops" freighters. The CIA, the KGB, and other spy-services allegedly owned overhauled and retrofitted freighters which they had used to smuggle weapons and "guerrilla fighters" all over the world.

When I had seen STAR WARS and heard about the "Falcon," I'd assumed that George Lucas had heard the same stories as I about those covert-ops ships and the "re-purposed" freighters that were intentionally kept shabby-looking and run-down, so as to allay suspicions.

  • The only problem with your argument is that the Millennium Falcon had very poor guns. They could only shoot tie fighters and couldn't scratch anything larger.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 2:47
  • Ex German E boats where used to put spys ashore in eth Baltics in the late 40's and early 50's Commented Jul 3, 2018 at 21:32

To quote the Millennium Falcon Workshop Manual:

"Han Solo and Chewbacca know that pirates, thieves and Imperial customs agents are less attracted to a ship that looks as though she's ready for the scrapyard, and they do everything they can to maintain the Falcon's dilapidated appearance... Despite appearances, the Falcon's hull is actually in remarkably good shape."

People call it a piece of junk because its pilots intend it to look like a piece of junk to avoid the wrong kind of attention.


The traits making the Falcon a piece of junk are an example of implied knowledge (a common feature of the first trilogy) the characters are aware of that we don't need to know why they know it. The Falcon is a piece of junk because the characters know it is. And it's funnier that way.

  • 1
    +1 for the right idea, but I think @Richard already covered that with “ You have to remember that these people live in the Star Wars universe. Just as you or I would be able to tell the difference between a fancy car and a dreadful car, …” Regardless, welcome to SE and thank you for contributing! Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 6:54

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