After reading this question:

In canon, does Han Solo shoot first?

I am left wondering why it is called "Han shot first". Surely if Han shot, he was the only one to shoot since Greedo was then dead.

Is there a reason for this?

  • With apologies to anyone who thinks this is too trivial to ask. It's just bugging me... Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 10:27

6 Answers 6


I hate to answer the question with a wikipedia quote, but here goes (from the page you linked):

Thus, the phrase "Han shot first" is a retort to director George Lucas' explicit cinematographic assertion that "Greedo shot first."

That's it, simple as that. It's the opposite of "Greedo shot first" rather than an actual description of what happened in the original release.

  • I missed the part that it was a "retort" (don't know why!). So this was a deliberate tongue in cheek response then. Thanks. Commented Mar 8, 2011 at 11:32
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    @Wikis - Yes. You can think of it as the fans' earliest attempt to wrestle the SW universe away from Lucas.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 21:13

In the Special Edition, George Lucas changed the cantina scene so Greedo fired but missed wildly, and then a split second later Han's shot (in the original footage) hit Greedo. This crippled the established character of Han, who was originally written as a scoundrel with a strong sense of self-preservation.

So "Han shot first" is how we complain in response. It's easier/quicker than saying "Han solo shot Greedo at the first opportunity he could to save himself because that's what a smuggler running from a crime lord he cheated would do. A professional (though inexperienced--see the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina book) bounty hunter would not miss while sitting down with a blaster pointed straight at the victim who is sitting still 2 feet away."

  • Rather than complain that this is more of a rant than an answer (despite it being a rant I agree with), I've taken a shot at rewriting your first paragraph to change that. Please revert my edit if I've missed the mark. Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 14:56
  • @neilfein: Fair enough. I like your change. :)
    – Mufasa
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 23:55
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    Actually, in the SE Lucas manipulated Solo in the film so his head jerks to one side; he's literally dodging a bullet, which at the same time gives an excuse to shoot back and makes him that much more of a badass. But, the original novel written by Lucas himself says that Han shoots before Greedo gets a chance; the other patrons in the bar knew that Greedo was an idiot for letting Solo get his hands under the table.
    – KeithS
    Commented Sep 16, 2011 at 23:17
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    Plus we want to see him unholster thar ridiculously awesome looking blaster.
    – surfasb
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 19:50
  • @KeithS, The Star Wars novel attributed to George Lucas was ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster IIRC.
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 22:57

A thought occurred to me today that helps explain it.

The alternative to "Han Shot First" is "Greedo Never Fired"

The second is definitely more accurate: Greedo did NOT fire in the original theatrical version. That said, the fan outrage was geared towards inciting a more general outrage or at least making sure everyone knew WHY the fans were outraged.

Greedo is a minor character who spends less than 5 minutes on screen, is hardly referenced in the EU, had no memorable lines, and is only notable for being a complete idiot.

Han was played by Harrison Ford. He was in all 3 movies. He has an extensive presence in the EU. His list of quotable lines is longer than a child's arm. He was on virtually every poster. Han is almost as universally recognized as being tied to Star Wars as the lightsaber.

Therefore, their mantra had to feature Han.

Secondly, "Han Shot First" is an action statement - it says something about the character. It is a definite action that he took, and it is clear enough to reference the scene implicitly. "Greedo Never Fired" rather says what a character didn't do. It doesn't give us a clear picture of Greeo's character, it doesn't say what he would have done, it simply says he didn't fire.

The choice between an action statement and a passive statement is clear. People like action, not inaction. "Han Shot First" is simply a stronger statement, and it is much more memorable.


The "first" in Han Shot First could be interpreted as a reference to the two films, the theatrical release, and the special edition. So taken both as a whole, then Han Shot First, Greedo shot the second time (SE). This is one way to rationalize the "first" in the popular saying.


I think there are two different ways to parse the phrase "Han shot first":

  1. Among the multiple beings who fired their guns, Han was the first.

  2. There were multiple beings who wanted to fire their guns, Han was the first person to do so.

You're reading it as the first way, but if you read it the second way it makes sense. Han and Greedo both wanted to shoot each other, but Han got there first. You could say this in many other cases; for instance, I was going to go to the breakroom for some free donuts, but everyone else got there first. That definitely does not imply that I still got a donut.

Also, note that there's a potential double meaning here. "Han shot first" could be a reference to the 'first' version of the film, in which Han was the only person who shot. In other words "at first, Han shot alone, but later both Greedo and Han shot".

  • 1
    Er, what? The established meaning of Han shot first is that Greedo didn't shoot first in the original release. In fact, the scene makes less sense with Greedo shooting first, at point blank range, and missing. That's why it's so contentious
    – Machavity
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 18:31
  • 1
    @Machavity I agree with you. I don't see the conflict. How are you disagreeing with my answer? Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 18:38
  • Because you're ignoring the larger argument for a simple parsing of words. It devalues the core argument (that George Lucas unapologetically retconned the scene) and makes it sounds like this is all about semantics.
    – Machavity
    Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 18:43
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    This is all about semantics. The OP didn't think the phrase "Han shot first" was correct because no one shot after him. I'm saying it doesn't matter that no one shot next. The context matters too, and that's covered in another answer, but what I'm focusing on is the fact that as it stands, the phrase can be read in a way that still makes sense. Commented Sep 22, 2017 at 18:50

Without getting over analytical, when the original Star Wars showed the confrontation between Greedo and Han, While talking about taking his money the conversation went:

Han: Over My Dead Body

Greedo(while pointing a gun at him): That's the Idea. I've been looking forward to this for a long time.

Han(while secretly unsheathing his weapon under the table): I'll bet you have

And Han shoots him under the table.

Its a cool scene and gives Han credibility in a dog eat dog situation.

If you change it and use crappy CGI to make Greedo shoot first, Han dodge and return fire, it is self defense. It portrays him differently and makes the scene SO much less cool.

  • 1
    How is what you said different from what Mufasa said? Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 18:47
  • 1
    Also how does this address the question? Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 20:13

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