Should Han Solo have died in Return of the Jedi?


Harrison Ford has famously spoken about how he advocated for Han Solo to die in Return of the Jedi. Was is the right call to keep the scoundrel alive?

Harrison Ford has famously spoken about how he advocated for Han Solo to die in Return of the Jedi. Was is the right call to keep the scoundrel alive?

During an interview with Conan O’Brien during the press tour for The Force Awakens,  Harrison Ford spoke more in-depth about why he wanted Han Solo to perish in the final film of the original trilogy:

"It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… I thought the best utility of the character would be for him to sacrifice himself to a high ideal and give a little bottom, a little gravitas to the enterprise, not that there wasn’t some already but I just wanted in on some part of it. That was at the third occasion of filming the original three."

While it would’ve been devastating to watch Han die then, Ford’s reasoning does make sense, despite Han still having a major role in Return of the Jedi. The first act revolves around rescuing him and from Jabba the Hutt. Han’s leadership within the Rebellion goes on to be integral in defeating the Empire during the Battle of Endor. He shares some of is his best scenes with Leia and is certainly important to the plot.

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Compared to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, though, Han doesn’t undergo quite as much rich character development. Ford recognized that the film’s real emotional gravitas manifests itself through the story of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, not through the story of Han Solo. A noble death could’ve made Han more intertwined with the film’s emotional core.

Many characters lose their lives in Return of the Jedi, but the characters audiences were most connected to – Luke, Leia, and Han – all survived. There arguably would’ve been greater meaning to the sacrifices made in defeating the Empire and offering newfound freedom to the galaxy if it cost the life of a character like Han.

Still, for the stake of Star Wars, it’s a relief  Han survived Return of the Jedi and went on to have a major impact on a galaxy far, far away for many years to come.

Return of the Jedi‘s ending would’ve had a completely different and probably less satisfying ending if Han died. It would be difficult for Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and the others to celebrate their victory on Endor knowing it also meant a future without Han.

Part of the appeal of the Expanded Universe that followed in the years after Return of the Jedi was the opportunity to learn more about Han, especially in regards to what kind of person he became after the original trilogy. His relationships with Leia, Luke, and Chewbacca continued to develop in fascinating ways, not to mention the relationships formed with his own children and other new characters. Of course, there would’ve been an appetite for more Star Wars even if Han hadn’t survived, but the appetite was so much stronger because his character could be explored in a future beyond the existing movies.

Han was also key to making The Force Awakens and the sequel trilogy work, arguably the most important steps in creating a successful new era of Star Wars. Han initially provided the most important link between the old and new generations of characters and fans. Seeing an older Harrison Ford reprising the role of Han Solo so many years later was a thrilling prospect for fans of all ages and one of the main selling points surrounding The Force Awakens.

Photo Credit: [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] LucasfilmBeyond just helping Rey and Finn reach the Resistance, Han acted as the most important mentor figures in their lives, bonding with them as they worked together, believing in and pushing them to reach their full potential. Arguably no one shaped Rey and Finn to become the leaders of the next generation and of the Resistance more than Han.

Han is just as important to the film’s primary antagonist as he is so much at the heart of Kylo Ren’s struggle. The brilliantly written character of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo – perfectly portrayed by Adam Driver – wouldn’t exist without Han. Han’s death at the hands of his son has more emotional weight and ongoing influence than any death he could’ve had in Return of the Jedi. It would’ve been premature, preventing him from reaching a point where the arc that began in A New Hope could truly culminate.

He started off as a self-serving smuggler and ended a hero and mentor, sacrificing everything in order to try and save his son. He helped elevate Rey and Finn to become the heroes the galaxy needed. The nature of his death solidified Kylo Ren as the primary antagonist of the sequel trilogy while also lending more depth and complexity to his son’s struggle, something that carried over well into the The Last Jedi.

Next. Top 5 moments of Han Solo and Chewbacca's friendship. dark

At the end of the day it was definitely the right call to let Han survive Return of the Jedi.

Do you think Han should’ve died in Return of the Jedi? Let us know in the comments below!