George Lucas changed the iconic Han Solo and Greedo stand-off a total of four times.
One of the biggest controversies to ever hit the Star Wars fandom was the “Han shot first” debacle, a result of George Lucas using digital technology to go back and monkey around with his original trilogy of films. These 1997 “Special Editions” featured numerous changes spread throughout the trilogy, but none was met with as much venom as the decision to mess with Han and Greedo’s cantina showdown.
Making Greedo shoot first was bad enough, but then Lucas kept changing the scene over the years, making minor tweaks here and there. All told, the filmmaker tampered with the iconic cantina stand-off a total of four different times!
Yes, Han Did Shoot First
For anyone who doesn’t remember the Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope scene in question, allow us to refresh your memory. Han Solo runs into an alien bounty hunter named Greedo, who is attempting to collect a bounty put on Solo’s head by gangster Jabba the Hutt. Greedo gives Han a lot of tough-guy talk while pointing a blaster at him.
Meanwhile, underneath the table, Han unholsters his own gun and, after waiting politely for Greedo to finish his spiel, draws it and blasts the alien right in the face. Greedo’s smoking head hits the table, and Han walks out like a badass flipping the Bartender a coin and remarking, “Sorry about the mess,” as he exits. A simple scene that does a good job of introducing the audience to Han Solo as a ruthless outlaw.
For two decades, Star Wars fans knew Han Solo as a cold-blooded mercenary who eventually has a change of heart and learns to value friends over money. It’s a textbook-perfect character arc. So, of course, George Lucas decided to ruin it.
Why Greedo Shot First Later
Lucas decided for the 20th anniversary of A New Hope, he would release a new version to theaters where Greedo now shoots at Han, who awkwardly—remember this is 1997 CGI—moves out of the way and fires his own weapon in self-defense.
Lucas claims he made the change because Han Solo eventually marries Princess Leia, and so he shouldn’t be a cold-blooded killer. That line of reasoning makes no sense, however, when you remember that one of Leia’s first scenes in Star Wars is her killing a bunch of Stormtroopers who very loudly just said that they were only going to stun her.
The new scene where Greedo shoots at Han first was not popular with fans in the slightest. The angry fan backlash may, in fact, have been what prompted George Lucas to change the scene again, this time for the 2004 DVD release of the original trilogy. In the new version of the scene—the third one overall—Lucas made it so that Han and Greedo now fire at the same time.
The problem with this scene, aside from the fact that even with 2004 CGI it still looks janky, was that now fans had to accept that Greedo missed Han at point-blank range, a ludicrous proposal even for the fantasy world of Star Wars.
The Third Version Sped It Up
The third change came with the 2011 Blu-Ray release of the Star Wars Saga and is literally just the 2004 scene with a couple of frames cut out so that the shooting part moves faster. What that minuscule change added to the scene is a mystery only George Lucas has the answer to.
Why Greedo Says Maclunkey In The Final Version
The fourth and final change George Lucas made to the scene caused the most uproar since the initial 1997 tampering. For the 2019 4K release of all the Star Wars movies, Disney was given new versions of the films upscaled to 4K by Lucas.
Along with the better resolution was one final tweak to poor Greedo. Now, before the shooting starts, Greedo utters a single word, “maclunkey” before he gets a mouth full of blaster fire.
The change was such a weird one that fans speculated that perhaps Lucas was trolling Disney by making the dumbest change of all right before he handed the films over to them. Unfortunately, the “maclunkey” edit is the one we’re stuck with unless Disney finally decides to release the original unmolested versions of the Star Wars trilogy, something they have no plans of doing in the immediate future.
Perhaps fans would feel better if they just adopted Harrison Ford‘s stance on the edits. When asked by a Redditor in 2014 who shot first, Han or Greedo Ford famously responded, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”