What If Han Solo Had Died In The Original Star Wars Trilogy

Han Solo is a key character in both the original Star Wars trilogy and its sequels, but what if he had died in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi? First released on May 25th, 1983, Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi opened to a raucous reception, grossing a mammoth $374 million during its initial theatrical run and being lauded as a fitting end to the first groundbreaking Star Wars trilogy. Yet the hysteria surrounding good triumphing over evil and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) bringing his father Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) back from the dark side in 1983 may well have been diminished had one of the original Return of the Jedi endings come to fruition.

Harrison Ford's portrayal of the devil-may-care, begrudging hero Han Solo has become one of the most iconic sci-fi performances of all time, with Solo as revered in contemporary culture as he was in 1983. Yet several of the key players behind the original Star Wars trilogy initially wanted to kill off Han Solo in the final act of Return of the Jedi, with Harrison Ford and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan petitioning George Lucas to let it happen. Ford, in particular, believed it would be a "fitting use of the character" (per Entertainment Weekly's Tumblr page), with the Indiana Jones star also stating that "his sacrifice for the other characters would lend gravitas and emotional weight" to Return of the Jedi's ending.

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While Lucas ultimately vetoed the idea in favor of a more picturesque ending, there is no doubt Han Solo's death would have changed the landscape of the Star Wars canon. Solo dying in the original Star Wars trilogy also throws up difficult existential questions regarding Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with Solo's originally planned sacrifice essentially eradicating Ben Solo (Adam Driver) and his Force Dyad with Rey (Daisy Ridley) from the Disney movies' picture. As a result, here's what would have happened if Han Solo had died in the original Star Wars trilogy, including how screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and Ford planned to kill off his character in Return of the Jedi.

The Original Star Wars Trilogy Would Have Ended On A Bleak Note

Return of the Jedi remains a shining example of how to satisfactorily end a beloved trilogy, with Episode VI tying up long-standing narrative threads for its main heroes. Luke is able to bring his father back to the light side of the force as Anakin Skywalker/Vader restores balance to the force as prophecized, while Han Solo and Leia can embrace as victorious leaders of the rebellion after years of hardship. Yet had Kasdan and Ford got their way, the original Star Wars trilogy would have ended on a bleak note as Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and company mourned the death of their friend on Endor. This would have completely changed the complexion of Endor's celebratory scenes, with Yoda (Frank Oz), Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness), and Anakin's Force Ghosts likely looking on in reverence as the rebels survey the cost of their final victory. Given Star Wars' overt classic fantasy themes of heroism and good triumphing over evil, this would have been a jarring and largely depressing note to end the initial trilogy on.

Over the years, several scenarios for how Han Solo could have died have emerged from interviews with Kasdan, Ford, and Lucas. Ford originally lobbied for Solo to be killed in-between Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi after he is taken prisoner by Darth Vader, with the carbonite he is encased in accidentally killing him. When Lucas shot this idea down, Lawrence Kasdan reportedly changed tack, landing on a more heroic way for Solo to die. Kasdan put forth that Solo should die on Endor, with his sacrifice bringing down the Death Star shield and cementing the rebel's victory. Ultimately, this idea was also discarded, with Lucas wanting redemption and victory for each Return of the Jedi's main narrative players.

Princess Leia's Character Arc Would Be Far Darker

Aside from the immediate shock of Han Solo's demise, his death would surely have a knock-on effect on those closest to him. In particular, Solo's death would hit Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) hardest, with Solo and the princess of Alderaan finally confessing their love for each other as Return of the Jedi begins in Jabba's palace. It is, therefore, incredibly likely that robbed of her love, Leia would become a far darker proposition in any subsequent Star Wars sequels as she seeks revenge upon any remnants of the Empire. It is also worth noting that, unlike Luke, Leia is not well-versed in the ways of the force - meaning Solo's death could push her closer to the dark side of the force in the same way Padme's (Natalie Portman) fate sealed Anakin Skywalker's (Hayden Christensen) descent to evil in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

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Ben Solo/Kylo Ren Would Not Have Been Born

Han Solo's death in Return of the Jedi would also have a massive ripple effect on the wider Star Wars canon. This is best exemplified by Han Solo's son Ben, who would never have been born if Han Solo died on Endor, setting off a chain of causal changes for the Star Wars universe to contend with. Solo's death would have radically altered the Star Wars sequel trilogy narrative, with Kylo Ren not existing to oppose Rey before finding redemption and forming their all-important Force Dyad. Han Solo's death in Return of the Jedi would also mean he is not there to shepherd Rey and Finn (John Boyega) in the critical early stages of their journey, with Solo acting like a father figure for the orphaned Rey. In this way, Solo's death fundamentally changes the complexion of the Star Wars sequels and would have given J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens far less cohesive narrative ties to work with.

Chewbacca Would Not Feature In The Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

It also goes without saying that had Han Solo died on Endor, it is doubtful Chewbacca would have featured in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. As fleshed out by Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han Solo and Chewbacca's relationship is a deep and binding friendship that goes back to their early days attempting to survive amidst the darkest years of the new Galactic Empire's reign. The end of Solo: A Star Wars Story sees Chewbacca choose to stay with Han and company despite having the opportunity to leave with his own kind, cementing that he feels at home with Han aboard the Millenium Falcon. This viewpoint is confirmed by Chewbacca being a near-constant presence at Han Solo's side in the original trilogy, meaning Chewbacca would be unlikely to stick around following his friend's death. As a result, Han Solo's death in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi would have irrecoverably changed the Star Wars landscape as it exists in contemporary culture and given the original trilogy a decidedly darker ending.

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Charles Cameron (392 Articles Published)

Charles Cameron is a Features Editor for Screen Rant specializing in Film & TV. A B.A. graduate of UEL, he spent several years in corporate roles before committing to pursuing his passion of writing full time. A British native, Charles also is an avid football fan and podcast co-creator who loves delivering new content en-masse across various forms of media.

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