Han Solo, the brash smuggler captain with a heart of gold, is the character that made Harrison Ford Harrison Ford. Before Solo, Ford had appeared onscreen in supporting roles exclusively—after Solo, he was a bona fide star. Ford’s Han Solo is charismatic and sexy, the funniest character in A New Hope, and likable despite his apparent arrogance and selfishness. A major key to understanding Han’s character is the clue provided by his last name. Han is used to looking after only himself, with the Wookie Chewbacca as the lone exception to the rule. If Luke starts out as the romantic dreamer, still immature but eager, Han is the wised-up cynic, willing to fight but only in it for the money. (Ben, with his quiet dedication to the cause of right, stands as a rebuke to both Han and Luke.) Another clue is the connection between Han and his spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, a small freighter to which Solo has made extensive modifications in order to boost her speed. Like the Falcon,Solo is temperamental, something of a misfit, and distinctly untrustworthy in appearance. But over the course of the trilogy, Han, the quintessential loner, finds himself drawn into friendship with Luke, into a leadership position in the Rebellion, and into a romantic relationship with Leia.
Throughout much of the trilogy, Solo tries to resist commitment, whether to a person or to a cause, but finds his instincts overruled by his affection. For example, Solo initially leaves once he has his reward, but he returns to help Luke take on the Death Star. Later, he is set to leave again, but he delays his departure first to help rescue Luke and then to make sure Leia escapes during the evacuation of Hoth. Similarly, Han constantly needles Leia in order to get her to admit her affection for him but would never dream of being the first to express his feelings. Solo is later captured and held by Jabba the Hutt, giving his friends the chance return his loyalty, and Han is the one rescued. From this point on, Solo is a changed man, still cocky and brash, but now clearly committed to the Rebellion and to the woman he loves.