Han Severals: 16-plus characters who smuggled inspiration from Han Solo

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, in Guardians Of The Galaxy (Photo: Marvel); Katee Sackhoff as Kara “Starbuck” Thrace in Battlestar Galactica (Photo: Alan Zenuk/SCI FI Channel/NBCUPB via Getty Images); and Nathan Fillion as “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly (Screenshot: Firefly)

Han Solo is based on a familiar archetype: Star Wars’ lovable scoundrel can trace his roots back to our earliest myths, while there are progenitors of his world-weary cynicism in Humphrey Bogart’s movies, his charming roguishness in Douglas Fairbanks’, and his reluctantly outlaw heroics throughout the samurai films and Westerns that so informed George Lucas’ saga. Still, once Harrison Ford swaggered on screen in 1977, “the Han Solo” became its own character mold, an antidote to the square-jawed school of heroism that soon became the go-to reference for any self-assured, sarcastic hotshot who was a little bit bad and a whole lot cool.

Granted, Han is also just part of a long movie lineage of flawed, funny warriors played by equally scrappy actors; it’s no coincidence, for example, that Burt Reynolds and Al Pacino each said they turned down the roles of both Han Solo and Die Hard’s John McClane, while Ford himself more or less reprised the role in a fedora as Indiana Jones. But even though there’s a bit of Han Solo in just about every modern action hero, there are plenty of characters scattered throughout movies, TV, and video games who owe more than a little something specifically to the Corellian cowboy, a lasting influence that’s kept Han on our screens long before Solo: A Star Wars Story. Here are some of them, all in one lovable rogues’ gallery.

1. Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly (2002)

You can see a 12-inch Han Solo frozen in carbonite lurking in the background throughout Firefly, an inside-joke gift that was created by the cult sci-fi series’ prop department for star Nathan Fillion, a self-professed Han Solo fan. And you can see a much larger version in Fillion’s Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, a swaggering space cowboy who’s quick on the draw and even faster with a smirk. From Mal’s roguish disdain for authority, to his unconditional love for his perpetually broken-down ship, to a slippery ethical code that nevertheless prizes loyalty to his friends, there’s a lot of openly acknowledged similarities between the two characters—so much so that fans still enjoy imagining Han and Mal facing off in bar fights, or partnering up on a smuggling business, or probably doing other things we won’t Google. There are some key differences, of course: As a flawed former war hero who ends up permanently on the lam, eking out a living doing odd jobs, Mal’s story is nearly the reverse of Han’s (or perhaps, what Han’s turned into somewhere between Return Of The Jedi and The Force Awakens). Still, there’s no mistaking whom Joss Whedon was picturing when he imagined a show about a smart-assed intergalactic gunslinger. [Sean O’Neal]

2. Hal Jordan, Green Lantern (2011)

A hotshot pilot who refuses to play by the rules, tosses out snarky wisecracks when he’s not fight-flirting with his love interest, and reluctantly finds himself thrust into the role of playing space cop, Hal Jordan from 2011’s Green Lantern could trace a lot of his DNA to Han Solo. In fact, Ryan Reynolds himself repeatedly said as much in interviews, telling the Los Angeles Times that “Han Solo, who was witty but not really funny, was one of the touchstones” for his version of the DC superhero. “I saw the guy as a cross between Chuck Yeager and Han Solo,” he later wrote for a Green Lantern comics collection. Despite Reynolds’ equally ambitious suggestion that Green Lantern’s universe even rivaled Star Wars’, the film bombed so badly that the franchise was over before it started. Still, Reynolds soon found success playing another hero who was even more of a scoundrel—and his semi-joking pitch for a Deadpool/Han Solo team-up shows the character is never far from his mind. [Gwen Ihnat]

3. The Prince, Prince Of Persia (2008)

The developers of 2008’s Prince Of Persia reboot weren’t shy about discussing the source for their new take on the series’ hero: Han Solo (along with Sinbad and Aragorn) inspired their own mouthy vagabond, whose only actual claim to royalty is his nickname. When we first meet The Prince, he’s been separated from his Chewbacca—in this case, a donkey—before running into an actual princess, whom he reluctantly agrees to help in her quest to banish a world-devouring evil. The two end up adventuring together and fighting the princess’ own tragically corrupted father, an epic ordeal that blossoms into, if not a Han Solo/Princess Leia-style romance, then at least a powerful friendship. Meanwhile, The Prince matures from a selfish bum who only cares about hunting riches with his animal sidekick into a noble hero, one who’s willing to sacrifice everything for the people he cares about. Now where have we heard that one before? [Matt Gerardi]

4. Madmartigan, Willow (1988)

“What if Han Solo were skilled with a sword?” might have been in George Lucas’ mind when he was cooking up Willow, a film he developed concurrently with Star Wars. There are enough links between them that, over the years, the franchise has often teased fans with the idea that Willow actually takes place in the Star Wars universe. Whatever your feelings on that, both of Lucas’ stories undeniably offer similar riffs on Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey and slightly tweaked versions of its character archetypes. And Madmartigan is clearly Han Solo in medieval garb, a slippery criminal and scoundrel who can always talk his way out of a bind, but who finds love and honor after he decides to step up and help save the day. While it’s doubtful Madmartigan and Han Solo will ever actually meet, according to writer Jon Kasdan, there’s yet another Willow homage in Solo: A Star Wars Story—directed, like Willow, by Ron Howard—thus furthering the connection. [Alex McLevy]

5. Spike Spiegel, Cowboy Bebop (1998)

Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel is as Han Solo as they come. He lives in a junky spaceship. His job skirts legality (though he’s a bounty hunter instead of smuggler). He’s an ace pilot who can get out of any situation—which helps, considering he’s on the run from a crime syndicate. Most importantly, Spike has a “too cool for this shit” attitude that’s clearly just a mask for how much of a softie he is. Like everybody on Cowboy Bebop, Spike has a history of giving up his money-making schemes at the last second in order to rescue innocents in need. And like Han, he’s another coolly detached guy who lives from space-paycheck to space-paycheck, who still always begrudgingly does the right thing. He doesn’t fill the exact same role as Han—and he’s far deadlier—but Spike would fit right in on the Millennium Falcon. [Sam Barsanti]

6. Peter Quill, Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige originally wanted a Darth Vader action figure to stand in for Star-Lord’s very human, 1980s upbringing until, as he explained in this 2017 interview, Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn suggested a Walkman instead. But while Star Wars might not explicitly exist in Peter Quill’s world, the arrogant, leather-clad lothario played by Chris Pratt clearly grew up on Han Solo (even if he actually looks up to David Hasselhoff). Both are handsome, intergalactic criminals with dubious morals and the insatiable desire for a quick payday. Both engage in verbal sparring as foreplay with a beautiful, self-composed warrior. Both fraternize with members of statuesque alien species. And both have a deep, abiding love for their ships. Much emphasis on Quill being a “space cowboy” and the “original outer space scoundrel” was also made during Marvel’s buildup to the film’s release, and according to Pratt, Feige even suggested to him that the character was “Han Solo meets Marty McFly,” balancing Han’s roguishness with the excitement of a kid—the kind of hybrid who might carry around an action figure of himself. [Danette Chavez]

7. Owen Grady, Jurassic World (2015)

The influence of Han Solo is deeply felt even in Chris Pratt’s non-space blockbuster: Jurassic World’s Owen Grady has a very similar sarcastic swagger (even as his arrogance ultimately backfires into a desperation Han never really had). Like Han, Owen is always ready with a clever quip that no one else really appreciates, and he spends a lot of his time communicating with a sidekick that nobody else can understand (Blue the Velociraptor is sort of a dinosaur Chewbacca). Grady even shares the same cocky, flirty, dismissive attitude that Han had toward women—though thanks to Princess Leia, Han grew out of it a bit quicker than Grady did. Perhaps most importantly, Grady wears a cool vest. [Sam Barsanti]

8. Balthier, Final Fantasy XII (2006)

Final Fantasy XII bucked a whole host of the game franchise’s conventions, throwing out combat mechanics to tell a much denser story of palace intrigue than the series’ standard, poppy sci-fi/fantasy sagas previously had. But beneath all the political gamesmanship was a surprisingly thorough Star Wars retread, with an on-the-run princess joining a resistance against an all-powerful empire. Pretty much every character from Lucas’ saga is recreated in FFXII, and it’s the rapscallion sky pirate Balthier who serves as the token Solo stand-in. He’s a little more debonair than Han Solo, but the similarities are clear; his story arc even mirrors Han’s in his getting recruited from the criminal underground and maintaining quietly hidden allegiances, until he’s finally proven an essential teammate. Balthier’s companion, Fran, serves as the game’s Chewbacca clone—another bow-wielding badass, albeit here outfitted with huge bunny ears. [Clayton Purdom]

9. John Finnegan, Deep Rising (1998)

Stephen Sommers’ gory 1998 sci-fi actioner is basically Alien on a boat, but another major influence is made obvious by who turned down the lead: Harrison Ford balked at playing sarcastic ship captain John Finnegan, so the role went to another mercenary, actor Treat Williams. You can see why Ford might have said thanks but no thanks to playing another wisecracking reluctant hero whose agreeing to take on a few passengers, no questions asked, puts him in mortal danger, after he and his crew find themselves aboard a cruise ship under attack by Lovecraftian sea monsters. Finnegan’s wry, put-upon attitude (which, in this perfect B-movie amalgam, also owes a bit to Kurt Russell) can be summed up by his cranky catchphrase, “Now what?”, while the trailer even gives him both a cocky “Yeehaw!” moment and an “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” [Sean O’Neal]

10. Herc Stormsailor, Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors (1985)

Created to boost sales of Mattel toys that, oops, it turned out no one wanted, the 1985 cartoon Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors had a crazy convoluted plot about evil plant monster cyborgs and magic space botanists—which didn’t exactly endear itself to kids either. But at least one character was pretty easy to understand, thanks to his just being a total Han Solo ripoff grafted onto He-Man’s body. Herc Stormsailor—even his initials are the same—is the aloof, quippy mercenary pilot of his own beloved space junker, and the cartoon’s developers (led by future Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski) showed zero shame about openly modeling him on Han Solo. Actually, given that the series also concerns Herc chauffeuring an eager kid, whose call to adventure involves seeking out his father—and whose quest is aided by a white-bearded space wizard and a panicky robot squire, while occasionally involving epic laser-sword battles—there wasn’t a lot of shame involved here all the way around. [Sean O’Neal]

11. Starbuck, Battlestar Galactica (1978 and 2004)

Although Glen A. Larson claimed to have been working on the conflict between Cylons and humans for years before his series premiered in 1978, Battlestar Galactica clearly owed a lot to Star Wars: A New Hope—not least by the fact that the film’s success helped it get on the air. Larson’s show also borrowed from Star Wars’ design and characterization, most evidently in how Lieutenant Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) was also a cocky, floppy-haired pilot given to gambling and womanizing; he was basically Han Solo’s TV analog. Larson never acknowledged Lucas’ film as an influence, but 20th Century Fox was happy to make the connection for him, filing suit against BSG’s production company Universal for plagiarism and copyright infringement—a legal fracas that was ultimately never resolved, thanks to Universal counter-suing over Star Wars’ own “homage” to old Buck Rogers serials. But Benedict himself gave up the game in a 2010 interview bashing the Battlestar Galactica remake, in which he derided Katee Sackhoff’s gender-swapped Starbuck—herself another swaggering, card-playing badass—as “Hannah Solo.” [Danette Chavez]

12. Valkyrie, Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Although there was already a Marvel template for Tessa Thompson’s Thor: Ragnarok character, Valkyrie’s jaded smirk, hr strut, and penchant for shady business dealings are practically excerpted from Han Solo’s résumé. Like Han, she has a way with big “beasts” and an unflappable cool: When we first meet her on Sakaar, she literally falls out of her ship; rather than try to play it off, she just kills everyone. While Valkyrie’s arc doesn’t completely line up with Han’s, it’s clear she’s a spiritual descendant. At least, both Thompson and Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi see it that way: She told The Independent in 2017 that Waititi pitched Valkyrie as “the Han Solo [of] the movie.” [Danette Chavez]

13. Isabela, Dragon Age II (2011)

She may look like Pamela Anderson crossed with Jack Sparrow, but make no mistake: Isabela is pure Han Solo. One of the many characters players you can recruit in the divisive RPG Dragon Age II, Isabela is a rogue by every possible definition. She’s a saucy pirate who loves to fight and fuck, and she spends most of the game cracking jokes at the expense of the more naive characters in your crew. Meanwhile, the thing that makes her especially interesting among gaming’s horde of Solo stand-ins is that Dragon Age II asks you to essentially play the part of Luke and Leia in tearing down Isabela’s self-serving tendencies. Unless you put in that work, all the things that make her such a charming scoundrel will end up biting you in the ass as she steals a priceless cultural relic, then saunters back to her life of crime and leaves you screwed. That’s what you get for trusting a criminal. [Matt Gerardi]

14. Valerian, Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017)

This one is complicated. Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’ comic book Valerian And Laureline was an obvious—if never officially acknowledged—influence on Star Wars, to the point that the artists themselves called out the similarities in a satirical panel in which their characters meet George Lucas’ in a bar. But although there’s plenty of Valerian in the look of Star Wars, from the Millennium Falcon to Princess Leia’s gold bikini, it’s telling that Christin and Mézières drew their creations meeting Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker—not Han. After all, there’s arguably more of Luke’s stereotypically righteous, heroic qualities in Valerian, a government agent who nevertheless does share some of Han’s arrogance and sense of humor (along with his floppy ’70s bangs). But there’s no question where Luc Besson’s movie version of Valerian comes from, however. As played by Dane DeHaan—who cited Ford’s performance as an inspiration—Valerian is a cocky, coolly detached badass who clearly aspires to Han Solo levels of charisma. (The trailer even makes a point of introducing him with the line, “Agent Valerian, you’ll be running solo,” wink wink.) Besson’s film certainly didn’t benefit from the comparison: Nearly every review couldn’t help but point out that DeHaan was no Harrison Ford. Still, his performance did help this life cycle of science-fiction homage/plagiarism come full circle. [Sean O’Neal]

15. Nathan Drake, Uncharted (2007)

Indiana Jones is the most obvious inspiration for Uncharted, Sony’s blockbuster series of treasure-hunting video games, but once you look past their shared love of world history, most of its protagonists have less in common with Indy than they do with Harrison Ford’s other most famous character. That especially goes for the star of Uncharted, Nathan Drake, who usually embarks on his tomb-raiding, dude-shooting adventures solely for the payday and adrenaline rush, rather than any sort of altruistic concern or academic curiosity. Meanwhile, Nate has surrounded himself with a network of fellow wisecracking rogues with flimsy allegiances, to the point that nearly every major character in Uncharted who isn’t a villain can be read as another ersatz Solo: Victor “Sully” Sullivan is an old Han Solo with a Burt Reynolds mustache; Chloe Frazer is basically a female Han Solo; and in Uncharted 4, after Nate finally settles down, his long-lost brother Sam shows up to fill the Han Solo void while dragging him into one last score. [Matt Gerardi]

16-??. A whole bunch more, Star Wars Expanded Universe

No one is more prolific in ripping off Star Wars’ beloved scoundrel than Star Wars itself; after all, there’s nothing like a little cocky self-interest to act as a vital antidote to the intergenerational family squabbles and hokey religious talk that so frequently occupy the franchise. Look no further than The Force Awakens, which is careful to plant handsome, dashing fighter ace Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) front and center in its opening moments, long before Ford’s aging original arrives. In fact, the new trilogy gives us a few spiritual descendants of Han, in addition to Adam Driver’s literal one: Poe gets all his brash “flyboy” swagger, while John Boyega’s Finn carries on his tradition of endearing, goofily reckless improvisation from one disaster to another. And even Han’s more mercenary traits get their own dark reflection in The Last Jedi, in the form of Benicio del Toro’s ruthlessly self-serving hacker.

Star Wars’ willingness to crib from one of its own best characters extends far beyond the movies, though. Its Expanded Universe—both the rebranded “Legends” stories and the new, Disney-approved canon—is filled with rogues with hearts of gold piloting fast ships, many of them bearing punchy names like Corran Horn or Talon Karrde. But the true home of the Han-a-like can be found in the various Star Wars games, to the point that “Scoundrel” is an official character class in the series’ licensed tabletop RPG. Many of these seem designed to pose hypothetical questions that nobody ever really wanted answered, like “What if Han Solo could use the Force?” (Jedi Knight’s Kyle Katarn); or “What if Han Solo was secretly an evil Sith assassin?” (Knights Of The Old Republic II’s Atton Rand; or “What if Han Solo sucked?” (Shadow Of The Empire’s Dash Rendar). A few of these guys managed to grow into their own worthy characters—not you, Dash—but they all remain indebted to the cocksure grin, wry optimism, and daring recklessness of the original. [William Hughes]