Can you believe it has been almost 45 years since the first Star Wars film was released in theaters? A New Hope introduced characters who are now as beloved and familiar as old friends. Like the strong and feisty Princess Leia and the cocky pilot Han Solo, our OTP.
They bickered, they bantered, and they eventually fell in love – and made us fall in love with them. Their interaction is, after all, one of the most captivating parts of this grand saga. In the midst of all the spectacular settings and events, Han and Leia are simply two hearts coming together. And we can’t forget them. In fact, their moments have become so special that they’ve enter a new level.
So, to celebrate Star Wars, let’s take a moment to enjoy the moments that made Han and Leia icons.
The battle to destroy the Death Star has been won by the Rebellion. Han played a vital role in that victory when he hit Darth Vader’s ship to clear the way for Luke to make his “one in a million” shot. As Luke and Han are gifted with medals from the Rebellion, Han displays all the charm of the scoundrel we’ve already come to expect.
Leia drapes his medal over his neck and then he gives her a grin and a wink to cap off their love-hate attraction. For this film at least. This on-the-down-low flirting is just a fun touch in the middle of an entire sequence that makes it impossible not to smile. (Seriously. Try it.) I have no doubt that part of the reason why some fans in 1977 wanted a Star Wars sequel was to see what happened next between Han and Leia.
“I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee!”
From flirting to fighting. (Which is what these two do!) Early on in The Empire Strikes Back, the audience learns that Han has stayed with the Rebellion since the medal ceremony but now feels he must go pay off a bounty on his head. Leia is upset about this. Han insists this is because she has feelings for him but she insists differently, using the famous line above.
This moment is a strong example of their dynamic, with Leia punching back against Han’s arrogance. But there’s humor here as well because the viewer knows Han is right, at least to a certain degree. Their height difference adds another layer of enjoyment to a fight like this as well. The scene also ends with a kicker of a response from Han: “I can arrange that! You could use a good kiss!”
“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!”
Let’s back up and talk about Han and Leia’s first meeting. These two started off strong, bringing their love-hate interaction to the fore from the beginning. Leia questions Luke and Han’s methods in rescuing her and Han retorts, “Perhaps you’d like to get back in your cell, Your Highness.” This scene helps to establish character as well, because it’s Leia who takes charge and create an escape route for them.
A romantic future for them is immediately conveyed as well, when Han tells Luke, “Wonderful girl! Either I’m going to kill her or I’m beginning to like her!” And all this time, the Empire’s Stormtroopers have them pinned down in a hallway, shooting at them but never hitting them. So you’ve got humor on top of romance and adventure. Typical of Star Wars as a whole. Good stuff.
“You like me because I’m a soundrel.”
We’ve known this moment was coming the whole time. The storyline between Han and Leia demanded it. But when they kiss for the first time, while in the midst of repairing the Millenium Falcon, it is an excellent payoff. Of course, there is still more story to go but we know these two will be together at the end of it. It’s the way Han makes himself a little vulnerable when Leia says she likes nice men and he replies, “I’m a nice man.”
And it’s the way Leia looks a little shaken as she walks away after C3PO interrupts. (And weren’t we all annoyed with him for that?) The natural chemistry between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reaches an apex in this scene that a lot of movie couples wish they had. A first kiss is a big deal for any onscreen couple and Han and Leia did it right.
Is there any other Han and Leia moment more iconic? In a word, no. This dialogue is probably familiar even to people who haven’t seen The Empire Strikes Back. The situation is very bleak for our couple in this scene. It seems the Empire has won, capturing Han, Leia, and Chewie and setting a trap for Luke. Han is about to be frozen in carbonite. Leia tells him she loves him and Han’s response perfectly encapsulates his character.
It sounds cocky on the surface but Han is being stoic as well. He knows it is possible the carbon freezing process might kill him. So when we hear him say, “I know” we can tell he is also saying, “I love you too.” Because this was so successful, Return of the Jedi features a reverse, with Han saying “I love you” and Leia responding with, “I know.” With those two little words, Han and Leia cement their status as an iconic movie couple.
So can you think of any other iconic Han/Leia moments from the Star Wars franchise?
Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are all streaming on Disney Plus.