Recently, in response to AFI's Top 50 Heroes and Villains List, the great and noble Q applied his considerable cranial abilities to critiquing and appending that list.
One comment in particular set me to thinking: why is it that Han Solo appears on the list but Luke Skywalker does not? Luke is clearly the hero of the original trilogy, or, at the very least, the one who is motivated by the more noble causes. In fact, if you look at it from that perspective, Han Solo isn't really a hero at all, at least until the third movie (but by then his character has been figuratively assassinated so it doesn't matter).
In Star Wars: A New Hope, he's motivated by selfish reasons throughout, most notably greed and self-preservation above all else. Reluctantly, he is forced to help out a friend in the end, but does that make him a hero? I'm sure Solo himself would scoff at the notion (he even rolls his eyes right before he and Luke walk down the aisle to receive their medals at the end).
Maybe, as Jaquandor touched on, it has to do with the popularity the character has acquired over the years. Perhaps desiring to make Han fit the mold of the hero motivated Lucas to insert the 'self-defense' scenario into the Greedo scene for the special edition [Disgression: Many people, like myself, have issues with this change, not the least of which are the people behind the Greedo Conspiracy page , who offer some pretty hilarious theories on how Greedo could have missed Solo from 1 meter.] In any event, I think that Solo doesn't fit into the category of hero so much as scoundrel, a word he definitely liked the sound of.
From the Star Wars Role-Playing Game (no, I don't do that stuff anymore), Han Solo is even categorized as a scoundrel. The definition is perfect:
- Scoundrels are rogues -- good, bad, and neutral -- who either live outside the law or fight against it in order to get the upper hand. They can come from any world or region of the galaxy. Most use their intelligence and dexterity to accomplish tasks, and many rely on charisma as a fallback when all else fails. The scoundrel gets by with bravado, cunning, duplicity, and trickery. They live by their wits, lying, cheating, stealing, and even fighting when the need arises.
Scoundrels have a knack for getting into and out of trouble. They have a self-preservation streak that keeps them alive, but it's usually tempered with a need to experience the thrills that their profession has to offer, and many adventurous scoundrels are also saddled with a sense of honor that sometimes makes them go against their natural inclinations.
I think it's pretty clear that AFI tried to shoe-horn a character into their list just to please the masses. Apparently, no one likes a whiny teenager, even though that's pretty much what most of us are at that age. If anything, Lucas has been criticized for making his younger characters too realistic, but that's for another time. Anyway, the whole point of this thread was to provide a list of notable scoundrels in film, but as usual, I've digressed far too much. I'll do that after lunch. Trust me.