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How The Millennium Falcon Got Its Name

Luke Skywalker called it a "piece of junk." Princess Leia referred to it as a "bucket of bolts" long before she became a General. Most recently, a certain Force-sensitive fighter had the audacity to call it "garbage." But for the better part of his life, Han Solo and his faithful furry companion Chewbacca simply called it home.

It may not look like much these days, but whatever it's been called over the course of the Star Wars franchise (including the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker), the Millennium Falcon is still one of the fastest ships in the ever-expanding galaxy far, far away. After having played a key role in laying waste to a couple of Death Stars, aiding in the escape of key Rebel forces at virtually every turn, becoming the bane of both the Galactic Empire's and the First Order's existence, and now serving as ground zero for the surviving Resistance forces, the Millennium Falcon is also easily the most important. 

While much has been made of the Millennium Falcon's inception (it's hard to ignore that "burger with an olive attached" story once you hear it) and its enduring legacy in the vast canon of the Star Wars cinematic universe over the years, people tend to overlook the fact that the oddly designed ship that made the Kessel Run in less that 12 parsecs also happens to sport one of the coolest names in the galaxy. 

So, exactly how did the Millennium Falco get its name? Well, like most questions in the Star Wars galaxy, the answer has been debated quite a bit, and it's not quite as simple as you'd hope. 

Truth be told, there's really not a definitive answer to be had on the matter. Still, we're happy to offer some informed conjecture on a couple of very plausible theories regarding how the most famous Corellian light freighter in the galaxy got it its name. 

Is the Millennium Falcon's name a loving ode to a Hollywood icon?

Quite a bit of research has been conducted on the matter of the ship's name since the Millennium Falcon first appeared in Star Wars: A New Hope over three decades ago. It's worth asking not just how the Millennium Falcon got its name, but why it needed such a kickass one to begin with. Luckily, the answer to that particular question is fairly clear. Though its schematics went through dozens of permutations before Star Wars creator George Lucas and his effects team landed on the Falcon's now-iconic design, the ship was always conceived as a sort of combination bird-of-prey-styled craft and a pirate ship built for space. On that point, we'd simply ask you to think about all the pirate movies you've ever seen, and ask yourself to note how many of those dreaded attack vessels (real or fictional) didn't have a cool name — like the Black Pearl, the Jolly Roger, and Queen Ann's Revenge. Now, "Millennium Falcon" may not strike quite the same sort of fear into one's heart as some of those classic pirate ship names, but it's undeniably catchy and rolls off the tongue with the same sort of velvety ease — even if we don't know exactly who in the galaxy first called it that.

In the real world, Lucas was the man who named the Millennium Falcon. While Lucas has offered no official insight into the logic behind the craft's naming, we do know for certain that one of the characters that inspired the Falcon's long-time guardian Han Solo was, in fact, Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart. More succinctly, Humphrey Bogart in his unforgettable turn as the quick-witted yet hard-nosed detective Sam Spade in the 1941 noir-classic The Maltese Falcon. If you're not seeing the probable connection to the latter half of the Millennium Falcon's name with that intriguing bit of information, we'll just go ahead and give you a moment to grab your reading glasses and look it over a second time.  

Or is the name "Millennium Falcon" a nod to the series that helped inspire Star Wars?

As for the "Millennium" part of the ship's name, well, there's been a bit of debate about that. 

First and foremost, it's hard to imagine that Han Solo himself was conceived as anything less than one of the cooler cats in the galaxy at large. In the hands of Harrison Ford, he actually feels like a mix of a '50s drag racer (not too far removed from Ford's cocky hotrodder in Lucas' American Graffiti) and a smooth-talking grifter. Needless to say, a character with the moniker and persona "Han Solo" basically demands to be the captain of a ship with an equally sharp name. So sure, it's entirely plausible that Lucas settled on "Millennium" to accompany "Falcon" simply because it sounded really cool (not to mention pointedly futuristic) and jibed with Solo's cooler-than-cool attitudes.

However, accepting that theory as fact would encourage one to completely overlook one of Star Wars' (and the Millennium Falcon's) key stylistic influences: the mid-70s sci-fi serial Space: 1999. It's been widely reported over the years that the Millennium Falcon's original design was a far cry from the disc-shaped vessel we've come to know and love. Lucas and his team initially envisioned the ship as a smaller, more classically designed space freighter in the vein of Space: 1999's transport ship, the Eagle.

It seems that when Lucas was going over rough designs for the then-still-unnamed Millennium Falcon, he was unhappy with the ship's clear resemblance to the Eagle in Space: 1999, and was desperate to deliver a space ship the likes of which the world hadn't yet seen. And thus, Lucas and his design team went back to the drawing board to begin the long slog toward the wholly original look of the Millennium Falcon as we know it. Though said design is much different from Space: 1999's Eagle, it's hard to overlook the fact that Lucas also gave his vessel a bird's name — not to mention the fact that 1999 was indeed the closing year of a millennium.

So, was the Millennium Falcon named after the Hollywood icon who inspired one of the best loved characters in the Star Wars universe? Or was it named after the TV series and original vessel that helped inspire its design? For what it's worth, our opinion is that the Millennium Falcon's name is most likely a combo of both these compelling theories. But hey, as long as we all get to see the beloved freighter make one last jump to hyperspace in The Rise of Skywalker, the origin of its name may be less important, right?