Solo begins on the planet Corellia, where the local orphans are so poor, they must steal anything they can to survive. Han and Qi’ra are two such scavengers who have grown up together, but they also share a love for one another too, and they plan to leave Corellia the next chance they get.
That time comes, when they are forced to flee from the White Worms gang. They bribe an Imperial officer for passage on a transport getting ready for take off. However, authorities nab Qi’ra before she can board it. Han makes a vow to return for her, and he then joins the Imperial Navy as a flight cadet to escape the encroaching Stormtroopers. As he enlists, the recruiting officer asks for his surname, but Han doesn’t have one since he’s never had a family. So, the recruiter gives him the last name of Solo.
Three years pass, and Han now serves as an infantryman on Mimban after the Imperial Flight Academy expelled him for insubordination. In a battle on the planet, Han meets Tobias Beckett and his little group of professional criminals posing as Imperial soldiers. Han does his best to blackmail them into taking him with them, but Beckett isn’t interested. He gets Han arrested for desertion instead. The Imperial Officers throw Han into a pit to be fed to a Wookiee named Chewbacca.
However, Han understands the Wookiee’s language, and convinces Chewbacca to escape with him. Now that Chewie is with Han, he has value to Beckett since Wookiees are incredibly strong. Beckett’s gang picks up the new members, and has them help steal a shipment of coaxium on Vandor-1. However, the heist fails after Enfys Nest and the Cloud Riders arrive to stop them. They kill Beckett’s wife and another of Beckett’s men, and then destroy the coaxium.
Dryden Vos, a high-ranking boss in the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, ordered Beckett to steal that shipment, and losing it means Beckett needs to steal another one to repay him. Han and Chewbacca volunteer to help, so they all head to Vos’ yacht to tell Vos of their new plan in person. There, Han’s reunites with Qi’ra who is now a member of Crimson Dawn, and one of Vos’ best lieutenants.
Han butts in on Beckett’s conversation with Vos, and suggests they steal some unrefined coaxium from the mines on Kessel. Vos approves the plan, but orders Qi’ra accompany them. Qi’ra takes them to meet the smuggler Lando Calrissian in hopes he will lend them his ship for the heist. He says no, so Han challenges Lando to a game of sabacc, with Lando’s ship being the grand prize. Lando cheats to win, but he joins the mission anyway in exchange for a share of their profits.
They head out to Kessel in Lando’s ship, the Millennium Falcon, and infiltrate the mine. There, Lando’s droid and co-pilot L3-37 starts an android slave revolt. In the mass confusion this creates, the rest of the team manage to swipe the coaxium. However, it comes at a cost. L3 suffers a fatal injury, and Lando is shot during the escape. They remove L3’s navigational computer from her body, and hotwire it into the Falcon’s systems. Han then pilots the ship through the infamous and uncharted Kessel Run to elude an Imperial blockade. This run nearly destroys the Falcon, and its wrecked hulk crash lands on the planet Savareen where they intend to have the stolen coaxium processed.
Enfys Nest and the Cloud Riders arrive again after tracking the Falcon from Vandor. As Enfys confronts them all, Lando takes the opportunity to shove off the planet in the Falcon. She lets Han know that she and her Riders aren’t really pirates, but rebels striking back at the Empire and its crime syndicates.
Han is sympathetic to their cause because deep down, this scoundrel is actually a good guy. He attempts to trick Vos out of the coaxium, but Vos smugly reveals that Beckett tattled on him already, so Han’s little double-cross won’t work. Vos then sends his guards to kill Enfys, but the Cloud Riders are more than ready, and easily take them out.
Han already had a bad feeling about the deal, so he anticipated Vos’ actions. However, when he goes to take the coaxium, Beckett betrays everyone. He high tails it out of there with the coaxium, and takes Chewbacca hostage to boot.
There’s a scuffle that leads to Qi’ra killing Vos after which she sends Han to get Beckett. After Han leaves, she contacts Vos’ superior to inform him of the mission’s failure. She’s surprised to find out that the former Sith lord Darth Maul her new the boss. She blames the entire mission’s failure on Beckett; omitting Han all together to protect him. Maul then orders Qi’ra to meet him on Dathomir.
By now, Han has caught up to Beckett, and stops him. After they exchange a few words, Han clearly shoots Beckett first before he can shoot Han. As he dies, Beckett tells Han that he made a smart choice because he would have done the same thing.
Qi’ra leaves in Vos’ yacht for her meeting with Maul, while Han and Chewbacca give the coaxium to Enfys. She asks Han to join the rebellion against the Empire, but he declines. She gives him a vial of coaxium to cover the purchase for a ship of his own, but Han has other ideas.
He and Chewbacca track down Lando where Han then challenges him to a rematch in sabacc for the Falcon. Han wins this time by stealing the card Lando keeps up his sleeve for when he needs to cheat. Now with the Falcon all his own, he and Chewbacca leave for Tatooine, where the crime lord Jabba the Hutt is in need of some good smugglers.