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Mac Guffin: Film
  • The Philosophers stone in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and Voldemort's Horcruxes in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
    • Possibly the Horcruxes don't count, as they are important to the plot - they contain fragments of Voldemort's soul, and as long as they exist he cannot be killed. Harry is not simply searching for them because Voldemort wants them - he needs to destroy them to have any chance of defeating Voldemort permanently.
  • Several in each Pirates of the Caribbean movie, usually with Jack's compass or the Black Pearl coming into play at some point.
    • Curse of the Black Pearl had the last piece of Aztec gold and the blood of William Turner.
    • Dead Man's Chest had the Chest and the key to unlock it.
    • At World's End had Calypso and the Nine Pieces of Eight.
    • On Stranger Tides had the chalices of Ponce de León and a mermaid's tear.
    • Jack also becomes one between Dead Man's Chest and the first portion of At World's End.
  • The quintessential MacGuffin is The Maltese Falcon. It gets the characters together, pits them against each other, but turns out to be worthless.
  • "The Rembrandt Letters" in Silver Streak.
  • The identity of "Rosebud" in Citizen Kane. It Was His Sled.
  • The Travel Visas in Casablanca.
  • The perfect Alfred Hitchcock example is the "government secrets" that motivate the action in North by Northwest (1959).
  • One of Alfred Hitchcock's earliest examples of a MacGuffin is the uranium sand that Claude Rains was smuggling in wine bottles in Notorious ("A vintage sand" is what Cary Grant called it). When studio execs told Hitchcock that movie audiences wouldn't understand why the uranium sand was so important, Hitchcock answered, "Then we'll make it uncut industrial diamonds. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as the villains want it. That's the MacGuffin, that's the motor that drives the plot."
  • The Green Destiny sword in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a classical MacGuffin. While it does see a lot of combat and is a very good sword, its value is mostly ideological. It doesn't have any special abilities except of withstanding considerable abuse and being perfectly crafted.
  • Titanic (1997) is framed around the search for a diamond called Le Cœur de la Mer (The Heart of the Sea/Ocean), which is quickly forgotten until the end of the story, when its owner throws it overboard so no one can have it.
  • The stolen money in Psycho. In reality, everything about the plot becomes irrelevant at the half-way point.
  • Pulp Fiction: The suitcase with the glowing and mysterious contents for Vince and Jules. It's an homage to the 1955 movie Kiss Me Deadly, whose suitcase originally housed a superweapon — a nuclear device. A popular fan speculation is that it houses Marcellus' soul. Tarantino has made it very clear that he neither knows nor cares what was in the case.
  • The silver case in Ronin. The fact that the main characters' employers refuse to tell them what's inside the case is a minor plot point. We never find out either.
  • The stoner-flick Dude, Where's My Car? has two; first, the titular car, which serves primarily as a plot device to lead our half-baked heroes into zany misadventure after zany misadventure, and second, the Continuum Transfunctioner, a very mysterious and powerful device (Its mystery is only exceeded by its power.) being covertly fought over by two different alien races (which represent themselves as hot chicks and creepy Nordic dudes, respectively), a fight that the protagonists slowly find themselves caught in the middle of.
  • The Wizard of Oz has Dorothy's ruby slippers, which she needs to keep away from the Wicked Witch of the West. It's never explained what they do, but Glinda points out, "Their magic must be very powerful, or else she wouldn't want them so badly." Though in the end they are used to bring Dorothy home.
  • Mission: Impossible III features Ethan Hunt trying to keep a nasty weapons dealer from acquiring "The Rabbit's Foot", a small cylindrical kajigger that's assumed to contain some sort of biological weapon (though it's never explicitly stated as such). At the very end of the film, as Hunt leaves to enjoy his honeymoon, he asks his boss just what "The Rabbit's Foot" was, but his boss says he'll only tell him if he stays with the IMF. They all have a good laugh about it, and the movie ends. Shockingly some film reviewers (professional critics!) expressed outrage that they didn't get to find out what the all-important item was, suggesting unfamiliarity with the trope.
  • Mission: Impossible has a disc as the primary MacGuffin, though it was clearly defined as being a list of undercover IMF agents.
  • The title train of 3:10 to Yuma is a classic MacGuffin.
  • The Spanish Prisoner revolves around a secret and valuable industrial "Process" its protagonist has invented.
  • The artifacts from the Indiana Jones films are MacGuffins, except in a few scenes where they are not MacGuffins. These artifacts are the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark; the Sankara stones in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; the Crystal Skull in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. George Lucas and Harrison Ford have said that the items are MacGuffins, and that the stories could be told with almost anything else in its place. The aversion happens in scenes where the artifacts invoke their powers. The Ark provides an unexpected Deus ex Machina; the stones burn a hole; the Grail heals someone; and the Crystal Skull uses telepathic communication. Thus, each artifact is no longer interchangeable, and can no longer be a MacGuffin, at least not in those few scenes.
  • When the screenplay for Good Will Hunting was published as a book, director Gus Van Sant wrote a preface in which he admitted that Will's math talents were a MacGuffin: he doesn't solve a math problem the details of whose solution affect the plot (otherwise, the movie would be more a science-fiction story about the invention of fusion power, or whatever).
  • Mike's mother in My Own Private Idaho - the driving force for the plot is him trying to find his long-lost mother, but in the end he never does, even though he goes as far as Italy to find that she's just left. No MacGuffin, No Winner perhaps?
  • The titular proof in Proof. What it is doesn't matter, only whether Robert or his daughter Catherine was the one who proved it.
  • Escape from New York: the tape with the secret of nuclear fusion.
  • In Mel Brooks' High Anxiety, which contains parodies of numerous Hitchcock films, the lead character (who is terrified of heights) is checking into a hotel when the receptionist informs him that though the hotel had reserved him a lower-level floor, "a Mr. MacGuffin called and requested we change it to the 17th floor." Though MacGuffin is probably a reference to the villains stalking the main character, the name is never mentioned again.
    • This was almost certainly an intentional reference to the technique itself, as Hitchcock, who is parodied in the film, popularized the term MacGuffin.
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is based around a bunch of fools trying to locate and claim a hidden stash of $350,000. That's $2.62 million dollars in 2010, by the way.
  • Lampshaded in The Departed: "Our target: microprocessors. Yes, those. I don't know what they are, you don't know what they are, who gives a fuck?"
  • Done for humor in the Beatles' movie Help!. Ringo is given the ring of the goddess Kaili, which he can't get off and which various villains and bad guys are trying to get. One Mad Scientist comes out with the classic MacGuffin line: "With a ring like that, I could—dare I say it?—rule the world!!"
  • Wonder Woman (1974). A list of U.S. undercover agents stolen by the Big Bad and put up for sale to the highest bidder.
  • In the 1979 film The Double McGuffin (narrated by Orson Welles), a group of precocious children (including Lisa Whelchel) find a briefcase full of cash and run afoul of Ernie Borgnine and Lyle Alzado.
  • The "Beaugard" painting in Animal Crackers.
  • The gold in The Italian Job. Less so in the remake, if we go by the 'only counts if it's not spent' rule. Much is made about how various character plan to/do spend it.
  • Raising the money to pay the orphanage's debts in The Blues Brothers
  • Three James Bond movies have these. They are the ATAC transmitter from For Your Eyes Only and, to a lesser extent, the GPS encoder from Tomorrow Never Dies. There's also the Lector Encoder in From Russia with Love, which only exists to get James Bond to Istanbul.
  • In Road to Rio, there are the mysterious Papers that have no bearing on the plot besides having an interesting Safe Cracking scene. Lampshaded when Bob Hope and Bing Crosby say that "the world must never know" their contents. At the end, when the papers have been recovered and they're about to be read, they get torn up instead, since they've served their dramatic purpose.
  • The jailbreak in Down By Law. We never find out how they got out, and it doesn't matter, because the movie is more concerned with the relationships between the characters (see also Noodle Implements).
  • Nuclear testing in Beginning of the End, Earth vs. The Spider, The Deadly Mantis, and many other monster movies. The bomb's only purpose is to create monsters. Movies like Them! and Gojira don't count, though, because they really are about the bomb.
  • James Cameron's Avatar. The Unobtanium actually has a legitimate purpose, as it is supposed to help make interstellar travel more practical. But since the movie isn't about the actual travel process, it honestly doesn't matter. It could just have been fruit that makes a better eyeglass polish.
  • The buried Confederate gold in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Guy Ritchie films tend to feature good examples - standard formula is several factions of gangsters colliding as they try to get their hands on... something. Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels has two antique guns and a stash of weed; Snatch has a giant diamond; and Lock, Stock The Series had Idiosyncratic Episode Naming along the lines of "Lock, Stock And [The MacGuffin]".
  • What's Up, Tiger Lily? has several factions out to kill to possess the perfect egg salad recipe, stolen from a potentate who tells our hero "It is written that he who makes the best egg salad shall rule over heaven and earth. Don't ask me why egg salad, I have enough aggravation."
  • The Shrink Ray, and later the shrunken moon in Despicable Me.
  • The titular artifact in Romancing the Stone. Subverted in the sequel The Jewel Of The Nile, which turns out not to be a jewel at all.
  • The 1964 Chevy Malibu in Repo Man.
  • The Mielofon, a device that can read the mind of any life form, in Guest from the Future.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. You could switch the Grail for an Ostrich Egg and the plot would not have been affected. You never even really SEE the Grail, just a Grail-shaped beacon! Bad Zoot.
  • The neutrinos in 2012 (it's mostly unintentional due to bad writing); not only do the planet's neutrinos "mutate and heat up the earth" and lead to "the end of the world", they never get another mention or fixed yet everything works out.
  • The papers in Mystery Team.
  • The Ford GT 40 in Fast Five. Also doubles as a Cool Car.
  • The Galaxy on Orion's belt in Men In Black. It's a miniaturized galaxy disguised as the bell-charm on the dead jeweler's cat, which is named Orion(J thought the alien was trying to say "belt".
  • Milton's stapler in Office Space. It doesn't see much use as a stapler, but it is important to the subplot involving Milton and Lumbergh.
  • Marvin Acme's will in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.Note 
  • One World War II era spy film was already in the can when the atom bomb was dropped. It was yanked from release, to have its dialog somewhat reworked. A secret process, integral to the atom bomb, was replaced for — whatever MacGuffin the spies had looked for earlier.
  • The jewel and its heist in Femme Fatale.
  • The three pearls that the protagonists need to get home in The Lightning Thief.
  • The Staff of Jericho in R.I.P.D.. The deados are collecting its pieces to reassemble it, so the dead (all of them) can return to Earth.
  • The X-5 Unit in Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, a bio-weapon that is said to be able to kill five states in two days. And it's hidden in Beavis' pants.
  • The rug in The Big Lebowski. Not only is it interchangeable as a plot device, the plot gets started because his first rug is ruined and he steals another random rug to replace it.

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