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A MacGuffin Full of Money
Mr. Spade, have you any conception of how much money can be got for that black bird?
Well, sir, if I told you, if I told you half, you'd call me a liar.
A popular subtrope of the MacGuffin
concept. Rather than make the MacGuffin be a piece of obscure technology, or the Chosen One
brought back to life, it is quite simply a giant pile of cash. Because money has intrinsic and universal value, the viewer can instantly understand why it is that the characters are so determined to retrieve it.
The problem with this trope is that it can't be generally used to power stories that involve things like the villain seeking world domination. As such, it tends to show up most often in mundane fiction, although a MacGuffin full of money can make characters who would otherwise be normal act kind of insane — compare Gold Fever
See also Mock Guffin
, Briefcase Full of Money
, Hate Plague
, Zillion-Dollar Bill
, Pirate Booty
, Treasure Map
and Dragon Hoard
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- An old Disney Ducks Comic Universe comic involves Donald knocking loose a concrete egg and discovering that the thing's actually filled with money. After cracking it open with a wrecking ball, he finds out it belongs to Uncle Scrooge, and he kept it around in case of emergency. Yes, it was his nest egg.
- In Hitman Annual #1, the MacGuffin is a coffin full of dollars. The story title? "A Coffin Full of Dollars".
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has the characters spend much of the early part of the movie gradually progressing from "let's be reasonable" to "screw it, every man for himself" regarding the location of a cache they discover in the opening minutes.
- This was the MacGuffin used to drive the action in No Country for Old Men. At a few points, characters end up needing to spend some of it after getting themselves in a tight spot.
- A Simple Plan is about a group of characters who find a wrecked plane full of cash (which turns out to be the ransom from a kidnapping).
- Ocean's Eleven uses this, though it differs from most Thief Caper films in that it was very specific money.
- Rat Race makes pure use of this trope. The object of the whole film is to be the first to reach and open a briefcase with two million dollars in it.
- Dumb and Dumber centers around the protagonists trying to return a briefcase full of ransom money, which they picked up in the belief it was left behind by mistake. Once they spend it all on luxuries, it becomes a briefcase full of IOUs instead - and they can't understand why the bad guys won't accept those, since they're practically the same thing.
- Millions is about a 7-year-old boy who finds a duffel bag full of money, and what he and his brother do with it.
- This is the basis of several CoenBrothers films including No Country for Old Men, Fargo, The Big Lebowski and Blood Simple. Although in Lebowski's case the briefcase was actually full of phone books from the beginning, and the money had already been embezzled.
- The Nazi Gold in Kelly's Heroes.
- The suitcase full of cash in Shallow Grave. The film is about a group of friends trying to cover up an accidental death in their apartment so they can keep said money.
- The Maltese Falcon looks like an ordinary statue, but only a few people know that it holds gems under its skin.
- The Scapular with supposedly reveals the secret hiding place of the Treasure of The Black Coats
- In The Twelve Chairs, the MacGuffin is a chair stuffed with diamond jewelry. To make things worse, there are the other eleven, which look the same.
- Subverted (kinda) in the Mistborn Trilogy. The atium cache is initially desired for its monetary value, but when they finally find it near the end of the last book, money of any sort is kind of worthless...
- In the end, it's still valuable, but because it's actually the "body" (read: power) of a god in metallic form, and the Big Bad (the god it was essentially scooped out of) wants to re-ingest it to get himself back to full strength.
- A minor example in The Way of Kings. Each battle of the Shattered Plains (though not the war as a whole) is driven by the appearance of chasmfiend pupae, each of which contain an enormous gemstone. A "gemheart" represents a staggering amount of money, enough to fund an army for months, and also provides the gems that are used to magic up food for said armies.
Live Action TV
- Leverage: "The Homecoming Job" ends up being a shipping container full of stolen cash from Iraq. In this case the money isn't really what's important, the two bad guys, a congressman and CEO for some Private Military Contractors, have plenty, it's the fact that it's cash, which makes it a giant, untraceable slush fund.
Manga and Anime
- The titular Pirate Booty treasure in One Piece is probably this trope, given the genre trappings, but as yet no one really knows for sure.
- Harpagon's cash-box with a ten thousand crowns in The Miser.
- The Philosopher's Legacy in Metal Gear Solid 3 is a microfilm with details of bank accounts containing a colossal amount of money (described as "one hundred billion dollars" or "[...] enough to fight the war five times over". Enough, in fact, that despite the usual trapping of this trope, the group that gets their hands on it does take over the world.
- In the first Ryu Ga Gotoku (known as Yakuza in the West), 10 Billion Yen disappears from the Tojo Clan's vault, sending Tokyo teetering on the brink of open gang warfare as everyone hunts down the missing money.
- In the third case of Dangan Ronpa, Monokuma offers ten billion yen to the first student to murder a classmate and escape the school. As it turns out, the killer in that case never cared about the money and just really wanted out.
- Fall Out 2 features a treasure that's stuck down in a well - a load of cash! After buttering up the ghoul that buried it for its location and hiring a treasure hunter to help find it, the Chosen One gets their hands on 10,000 bottlecaps - which was an incredibly valuable treasure about 80 years ago while bottlecaps were legal tender, but became worthless when enough technology was restored to make new caps - forcing the NCR to re-open a number of gold mines. Hope the Chosen One held onto them, as Caesar's Legion blew those mines up just a few years later, forcing people back to bottle caps again.