Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin

You had one job Steve!

The heroes have finally found the MacGuffin. After so much effort and Your Princess Is in Another Castle, they're going to return it, use it, or whatever they were supposed to do with it.

Then somebody breaks it, making the whole endeavour pointless.

A particularly frustrating form of a Diabolus ex Machina. The other characters' reactions usually range from shock to an anger burst. Double points if the MacGuffin can NEVER be replaced. In a story where The Good Guys Always Win, if the villain gets their hands on the MacGuffin, it's either taken from them or this happens.

This usually happens during the middle of the series, not during a Grand Finale which would change the course of who wins. Often used in a Shaggy Dog Story.

Contrast Dismantled MacGuffin, where the MacGuffin is not broken, but is meant to be put back together. Often leads to No MacGuffin, No Winner. This only refers to objects, so The President's Daughter (obviously) does not count.


Anime And Manga
  • Naruto: In an anime filler story one well-placed fart dashes all the immense effort invested into securing a legendary bug that was supposed to track Sasuke from the residual smell on some of his possessions.
  • InuYasha: The main story kicks off when Kagome shoots an arrow at a bird-shaped youkai that had stolen the Shikon Jewel. The arrow hits both the creature and the jewel, resulting in a Dismantled MacGuffin and a quest to recover all the shards to restore the jewel back to its completed whole.
  • In Tokyo Mew Mew, the MacGuffin, Mew Aqua, is supposedly broken on multiple occasions. Subverted, as Mew Aqua does not break, and the Mew Aqua they thought they broke is not real.

Fan Works
  • In the The Fifth Act Cloud accidentally breaks the extra vials carrying the spring water when he fought the Grand Horn with Zack, losing Genesis's chance to cure Angeal's degeneration quickly.
    • The entire plot is kicked off when Cloud accidentally breaks a mastered Time materia.

  • A minor one in Apollo 13. When the astronauts' carbon dioxide is getting too high and they discover the filters won't fit, Mission Control macgyvers a solution, which includes using a spare urine bag. Which leads to this exchange:
    Fred Haise: Shit, I tore it.
    Jack Swigert: Shit.
    Fred Haise: Houston, what do we do if we rip the bag? Can we tape it?
    Andy (CAPCOM - WHITE): They just tore the bag.
    Technician (facepalming): Oh, no.
    • Thankfully, they have another one, and use that instead.
  • In Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the characters have retrieved the Star of Astaroth, imprinted with the words for the Substituary Locomotion. But as they arrive home, they find the star has disintegrated during the journey. And it turned out to be unnecessary, as one of the kid's storybooks had an illustration of the star, and more importantly, the words to the spell.
  • In Disney's Cinderella, Lady Tremaine trips up the servant carrying the glass slipper, causing it to break. Luckily, Cinderella had the other one.
  • Zigzagged on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with the FLDSMDFR kill code. As they fly to stop it, Flint almost drops the flash drive with the code, saying "Can you imagine if I dropped this?" The window then breaks and the drive gets sucked out. After much difficulty, Flint gets his father to e-mail him the code to his cell phone. He plugs it to the FLDSMDFR, activates it, and... it turns out his dad sent the wrong file!
  • A humorous example; in Ice Age, the gang spends a whole scene trying to get a watermelon from a "cult" of dodos so they can feed it to the baby they're protecting. After a hilarious slow-motion sequence, Sid the Sloth finally manages to retrieve it from the onslaught of birds......only to spike it into the ground like a football, shattering it. The baby simply eats the chunks off the ground.
  • Played straight in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with the Matrix of leadership, but then inverted.

  • In The Diamond of Darkhold, Doon throws the diamond of Darkhold at a pack of wolves to save Lina. The diamond hits the rock that Lina is standing on and shatters into hundreds of pieces. Luckily, The diamond is only a sample. There are exactly one thousand diamonds in a hidden room in the cave. The diamonds are ancient technology that turns solar power into electricity.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the record of the prophecy Voldemort tricks Harry into stealing from the ministry is shattered as Harry and his friends try to make their escape from the ministry, pursued by Voldemort's minions.
  • In Beowulf, Beowulf puts so much force behind Naegling, that he shatters it. Woops.

Live-Action TV

Video Games
  • In Borderlands 2: Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty, the Vault Hunter breaks the last part of Captain Blade's compass when breaking open the chest in which Herbert stored it. Fortunately, Herbert knows how to fix it.
  • In too many point-and-click games to name them all, there is always a moment where you use an important item and it somehow breaks, forcing you to fix it before using it again.
  • A flip-flopping example from the Ratchet & Clank series is the Dimensionator. In Tools of Destruction, it is broken via unknown means after the final battle, preventing Ratchet from visiting the Lombaxes. Effort is put towards fixing it in Into the Nexus, and yet again it winds up broken after the Big Bad is put away with it. Ratchet can only laugh hysterically at his bad luck, however before the game ends Clank snatches it, implying that he intends to fix it once more.

Western Animation