[[quoteright:221:[[Film/{{Troy}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/HelenOfTroy.jpeg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:221:I'm not the only girl on Earth, ya know.]]
->"''She could have been a briefcase and nothing would have changed in this movie.''"
-->-- '''[[WebVideo/TheSpoonyExperiment Miles Antwiler]]''', discussing Rayne's role in ''Film/BloodrayneTheThirdReich''

They say [[Literature/TheIliad Helen of Troy]] had a face that could launch a thousand ships: well, the Living [=MacGuffin=] has a similar ability to launch [[TheHerosJourney a thousand quests]] in search of them. She may be a [[TheDulcineaEffect heart wrenchingly beautiful]] [[EverythingsBetterWithPrincesses princess]] [[EngagementChallenge whose hand can only be won with]] [[ImpossibleTask miraculous feats]], a long lost (or [[ParentalAbandonment left]]) parent, [[ThickerThanWater sibling]], [[TrueCompanions close friend]] or LoveInterest, some variation of TheChosenOne who is needed for some greater purpose, or any number of typical MacGuffin functions.

Subtropes include:

* HostageMacGuffin: A person who is a MacGuffin because they're important (they're the president, a rich businessman, a top scientist, etc) or related to someone who is (family, LoveInterest, [[TrueCompanions True Companion]], etc).
* MacGuffinPersonReveal: TheReveal that the MacGuffin they've been looking for has been with them all along, in the form of one of the characters.
* MacGuffinTurnedHuman: An inanimate MacGuffin embodied in, or transformed into, a person.
* MundaneMacGuffinPerson: A living [=MacGuffin=] who's sought after for some mundane trait (beauty, wisdom, etc) turned UpToEleven.
* MacGuffinSuperPerson: A living [=MacGuffin=] who's sought after for some unique power or status they have (eg, they're TheChosenOne or an ApocalypseMaiden), usually with world-shaking consequences.
----
!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]
* Insane Casca during the Retribution arc in ''Manga/{{Berserk}}''. Not only does Guts, who has a right to her being [[DeclarationOfProtection her protector]], want her, but ''everybody'' is taking Casca in this arc, primarily the pagans who want to make her their queen and the Holy See who want to burn her at the stake.
* ''Manga/FairyTail'': Both Jellal and Grimoire Heart want to resurrect [[TheDreaded Black Mage Zeref]] for their own purposes. In Jellal's case he wants Zeref to create a 'perfect world', and in Grimoire Heart's case, they want him to create a world that only mages can live in. [[spoiler: It's too bad that not only is Zeref not dead, he has absolutely no intention of going along with any of these plans.]]
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}''. Sasuke becomes this after he leaves the Leaf Village. [[SealedInsideAPersonShapedCan Jinchurikis]] provide a straighter example.
* ''Manga/SaintSeiya'':
** Saori/Athena in general.
** Seiya's sister Seika was played up as this, despite [[spoiler:only turning up at the end of the series and not appearing in the sequel, yet.]]
** ''Manga/SaintSeiyaNextDimension'': Saori becomes one (again) after she is transformed [[spoiler:into a baby.]]
* While it's debatable whether the torches in ''LightNovel/ShakuganNoShana'' are "alive", Yuuji Sakai is generally treated as living by the main characters. That's partially because unlike other torches, he isn't going to just go out one day. But it's also because he's managed to validate his humanity, even before he found out he wasn't going to become RetGone.
* TheFirebird from ''Anime/TimeBokan'' series ''Yattodetaman''. In this series, two royal houses battle for the power to rule the Kingdom of Fir. In order to secure the Kingdom, two representatives go back in time to find the mythical Firebird, which will allow its bearer to become the rightful ruler
* Nico Robin of ''Manga/OnePiece'' is this; she is the only person still alive who can decipher poneglyphes, through which the location of ancient super weapons can be discovered. The Enies Lobby arc was all about saving her from the Government, who wanted to find said weapons for their own means.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books ]]
* Yorick in ''ComicBook/YTheLastMan'' is a male example; various factions want him, mostly alive, some dead. Yorick has a LivingMacGuffin of his own in his girlfriend Beth.
* [[WebVideo/AtopTheFourthWall Linkara]] refers to Ray Palmer (The Atom) in the trainwreck [[Creator/DCComics DC]] crossover event ''ComicBook/CountdownToFinalCrisis'' as "The Mini-MacGuffin".
* Hope Summers since ''[[ComicBook/XMen Messiah CompleX]]'' before really settling into this role with ''ComicBook/AvengersVsXMen''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Fairy Tales ]]
* Film/{{Cinderella}}, Film/SleepingBeauty, Film/{{Rapunzel}}, and many other fairy tale heroines were {{Living MacGuffin}}s in the Creator/{{Disney}} films and in those iterations of these fairy tales inspired by the {{Disneyfication}}. In the pre-Disney versions of those fairy tales, the nameless prince was the LivingMacGuffin; for example, Cinderella competed with her wicked stepsisters for the hand of the prince, who is treated as a non-entity who exists in the story only to provide the winner with a castle, title, and wealth.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'' has Harry occasionally put in this role, because thanks to the reveal that he's Thor's son, any number of bad guys want a piece of him, something that is met with his vocal displeasure.
* Combined with DismantledMacGuffin in ''FanFic/TheSweetieChroniclesFragments'': Twilight Sparkle gets TakenForGranite and is split into a series of crystals ([[AndIMustScream in which Twilight is still completely sentient]]) spread over TheMultiverse. Sweetie Belle must then gather these crystals by traveling through various {{Alternate Universe}}s, which correspond to various WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic {{Fan Fic}}s.
* Kurama is searching and gathering all the jinchuuriki he can find in ''[[BlackKatsReverse Reverse]]'' so they protect themselves from the Akatsuki, who need to capture to kill them all to take over the Elemental Nations
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film ]]
* ''WesternAnimation/ThePiratesBandOfMisfits'': The dodo bird.
* ''Film/{{Troy}}'' is a subversion. It is established early on that Agamemnon is only using Helen as an excuse to wage war on the city. At one point Helen says she would give herself up to prevent further violence, but Hector makes it clear that even if she did, it would not end anything. Agamemnon even says that he didn't come here for Helen, but for Troy.
* In ''Film/TheDarjeelingLimited'', the brothers use a trip to find their long left mother to tell her about their father's death and try to bond with each other. Another long lost mother variation of the living MacGuffin is Mike's mother in ''My Own Private Idaho'', whom he never finds.
* The monster in ''Film/{{Cloverfield}}''. The movie is mostly uninterested in the monster itself, and more in its effects.
* Zuzu Petals in ''Film/TheAdventuresOfFordFairlane.'' Everyone Ford meets in the first act tells him to find her, and that's his motivation until he does, at which point it becomes clear she's not even involved in what's going on. After that she's more of an EscortMission, albeit one attended begrudgingly.
-->'''Ford:''' Don't worry. If you fall, I'll make it.
* ''Film/TronLegacy'': Quorra is [[spoiler: [[LastOfHisKind The Last]] [[ArtificialBrilliance ISO]]]].
* The hobo in ''Film/MysteryTeam''.
* In ''Film/ElDorado'', the evil rancher Bart Jason.
* The 2007 film version of ''Film/SweeneyTodd'' portrayed Johanna Barker as this, especially as they cut most of her songs and speaking parts from the original musical.
* Luke Skywalker becomes one in ''Film/TheForceAwakens'', having disappeared many years prior, and with the main conflict of the film being over a map to his location.
* Adolf Hitler is this in ''Film/InglouriousBasterds''. Despite being the main leader of the antagonists, he never affects the plot in any big way and ends up as just another target for the protagonists to kill. His role could be replaced with any high ranking Nazi, without the plot of the film being changed that much.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature ]]
* OlderThanFeudalism: Helen of Troy from ''Literature/TheIliad'' is a prime example. Helen wasn't attacked by Paris or the Trojans during the whole war, and in fact went willingly because she fell in love with Paris. [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation Or was made to, by Aphrodite.]]
* [[KingArthur Queen Guinevere]] is also not in distress, as most versions have her go willingly with [[TheLancer Lancelot]]. The whole kingdom goes down because the vassals have to choose sides, help Arthur get her back, or help Lancelot keep her.
** Most of the variations have the vassals torn between personal loyalty to Arthur (who would pardon his beloved and his best friend, despite the pain they have caused him) and loyalty to the law itself which demands she and Lancelot be tried for treason against their king (with the lawful side being spear-headed/manipulated by one enemy or another of Arthur's).
* The French chef Anatole in Creator/PGWodehouse's ''Literature/JeevesAndWooster'' stories; the universal desire to lay claim to his peerless talents led to the hatching of many a ZanyScheme.
** [[TheJeeves Jeeves]] himself is highly sought-after; Bertie notes that plenty of his friends want to steal him and make him their valet, and this is borne out in ''Thank You, Jeeves'' when [[spoiler:Jeeves quits and Bertie's pal Chuffy snatches him up almost instantly. Later in the book, Jeeves goes to work for American multimillionaire J. Washburn Stoker, who offers him a position, before returning to Chuffy and finally [[StatusQuoIsGod settling down with Bertie again]]]].
* A few crop up during the course of the ''Literature/ChroniclesOfPrydain'' -- Hen Wen the pig in ''The Book of Three'', Princess Eilonwy in ''The Castle of Llyr'', and Taran's long-lost parents in ''Taran Wanderer.''
* In Tobias Buckell's ''Crystal Rain'', Oaxyctl is looking for John deBrun because he wants to torture "the code" to a spaceship out of him. We later find out that John ''is'' the code -- he has to be bodily present (and alive) to open the spaceship.
* It could be argued that [[Literature/AliceInWonderland The White Rabbit]] is one. The entire reason Alice ends up in Wonderland is her curiosity about the Rabbit. And it's often the Rabbit, constantly hurrying from one place to the next, which brings her from scene to scene.
* Bree Pym is this for Lori and Bill's college chum Cameron; they spend most of the novel ''[[AuntDimity Aunt Dimity Down Under]]'' pursuing the girl over New Zealand's North and South Islands to deliver the Pym sisters' letter and convince her to meet Ruth and Louise before they die.
* Deconstructed in the ''Literature/SwordOfTruth'': while fully half of the main cast are some level of this trope, the Confessors have it notably bad. Confessors can't control their ability during moments of passion (read: sex), so they can't have kids with someone they like, or they'll ''destroy their mind''. Male confessors are such a threat that all male children of Confessors ''have to be strangled at birth'', and for their troubles, the Confessors are feared and hated, and since they're raised secluded, have almost no friends. By the time Kahlan met Richard, all of her few friends had been murdered by D'Haran assassination teams. Yeesh.
** Wizards are able to create these in general; the Rahl bloodline is the result of such an experiment, as are Slides, Dreamwalkers, Mriswith, the Sliph, and a whole host of other ''exciting'' pieces of work.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live-Action TV ]]
* Towards the end of ''Series/MaddigansQuest'', it's revealed that [[spoiler: Jewel, not the talisman, is what gives Eden his powers.]]
* Mr. Big in ''Series/SexAndTheCity'', to the point that they don't even bother to give him a real name. You find yourself wondering what is wrong with Carrie Bradshaw and then you remember ... oh yeah, she's Carrie Bradshaw.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games ]]
* {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d in ''VideoGame/RedDeadRedemption'' where in a co-op mission you must rescue the daughter of "Farmer MacGuffin."
* Here's a negative version of the Living [=MacGuffin=]: Sephiroth during the first half of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII''. Both Cloud's party and Shin-Ra are hell-bent on finding the guy, and he acts as the game's main antagonist to boot.
* At the beginning of ''VideoGame/YoshisIsland'', Kamek kidnaps Baby Luigi (who becomes the DistressedDude), but the stork forces Kamek to drop Baby Mario, who falls onto Yoshi. Baby Mario becomes a free MacGuffin, whose only role is to point the way to Baby Luigi, while the Yoshis perform the MacGuffinEscortMission that will reunite the babies and rescue Baby Luigi.
** Then in ''Yoshi's Island DS'', Kamek and the Toadies kidnap Baby Luigi again, and several more babies. The BigBad ([[spoiler:adult Bowser from the future]]) is searching for the seven star children.[[note]]Seven stars had fallen and were resting inside the hearts of certain babies. These babies are said to contain an extraordinary amount of power. The villain wants to take these stars and become a GalacticConqueror.[[/note]] The villain never gets all seven; some remain free. The star children turn out to be [[spoiler:Baby Mario, Baby Luigi, Baby Peach, Baby Donkey Kong, Baby Wario, Baby Bowser, and Baby Yoshi. The last two were never captives; Baby Yoshi is still in the egg, and hatches at the very end of the credits.]]
* The Princesses of Heart in ''KingdomHearts''.
** [[spoiler: Ventus in Master Xehanort's first attempt to snag Kingdom Hearts.]]
* In the ''VideoGame/NeverwinterNights'' fan-made module ''VideoGame/TheBastardOfKosigan'', Alex is a mix of this and DamselInDistress. And a ChekhovsGunman at the end. [[spoiler:Annoyingly, despite being one of the coolest characters in the series (as evinced by her [[ThePlan cunning plan]] to take over Kosigan by killing the entire ruling family), if you didn't choose to kill her at the end of the second module she dies near the end of the fourth.]]
* In ''VideoGame/BlazBlueCalamityTrigger'', Ragna the Bloodedge is treated this way since he supposedly wields the Azure Grimoire. In the sequel ''Continuum Shift'' Noel gets this treatment after it's revealed that she is the true wielder of the Azure Grimoire and Ragna's Grimoire is a flawed imitation.
* A variant occurs in ''VideoGame/ProfessorLaytonAndTheCuriousVillage''. Layton knows that he needs to find the Golden Apple of Baron Reinhold. [[spoiler:What he ''doesn't'' know is that the Golden Apple is really Flora, the Baron's daughter.]]
* Prince Alexander is a sucker for this one. In his [[VideoGame/KingsQuestIII first game]], he spends half of it trying to find a way to off his BadBoss before BadBoss offs him. The second half of the game comes when the [[AncientKeeper Oracle]] tells him that he's got a twin sister that's soon to meet her end as a HumanSacrifice. In his [[VideoGame/KingsQuestVI second game]], he's trying to reach the Princess he's fallen for before the GrandVizier pulls a scheme to marry her, kill her, and take the throne for himself. Runs in the family, as that's [[VideoGame/KingsQuestII how his dad went looking for his mom]]...
* Similar to the ''Film/TronLegacy'' example above, ''[[VideoGame/TronTwoPointOh Tron 2.0]]'' had this in the form of Ma3a, who carried the correction algorithims needed for Jet [[spoiler: and Alan]] to get back to the analog world. However, the terrible trio from [[CorruptCorporateExecutive F-Con]] were ''also'' seeking those algorithims in order to digitize an army into {{cyberspace}} and TakeOverTheWorld.
* Ryu from ''Franchise/StreetFighter'' is treated this way for most of his plot involvement. Bison is after him in ''VideoGame/StreetFighterAlpha'' to use him as a new host body while Seth wants to use his Satsui no Hadou to complete his bio weapon.
* The Destined Children from ''VideoGame/RomancingSaGa3'' [[spoiler: The Abyss Lords want them to open the gate to the Abyss so they can escape. Both also serve to summon the Destroyer to end existence if both are in the abyss at once. Abyss Lords used the Devil King for them to rule the world for 3 centuries before the Holy King sent them packing.]]
* In ''VideoGame/MacGuffinsCurse,'' [[spoiler: Alphonse becomes a LivingMacGuffin when he turns into a werewolf himself and goes on a rampage]].
* [[EverythingsBetterWithPrincesses Princess Zelda]] in ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'' is a very strong example of this trope. In fact, WordOfGod says that Zelda is the title character because of how crucial she is in [[TheHero Link]]'s adventures.
** A humorous variant appears in ''VideoGame/ZeldaIITheAdventureOfLink''. In one of the towns Link must visit on his quest, he is begged to recover a child, who has been kidnapped and may be found in a nearby cave. The reason it's humorous is because the game treats the child ''like any other inventory item'' - including having Link lift it over his head in his traditional ItemGet pose.
* Buddy is this in ''VideoGame/{{Lisa}}'', being the only female left on Earth after a mysterious event known as the Great White Flash [[{{Gendercide}} wiped all the women off the planet.]] The fact that she is treated as such without care for her feelings or mental state forms most of her motivation as a character, especially in the DLC story.
* Averted with Rachel Amber in ''VideoGame/LifeIsStrange'' - she's initially presented as this as a motive for Max to join in Chloe's investigation into Rachel's disappearamce which ties into most of the overarching plot of the game, but it's revealed that her influence has greatly impacted the cast.
* In ''VideoGame/Halo3ODST'', it turns out that your squad's actual mission is to recover [[spoiler:a Huragok/Engineer who defected from the Covenant]]. [[spoiler:Said Huragok]] also serves this role in the audio logs; [[PluckyGirl Sadie]] comes to value it because [[spoiler:it downloaded Virgil, the last thing left of her father's work]], while [[DirtyCop Kinsler]] wants to capture it so he can be branded a war hero.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Visual Novels ]]
* Charlie in ''VisualNovel/ShikkokuNoSharnoth'' serves largely as comatose Macguffin to make Mary go through the plot. [[spoiler:Except in the end, when she's actually an opponent.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Webcomics ]]
* In ''Webcomic/AMomentOfPeace'', the subject of one of the gods' quests is a glowing entity named Gloria on the Mountain.
[[/folder]]
----