Reverend Mother, I have sinned. Sister Berthe:
I, too, Reverend Mother. Reverend Mother
: What is this sin, my children? [The nuns look at each other, then reveal from under their robes the distributor and coil they have removed from the Nazi's cars, stopping them from catching the Von Trapp family.]
There's a MacGuffin
everyone is after and the Big Bad
has just managed to snatch it right out of the Hero's hands and is laughing
as they make their escape, with The Hero
left in a bit of a Heroic BSOD
. But wait! The Plucky Comic Relief
, team thief, or even a less obviously sneaky
character suddenly brightens the mood by revealing that they've just done the same — stole the MacGuffin
right out from under the villain's nose as he made his escape, too. Being a cheeky larcenist, the thief may even taunt the retreating villain with it, though they usually replace the stolen MacGuffin
with a flawless decoy, worthless rock, mocking note, or other means of taunting the villain. If the MacGuffin
is in a case, the thief may do a Satchel Switcheroo
As the page quote shows, the Stolen MacGuffin Reveal
can also be used to other ways, such as removing engine parts to stop a villain in their tracks from getting the MacGuffin
or another objective. Also worth noting is that the hero/villain roles can be reversed.
May or may not result in an Everybody Laughs Ending
Anime and Manga
- Death Note. At the end, Near steals the Death Note and replaces half of the pages with fake to prove that Light is Kira.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Strikers, it seems as though Sein has escaped with the case containing the Relic, but it turns out that Teana anticipated this and hid the real one under Caro's hat. The Combat Cyborgs only realize the mistake after they're back at base, and only after looking at an image of the action in thermal vision enables them to realize the heroes' ruse.
- There's an early ElfQuest story where Cutter and Skywise get captured by Picknose the troll and his family because Picknose believes the pommel of Cutter's sword is the key to a treasure chamber. After escaping, Cutter is upset that the sword he got from his father is now ruined - until Skywise reveals that he stole back the pommel and hid it in his mouth (explaining why he seemed so tight-lipped during their escape).
- In Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles went on a quest to find and retrieve the Sword of Acorns and, thanks to Mammoth Mogul's treachery, was able to get the Freedom Fighters and the Chaotix to fight each other. In the scuffle, Knuckles returns the sword, but it's revealed at the end that Mogul has the real sword in his possession. A few issues later, Sally calls back Knuckles in an attempt to ask him to try to retrieve it again after she, Rotor and Sonic find out the sword they have a fake (with Sonic quipping "What's fake? The sword or the cockamamie story?")
- In The Fifth Element, the case carrying the four stones needed to stop The Evil is fought over intensely. After villain Zorg finally gets it, it's amusingly revealed to be empty, much to Zorg's frustration. Their guardian, Plavalaguna, showed how seriously she takes guarding them by revealing she hid them in her stomach.
- Hudson Hawk. While Eddie is assembling the three parts of the da Vinci device that turns lead into gold, he secretly keeps one of the parts. When the villains try to use the incorrectly combined device, it explodes and kills them.
Eddie: What would happen if I didn't put that crystal together exactly right? Let's say I left out this piece of mirror here. Would that be bad?
Anna: Real bad.
- In Muppets from Space, Man in Black K. Edgar Singer threatens the aliens with a BFG, which then cheerily announces "Please load weapon" in a Computer Voice.
Kermit: That was a close one.
Bobo the Bear: Not as close as you think, my friend. (holds up futuristic gun clip) "Please load weapon"...
- In Sneakers, it's revealed that the good guys win because Martin surreptitiously stole a piece of the McGuffin device in the end.
- In The Sound of Music, the Von Trap family manages to escape pursuing Nazi's because the nuns at the convent they were hiding in "sinned" by removing engine components from their cars.
- At one point in Schindler's List, factory workers steal the firing mechanism from a pistol belonging to Those Wacky Nazis.
- Star Trek III After Kirk and Co steal the Enterprise the Smug Captain of the Excelsior brags about how this will be the shortest hijack in history because his ship will quickly overhaul the old relic. Scotty, meanwhile, has nicked some rather important bits of it's engine, leaving the Excelsior floating helplessly in space.
Scotty: Here, Doctor, souvenirs from one surgeon to another. I took them out of her main transwarp computer drive.
McCoy: Nice of you to tell me in advance.
And there's a joke to those souvenirs. Take a closer look. They're copper top batteries.
- Sherlock Holmes 2 has Holmes reveal he stole Moriarty's red notebook with all his funds and assets. Though he doesn't hold the original, he gloats in having replaced it with one that he creatively drew a fisherman eaten by a shark in.
- Aladdin: Variation—immediately after thinking he'd escaped from the Cave of Wonders, Jafar discovered he no longer had the lamp; cue Big "NO!". Then it's revealed, when Aladdin thinks Jafar got away with it, that Abu had stolen it back from him.
- In The Mummy Returns some bad guys steal a chest they think contains the Bracelet of Anubis but when they open it they find Alex's baseball trophy because Alex already took the bracelet out of the chest and put it on.
- In Oz: The Great and Powerful, at the end of the battle between Evanora and Glinda, it looks as if Evanora has won. Until Glinda opens her hand and reveals Evanora's necklace (the source of her power) crushed in her palm.
- Crown of the Russian Empire ends with The Dragon Ovechkin thinking he threw the Russian Imperial Crown into the sea to avoid its repossession by Chekists... until the Lovable Rogue Naryshkin reveals that what Ovechkin threw was an empty bag, and the crown is safely with him, and hands it to the heroes.
- Roald Dahl's short story The Hitchhiker has the title character swipe a policeman's notebook after the protagonist gets a speeding ticket.
- Played with in Roger Zelazny's A Night in the Lonesome October: one of the supporting characters attempts one of these to give his side an advantage in the final showdown, but he misjudges it with the result that his side comes close to losing before he explains what he did.
- Terry Pratchett's Thud! ends on this note. A small army of dwarfs and trolls are scouring a cavern for a MacGuffin, but Nobbes, with the infamous Nobbes' Sidle already snagged it.
- In Treasure Island, Silver's crew finally reach the place where Captain Flint buried his treasure, only to find that it had been dug up already. Turns out a marooned Ben Gunn had found it years earlier and kept it hidden inside a cave.
- In The Hobbit, the last few chapters revolve around Bilbo having stolen the Arkenstone, the one specific piece of treasure that the increasingly cantankerous and misanthropic Thorin really wanted to find amongst the vast hoard of the defeated dragon Smaug. Bilbo uses it to convince Thorin to make peace with the humans.
- In Aunt Dimity: Snowbound, the hikers prove to be the offspring of the American G.I.s who stole the Peacock Parure. They have the jewels with them, and the plot goes from locating them to returning them to their proper location.
- In Leverage in "The Top Hat Job" they do this in a rather clever fashion, fitting as they are thieves. As the Villain of the Week is busily erasing the incriminating files about the tainted food his company was selling, he forgot an important detail, those weren't the most important thing on the company servers. Team hacker Hardison steals the company food patents, worth millions, and downloads them to the baddie's cell phone as they captured Hardison with his hard drive. After Hardison convinces the baddie to walk outside, Parker pickpockets the phone with the information and Nate uses that to blackmail him into pulling the tainted food. In general this is a fairly common concept on the show and one of Parker's specialties, she almost always does this with guns.
- Done repeatedly by Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory episode "The Precious Fragmentation" while the guys are fighting over the One Ring prop. Also done by Leonard after he claims to have mailed the ring back to Peter Jackson.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Starship Mine": After a long, drawn out Die Hard on the Starship Enterprise-D, the bad guys still manage to get away with the highly unstable trilithium resin they came to the ship to steal in the first place...until Picard reveals he stole the stabilising device on their container. Cue distant Stuff Blowing Up.
- The Simpsons: Bart steals the keys to the Fighting Hellfish treasure from Mr. Burns while hugging him, asking to be brought along.
- In one episode of TMNT: Fast Forward, the MacGuffin in question is a piece of revolutionary technology that looks strangely like a coffee maker. Smuggler Torben Zixx enlists the turtles to help him steal it by claiming he wants to use it to destroy an asteroid which threatens earth. When he later reveals he only wants to sell it to the highest bidder and the disaster is a hoax, Donny reveals that he switched the device for an actual coffee maker when Torben wasn't looking. The episode ends with Torben trying to talk down an annoyed crimelord with the words 'You know, it really does make an excellent cup of coffee...'