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Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin

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You had one job Steve!note 

"If you have a big MacGuffin that pretty much protects your entire kingdom, you need to have a contingency plan in case you don't have the MacGuffin anymore!"

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 a Living MacGuffin (obviously) does not count.



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     Anime And Manga  

  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Sakura accidentally releases all the clow cards from what was supposed to be their final resting place.
  • 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.
  • A brutal version plays out at the climax of Pokémon Heroes. After Ash and the others disabled the DMA and saved Latios from being used as its battery, the Soul Dew acting as a power source for it became corrupted; Annie touched it out of curiosity which caused it to shatter. As the Soul Dew controls the waters of Alto Mare, its destruction resulted in a colossal tidal wave that would've wiped out everyone in the city. It was stopped by the combined psychic firepower from Latias and Latios using the last of his power, which wound up killing him in the process in order to create a new Soul Dew.

     Comic Books  

  • The Trope Picture comes from Jonathan Hickman's Avengers. In an attempt to stop an Incursion from happening, the Illuminati and Captain America use the Infinity Gems to stop it. It works, but the Gems have a shit fit, shattering all but the Time Gem, which just disappears.note 
  • In the Minds arc of Cerebus the Aardvark, Cerebus' helmet, medallions, and sword are revealed to be artifacts crafted by the first of his aardvark ancestors, and that they could empower the aardvark statue in the Pigt temple to become a mecha-like monster that he could use to conquer the world. However, he had sold the helmet to have money for paint for his medallions and a vest several issues prior to coming across the statue, so this future never came to pass for him.
  • Black Science issue 22 opens on Tarana, where the three warring tribes have finally come together to unite their forevermids into the omnimid. Just as the artifacts are brought together Grant blindly transits in on top, shattering them.
  • Wonder Woman (Rebirth): Diana accidentally breaks the Helmet of War, which should be impossible if she is the God of War like she currently believed, which clues her into there being something amiss. She then uses her lasso of truth on herself and realizes her memories have been extensively tampered with.

     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.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: In Episode 13, the fight over the Meekrob data crystal leading to Project Domination accidentally results in it being shattered. However, Meekrob crystal can piece itself back together if broken, and the scramble to recover the pieces leaves each of the three teams in possession of a portion of the crystal, leading to a Dismantled MacGuffin situation.


     Films — Animated  

  • 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.
  • Near the climax of Zootopia, Judy and Nick discover a train car full of vital evidence, and Judy decides to hijack the entire train car and drive it to the police station. In the ensuing Chase Scene, the car gets derailed and everything goes up in a fiery explosion. Fortunately they manage to rescue the small briefcase of evidence Nick suggested quietly slipping out with in the first place.

     Films — Live-Action  

  • 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 Substitutiary 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.
  • Played straight in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with the Matrix of Leadership, but then inverted.
  • Avengers: Endgame: Thanos intentionally destroys the Infinity Stones at the beginning of the film, so that his victory in Avengers: Infinity War can't be reversed.


  • The Books of Ember:
    • In The City of Ember, the "Instructions for Egress" were mostly ruined by Lina's baby sister, Poppy, chewing on them; this turned what would have otherwise been a very quick and simple quest into a much more difficult and time-consuming ordeal as they tried to piece together what remained of the instructions.
    • 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.
  • In The Kalevala, the Sampo is eventually destroyed in the final battle. Everybody gives up and goes home.
  • In The Twelve Chairs, the final chair was accidentally broken not by the protagonists, but by an insignificant character, the rail station guard that appears at the end. This resulted in the treasure being found by Soviet authorities and hopelessly lost for the adventurers.

     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.
  • 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.
  • In Star Control 2 you meet a species called the Utwig who all suffer from horrible depression due to the fact that they broke the Ultron. What's the Ultron? Well they claim it's an artifact that generates "metawave gyrations" that interact with organic brains to commune with the user and can do anything from allow them to view the past and future to resurrect the dead. But the Utwig bought the thing from the Druuge, so it's almost certainly just a piece of junk that does bugger all. But having it made the Utwig happy, so when it was accidentally dropped during a ritual dance the whole civilization took it pretty badly, to the point of considering planetary suicide. Repairing the Ultron is necessary to beating the game, as the Utwig will give you their planet-destroying bomb as a reward, which you need. And then during the end credits (which may be non-canon as they break the fourth wall), the Ultron gets dropped again.

  • Debugging Destiny has this as the backstory. The Mysterious Voice accidentally broke the destiny subsystem in the universe simulator, and recruits Redshirt Guy to help fix it.

     Western Animation  


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