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MacGuffin Location

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All will be revealed at a golden shrine.

— Every blurb for The Dark Tower books

Alice wakes up one morning, only to hear screams. Rushing outside, she spots the love of her life, Bob, being stuffed into Charlie's car. Failing to catch them, Alice promptly suits and loads up, and starts trekking. Her goal? Rescue Bob from the dark Castle Charlie, which is always looming eerily on the horizon...

While MacGuffins tend to take the form of things or even entities, a common alternative is to use a setting or location — where the driving force is instead a place where everyone's trying to get to (or get there first), but when reached doesn't have any significant impact on the plot.

Most commonly found in media centering around The Quest (which, more often than not, contains another MacGuffin they desire). The other most common occurance is media that involves races — it often doesn't matter whether the finish line is in Cairo, New Zealand, or Omaha, just that they arrive first or on time.

Compare with Going to See the Elephant.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The land of fairies in Berserk is reputed to be the only place safe from the demonic legions that want the protagonists dead as well as the location of the only one who might be able to cure Casca of her insanity.
  • One Piece:
    • In addition to housing the titular treasure, the actual island of Laugh Tale is also sought after, mainly due to the Rio Poneglyphs.
    • The personal goal of Sanji, one of the protagonists to find the mythical All Blue, a sea that supposedly has fish from all four of the world's seas.
  • Outlaw Star has people searching for the location of the fabled Galactic Leyline, presumably a giant stash of valuable minerals or other treasure. Actually, it's a repository of knowledge, and after it's found it runs away again so that the chase can start all over.
    • Technically the place seems to be a Literal Genie Genius Loci, capable and willing to fulfill any wish that a person reaching its core chooses to make. A person wishing for knowledge will be swallowed in its datastream, however.
  • Shinzo in, well, Shinzo. It's the last human city several centuries into the future, and Chosen One Yakumo must reach it. In the original Japanese version it's called "Mushrambo", after the main character's fusion form. Well, in the first season, it turns out Shinzo is long since destroyed, wiped out by the original, evil Mushrambo, and there are no humans left. In season two, it is again the destination, but it turns out that Shinzo is long since abandoned, because in the new revised timeline (an encounter with a time-controlling villain gave us Good Mushrambo vs. Bad Mushrambo, with the bad Mushrambo getting taken down before he could go back and finish off the last humans) humans and Enterrans have made peace and there's no need for a "last refuge of humanity". Either way, "Shinzo the city full of the last humans" is not a thing at all, but the search for it is what makes everything happen!
  • The true Clair Bible in Slayers NEXT turns out to be this, as it was previously assumed that the bible was a book.
  • Paradise in Wolf's Rain.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Five Weeks in a Balloon. The heroes and a band of slavers are trying to get to a piece of territory that no nation owns in order to claim it for their respective governments.
  • The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. Sinbad and Prince Koura both try to reach the Fountain of Destiny first in order to gain its rewards.
  • The Great Race: the title New York to Paris race.
  • Tarzan and the Valley of Gold. The title valley (and the city of gold therein), which both Tarzan and the Big Bad are trying to reach.
  • The Big W in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Parodied after a fashion by the Big Why (Y) in The New Avengers.
  • Mandalay: The city of Mandalay serves as this for both Tanya and Dr. Burton. Tanya wants to start a new life without scumbag lovers who force her to be a sex worker. Dr. Burton is on a suicide mission to help the Black Fever patients because he wants to atone for being a terrible medic due to his alcoholism.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "Camelot! Camelot! Camelot! It's only a model. Shh!" "Well, on second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place."
  • Rat Race: The train station in Silver City, New Mexico.
  • In both the Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run, the destination of the cross country speeding isn't important other than that's where they need to be to get paid/win the race.


    Live-Action TV 

  • A major strand of The KLF's mythology was their supposed quest to discover "The White Room".


    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The Vault in Borderlands. Somewhat unusual in that it's a string of such locations, with a different Vault being the focus of each game.
  • "Your Sanctuaries" in Earth Bound, the locations where Earth's power is at its strongests and which hold the Plot Coupons in the form of the Eight Melodies.
  • Fallout: New Vegas revolves entirely around the biggest landmark in Nevada, the Hoover Dam. It provides clean water and free electricity to the entire state. He who controls it controls the future of the entire Mojave desert, so it's actually a pretty damn good justification of this trope. It's not magical, it's not full of unobtanium, it just provides what you need to live.
    • The DLC Dead Money features the infamous Sierra Madre casino, a perfectly preserved and wickedly deadly pre-war casino with an untouched vault full of goodies, attracting treasure hunters from all over the Mojave. Even getting into the casino itself takes roughly half of the DLC, and reaching the vault itself takes most of the rest. And once the courier does reach the vault, barring certain glitches and tricks, there's no way to get most of the most valuable loot — the thirty-seven gold bars that finance the casino — out of the vault. This is intentional; the running theme of the DLC is that the hardest part of the Sierra Madre is letting go of it.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Shinra's main motivation is to find the 'promised land'. It's also Sephiroth's main motivation, though while Shinra wants it for the "endless" source of Mako, Sephiroth wants it because he knows Jenova is sealed there, and wants to release her. Later, he just wants the Mako as a limitless energy source instead.
  • Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X.
  • The artificial island Paradise and the Cardinal Shaft in Hellsinker.
  • The titular location of Kingdom Hearts is said to be a source of ultimate knowledge and power, and is thus sought after by various villains who seek to rule the universe using it. Muddying the waters initially is that several villains manage to assemble smaller copies of Kingdom Hearts, usually serving as The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. The franchise initially makes no clear distinction between the copies and the real thing, but it's eventually established that the ones the characters have visited are inferior replicas of the true location.
  • Ilos in Mass Effect, a planet only accessible via a lost mass relay only the last Rachni Queen kept in captivity on Noveria knows the location of, and which Shepard and Saren are racing to get to first.
  • A slightly odd example is Releeshahn in Myst III: Exile. Releeshahn is a book that is an access to a location, and you have to retrieve the book.
  • The Tower in the Panzer Dragoon Series.
  • While the Cintomani Stone is the item that Nate and his friends want in Uncharted 2, it's located in Shangri-La, which they spend most of the game looking for. Big Bad Lazarevic wants to find it as well, but because he knows of the life-restoring sap of the Tree of Life.
    • The sequel inverts this: Nate and his friends are looking for Irem of the Pillars, also known as the Atlantis of the Sands, for the place itself rather than anything within it. And the Big Bad wants to find it because it's the source of an incredibly powerful hallucinogen and mind-control agent.
  • Yakuza 0 has the Empty Lot, a small piece of land that is potentially interfering with a renovation deal backed by the Dojima clan, with the primary goal of the various factions being finding the deed to the property so they can take control of the deal. Much to-do is made over the tragedy of so many people dying and suffering over an empty plot of land the size of a small apartment.

  • Dark Wings has the fabled lost city of Eryl, home of scholars/demons/angels/mages/insert-exalted-group-here, where they had everything and knew everything and yada yada yada.
  • Familiar Ground: The cave. because they do not, in fact, get any answers

    Web Original 
  • Charlie the Unicorn: "Candy Mountain, Charlie!"
  • In the Yogscast's modded Minecraft series MoonQuest, the idea is that they start from scratch and have to collect the resources to build a facility, equipment, and a rocket ship to travel to the Moon, with a space race going on between Team J.A.F.F.A (Lewis Brindley, Simon Lane and Duncan Jones) and Sipsco (Sips and Sjin). After 45 episodes of distractions, setbacks, misadventures, and general shenanigans, Team J.A.F.F.A finally send Simon to the Moon and then have to build another rocket to go there again after he crashes and is stranded there.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Shangri-La, a Himalayan paradise where people live far longer than the normal human lifespan, was invented by James Hilton in his 1931 novel Lost Horizon. The novel and subsequent movie inspired many people to believe that Shangri-La was real; the Nazis sent an expedition to Tibet in 1938 to look for it.
  • Atlantis, a powerful island nation destroyed by earthquake, was written about by Plato. Even though he starts the narration by pointing out that Atlantis is not a real place, but an hypothetical example of how governments should be run, to this day treasure-seekers continue to search for the location of the "real" Atlantis.
  • Until the real thing was discovered near Istanbul, Turkey, many scholars thought that Troy was one of these as well. The same is true of many other locations in ancient lore (and sometimes even people).
  • Many different exploratory goals of the past. The races to reach the North and South Poles, Mt. Everest, The Moon...