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[[File:The Maltese Falcon - Sam Spade and the Falcon.jpg|300px|alt=Picture|link=]]
The Maltese Falcon: Sam Spade and the Falcon


A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin) is a plot device that motivates the characters or advances the story, but has little or no actual relevance to the story.
The director and producer Alfred Hitchcock popularized both the term "MacGuffin" and the technique. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Hitchcock explained the term in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: "[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the 'MacGuffin.' It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is most always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers." (Source: MacGuffin at Wikipedia )
An external constraint (object, fact, person) whose sole dramatic purpose is to force a character or characters into actions which serve the writer's dramatic theme. Examples: The Maltese Falcon, The Grail in King Author's Knights, or Helen of Troy (but not the One Ring in Tolkien, as it actually does things). -- (Alfred Hitchcock) (e)

Example MacGuffins

  • The microfilm being smuggled out of the US in North by Northwest.
  • The Maltese Falcon statue in The Maltese Falcon.
  • The Ark of the Covenant (although, in the end, the Ark did more than just be found, so I don't think it is truly a MacGuffin).

Not MacGuffins (but frequently mentioned as one)

  • The One True Ring (Lord of the Rings) -- The Ring is really a plot device. While it is true that the Ring is sought by Sauron, Saruman, and many other characters, the Ring is not passive or nonfunctional. It does things to and for Frodo (such as turning him invisible).
  • The plans for the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope -- These end up being used to find the flaw in the Death Star's defenses leading directly to its destruction.
  • The four element stones in The Fifth Element -- Like the Ring, the four stones are used to do something in the end notably, to save the Earth.
Raiders of the Lost Ark - The Ark of the Covenant.jpg
Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indiana Jones' first MacGuffin
(Although, in the end, the Ark did more than just be found.)

From TvTropes


  • Artifact of Attraction : If the object itself is inherently irresistible.
  • Clingy MacGuffin : Inversion of this trope — its most important attribute is that the person who has it wants to be rid of it.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin : The MacGuffin is split into several parts and hidden in different places. Plot coupons are most often this type of MacGuffin.
  • Egg MacGuffin : A Macguffin that is an egg.
  • Free Sample Plot Coupon : The first MacGuffin is given or found with zero effort, compared to subsequent ones.
  • Going to See the Elephant : Taking a trip with no serious purpose. The reason for the trip may be a MacGuffin or may not.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin : The heroes have the MacGuffin. The Villain has a hostage and wants the MacGuffin. Trade ya?
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin : A character has the MacGuffin. (S)he dies after giving the MacGuffin to another character (usually the heroes) and asking them to take care of it.
  • Just Eat the MacGuffin : The MacGuffin is a lot more trouble than it is worth, and may as well just be destroyed.
  • Living MacGuffin : A living being, free (or at least in no danger), who serves as the MacGuffin.
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money : The MacGuffin is simply a large amount of cash.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service : The good guys get the MacGuffin, just in time for the bad guys to steal it from them. Bad guys win! (Temporarily.)
  • MacGuffin Escort Mission : The good guys get the MacGuffin early on. The rest of the story is about them transporting it somewhere else without losing it.
  • MacGuffin Girl : The MacGuffin is transformed into a living being (usually a girl).
  • MacGuffin Guardian : The monster that guards the MacGuffin.
  • MacGuffin Location : The MacGuffin isn't a thing or a person, it's a place.
  • MacGuffin Melee : When multiple groups searching for the MacGuffin find it at the same time and a fight breaks out.
  • MacGuffin Title : The MacGuffin is right there in the title of the work.
  • Memento MacGuffin : A MacGuffin that holds sentimental value to one or more characters.
  • Mineral MacGuffin : A gem, a jewel, or a rock of some type that holds great power; in spite of the name, may or may not be an actual MacGuffin.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner : Neither side has the MacGuffin in the end. It's been destroyed, lost, or discovered to be fake.
  • Pirate Booty : Older than the Briefcase Full of Money, and even more likely to be stolen.
  • Plot Coupon : A common manifestation in video games, an item that the player must acquire to advance the plot, but serves no other gameplay purpose.
  • The President's Daughter : The MacGuffin is a living person, and is in danger, held captive or being actively hunted. Contrast with Living MacGuffin.
  • Ransacked Room : What the bad guys do when they suspect the good guys already have the MacGuffin. May also include ransacked luggage, tearing up the grounds, or even destroying a room or building.
  • Sound Stone : The MacGuffin is a sound rather than a thing, or a thing that must be used to produce the sound.
  • Stolen MacGuffin Reveal : The MacGuffin was actually a fake, or stolen before the thief got it.
  • Timeline-Altering MacGuffin : An otherwise unimportant item from the future that, if left in the past during time travel, will have serious consequences.

Mystery Plot Device

Plot Device

[[File:The Maltese Falcon - Sam Spade and the Falcon.jpg|right|thumbnail|50px]]

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