Talk:MacGuffin/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

Miscellaneous / Final Fantasy VII

I've made a number of edits, replaced the "Hitchcock Films" and "Other Films" with simply "Films" (there were only three of the former listed anyway, and no real necessity to differentiate), and finally, removed the following:

In Final Fantasy VII, the protagonist starts out as a member of a terrorist organization intent on destroying all the Mako Reactors in Midgar, because they believe that the use of Mako, or the Earth's lifeforce, will eventually kill the planet. This Reactor MacGuffin is quickly thrown to the side as the plot turns to focus more on character development and traditional Hero/Villain Final Fantasy conflicts. The terrorists switch their focus to fighting the main villain, and never discuss any plans to destroy Mako Reactors again.

I'm aware that it's a videogame, and as such, it's probably alright that a person's understanding and interest in it might (and perhaps even should) be limited. However, if only out of preference for accurate information over inaccurate information, I'm inclined to point out that there are several problems with the above synopsis:

1. The main protagonist (Cloud) isn't "a member of a terrorist organization", but rather is a mercenary, being paid to work for said organization.

2. The focus on Mako energy - and the harmful consumption thereof - remains a driving element throughout the story. Since the consumption of any limited resource that the world depends on would, in a videogame as in life, generally be considered important, concern about the continued availablity thereof tends not to be "thrown to the side", and FF7 is no exception.

3. Given that the life of the entire planet and the souls of its inhabitants are derived from Mako energy, how could it reasonably be considered an insignificant element in the plot anyway?

4. The vagueness and lack of support for any alleged "traditional Hero/Villain Final Fantasy conflict" notwithstanding, the plot continues to revolve around not only one "main villain" (presumably Sephiroth), but also the company Shinra which operates the reactors in question, and is largely responsible for the world's sorry state of affairs in the story.

Finally - and this is more a pragmatic point than a logical one - if you're either into Role-Playing Games or the thematic parallels hinted at above interest you, I strongly suggest giving the game a shot. Given the low price and wide availability of the game and PlayStations (or computers that meet the fairly low system requirements of the PC version), it will probably cost you more hours than it does dollars.

-- 11:36, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Would the Question from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy count as a MacGuffin? Just asking. --Anonymous, apparantly

I'd personally say "no," as its actual wording, meaning, etc are given much focus and speculation within the novels. For it to be a MacGuffin, Adams would have to have given its specifics far less attention. --Awa64

I actually felt that the question from the Hitchhiker's Guide was a MacGuffin. Each of the books in the series seem to be missing a central plot, but instead, leans more closely to a conglomeration of stories, such as the story about the superior race searching for the answer to the ultimate question. In the context of this story, it is a MacGuffin.--Jonthecheet 01:00, 23 April 2006 (UTC)
I'd concur that DNA's Question is used throughout the series as a MacGuffin, or more commonly as a satire of the MacGuffin concept. DNA uses it as a set up to multiple jokes. The fact that he answers the question with 42 doesn't minimize its MacGuffinishness. In fact it reinforces it, because it is the answer which spurs the question on, and the question is impossible to quantify. Though not quite a Maltese Falcon, the Question does permeate the entire five book trilogy. See also "God's Last Message to Lifekind." ZachsMind 17:52, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Somebody who really doesn't understand Hitchhiker's Guide, or who is trying to summarise it without having read/heard/seen it recently, might think that the story was about the search for the Ultimate Question. In fact, the whole central joke of Hitchhiker's, for Zarquon's sake, is that this massive philosophical enquiry into the meaning of it all is a minor subplot. None of the main characters are especially bothered about the Ultimate Question, the concept of which is in any case entirely unknown in our universe except to the Magratheans who built the Earth for beings from a different dimension. Arthur's quest is for a return home and a nice cup of tea; Zaphod's quest is a purely avaricious desire for fabulous wealth and the fame and sex that comes with it; Ford's quest is for a good party - 'a strong drink and a peer group'; and inasmuch as Trillian ever had a quest it was for something more than 'the dole queue again on Monday morning'.
When the possibility of learning the Question crops up, the characters are mildly interested, as who wouldn't be, but they are none of them driven by it - until now. A bunch of people ignoring the possibility of discovering the meaning of life because they are concerned about a party or a cup of tea or whatever is funny. A bunch of people searching for the meaning of life, well, isn't.

Taken from an unfavourable review of the Hitchhiker's film.

TRiG 19:53, 13 July 2006 (UTC)


I think the Futurama reference is misquoted. Nixon says "What a MacGovern I've been" Reffering to the political opponent he defeated. Could someone verify?

Yes. It was from the "Three Hundred Big Boys" episode. Clarknova 17:23, 25 November 2006 (UTC)

Citizen Kane

I have removed:

Another famous MacGuffin (used by someone other than Hitchcock) is the word "Rosebud" in the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane. The reporter spends the entire movie searching for the meaning of the word, and during the course of the film he (and the audience) learns all about Kane's life. But the true meaning of "Rosebud" is not revealed until the final shot of the film.

from the page, because it is incorrect. That "Rosebud" refers to the toy sled the young Kane had when he was a child has a particular importance; broadly speaking, it is a (slightly melodramatic) way of showing that the power and money Kane possesses have limits and cannot purchase what is lost to time. (The sled does still exist, of course, but Kane himself has changed -- he wants not only the sled, but to be the child who once owned it.)

In other words, "Rosebud" is not a MacGuffin. It could not be replaced by any arbitrary object of great desirability; it is important that the object be something Kane owned as a child and that he has a particular (though vague) memory of. The radioactive diamonds could become the secret microfilm, but the sled could not. It is revelatory when we discover that "Rosebud" refers, e.g., not to a woman, or a painting, but instead to a part of Kane's childhood.

This is a good point, I think you should add this distinction to the main page.

Another Hitchcock quote

Here is Hitchcock on it: the MacGuffin is:

"the device, the gimmick, if you will, or the papers the spies are after... The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters. To me, the narrator, they're of no importance whatsoever."

MacGuffin (McGuffin, Maguffin)

reply from steve

IMHO it is not correct to call the stolen cash in PSYCHO a "macguffin" for any reason. Particularly not because the cash becomes an obsolete object in the movie after the women is killed.

MacGuffin is that which is desired and sought after, the motivating object/idea. Hitchcock defines MacGuffin while discussing his spy movie FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (see Truffaut pages 137-139). Basically, an item is called a MacGuffin when this item can be generically filled in, e.g. in a spy movie the MacGuffin, the focus of endeavor, could be a key, a map, a formula, a disk, or the uranium powder in a wine bottle that Cary Grant discovers in NOTORIOUS. When they wrote NOTORIOUS they had a plethora of choices to answer the question: What form is the secret object or information in. (see Truffaut pages167-169)

A MacGuffin is not defined as something with an apparent importance which, as the story unfolds, turns out it is not important. That would be a variation of a "red herring, " something put in a story intentionally to lead the audience in a bogus direction, without meaningful payoff, sometimes used in order to intensify the surprise revelation of the truth. As a matter of fact, Hitchcock himself said: "…the first part of (Psycho) was a red herring." (see Truffaut pages 266- 269).

In PSYCHO there is no generic answer for the woman, it is only money that can solve her problem. The cash here is not simply one of any possible items stolen in a random act of burglary. It is totally specific to this story that she seizes the opportunity and steals CASH. This specificity elevates the cash to being akin to a character, and removes the cash from being a mere convenient MacGuffin plot device. The fact that she plans to return the cash but is murdered, explicitly not murdered for the cash, and that the cash is tossed in the garbage (disposed of, as is the dead woman's body), this is DRAMATIC IRONY, as per definition number one in the Film Dictionary: an example of the audience knowing something the character doesn't, namely that Norman does not know about the cash in the newspaper. There is no reason to call the money a MacGuffin.

A perfect example of a MacGuffin is the sled in CITIZEN KANE. Any word Kane said upon dying could have been a reference to any number of possible items. For example, a snow shovel, a scarf, a bowl, or a toy ladder could have been worked into a scene with the banker. The sled was a good answer because a sled is a large, interesting object. The actual meaning of the word rosebud was so unimportant that no one in the movie ever finds out what it means. It was a MacGuffin, that which was sought and provided motivation. But in and of itself the sled had no story significance. Its only function was as the link to Kane's past. It could have been anything he owned as a boy.

As stated in (Truffaut page 139) a MacGuffin is: "…nothing that is specific."

A) Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1984. The definitive study of Alfred Hitcock by Francois Truffauat, wherein FT interviews AH about every single film AH made.

B) The Complete Film Dictionary, New American Library, Penguin, New York, 1987 Macguffin, McGuffin, Maguffin: A term devised by Alfred Hitchcock for some plot device that gets the action moving and about which the characters may care a great deal, but about which the audience may care very little. It is really the excuse to create a good deal of action and dramatic effect. Hitchcock himself liked to give the example of secret plans or stolen papers. See weenie.

Weenie: some object that motivates the action of a plot, normally in a film serial, though the term is occasionally used for other types of motion picture. The weenie might be a stolen idol or a missing map. See MacGuffin.

Dramatic Irony: (1) Irony that results from the audience having more information than the characters…


Real meaning?

I think the use of the term MacGuffin to refer to an object - and particularly a trivial object - has been overused. Hitchcock liked the fact that the noise of the aircraft engines at the airport in North by Northwest drowned out part of the conversation between Thornhill and the Professor so that he didn't have to explain what was going in. He told Truffaut that it was his favorite MacGuffin, as it was so meaningless.

But Hitchcock and Ben Hecht worried greatly over the MacGuffin in Notorious. Ingrid Bergman's character was risking her life to find out what the Nazis were up to - it had to be something important. In early drafts, Hitch and Hecht used the idea of training communist soldiers (an idea that would resurface in his unfilmed project “Flamingo Feather”), but they knew that it was just a temporary idea. Eventually they put in an idea that they had heard while making propaganda films in WWII - Uranium.

Some foreign releases - at least one, but I'm not sure which - dubbed Uranium into Diamonds. But this turns the Nazis into petty crooks, hardly worth the CIA going after.

The point is this: Hitch and Hecht could have used a dozen different MacGuffins and the love traingle/suspense story would have reamined the same. That's why he often said it was irrelevant - they could put it off 'til later. But it was important they chose the right MacGuffin to stop the film turning into a cartoon. North by Northwest was different: there was already so much plot surrounding George Kaplan, Eve Kendall, etc. that what Van Damm was doing (I think it was implied he was stealing secrets while working with Lester Townsend as a UN diplomat) was less important... but not unimportant.

However, many films since then have featured MacGuffins that are deliberately irrelevant - just to be clever.

My point is this: I think we have to preserve the generally accepted - although, as I have pointed out, slightly misunderstood - meaning of the term in this article, but I'd hate to see a return to the bad old days of 60s spies chasing after bottles of green goo, or risking their lives to recover a diamond necklace. I'd like to put some of this into the article, but I don't really want to massively rewrite someone else's text. Scott197827. 10/12/05.

Hitchcock or general plot-device as primary meaning?

Recent edits suggest disagreement over whether the word MacGuffin is primarily used as a Hitchcock reference or as a general term for the plot device. I believe the Hitchcock-specific sense is still primary. A quick Google search using "a macguffin" -cipher -wikipedia ("a macguffin" to remove most proper-name uses) yields 3,820 hits, while adding -hitchcock pares it down to 759. This back-of-the-envelope usage study suggests to me that Hitchcock-related uses outnumber general ones by 3 or 4 to 1. Therefore I am reintroducing the Hitchcock reference as the primary sense in the intro; but disagreement and even reverting is welcome if others feel strongly about this. -- Rbellin|Talk 05:00, 14 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Possibly that 3 to 1 is accurate, but remember that Hitchcock invented the word, so he's very likely to be mentioned in many articles that use the word. "MacGuffin = mainly Hitchcock" may be no more accurate from that point of view that say "cricket = mainly England", which any Australian, Indian, or Pakistani will tell you is rubbish. I know from my time peripherally involved in the theatre that the term has widespread use in non-Hitchcock film and theatre, even though Hitchcock is clearly understood to have coined the term. Grutness|hello? Grutness.jpg 11:30, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)


I removed the Zizek quote for several reasons. It was too long, it only marginally addressed the alleged MacGuffin status of the Iraqi WMDs, and it is available elsewhere (I did not delete the link.)

Also, Zizek's phrase "radioactive diamonds" is imprecise. It may have been a facetious reference to a different MacGuffin that had been considered for Notorious or it may have been Zizek's mistake. (In the movie the substance is uranium ore.) -- FC 10:43, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)


I must say, I have serious doubts about the premise that the non-existent secret agent George Kaplan in North by Northwest qualifies as a Macguffin, since Kaplan is not something you could "replace with anything else" without altering the story. He's merely, as Leo G. Carroll's Professor character says, "an elaborate ruse." Besides, I think it's generally understood that the MacGuffin in North by Northwest was, in fact, the microfilm inside the pottery sculpture, which actually fits the definition. If I recall correctly, Hitchcock admitted as much during his extended interview with Francois Truffaut. Can anyone confirm this?--DegreeAbsolute 14:54, 27 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Hitchcock quote

"In regard to the tune ..." -- what movie does this refer to? - Che Nuevara, the Democratic Revolutionary 21:36, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Unfortunately, the only online transcript of (what appears to be) Hitchcock's 1939 Columbia lecture does not include the portion quoted by the OED, so I can't tell. If there is a better source for this text, it'll have to be found later. -- Rbellin|Talk 21:52, 26 Jun 2005 (UTC)

McGuffin vs. MacGuffin

Should we move/retitle this article? In Straczynski's screenwriting book, he uses the "McGuffin" spelling (no a). A Google search for MacGuffin (~43,000 hits) versus McGuffin (~200,000 hits) seems to agree. Opinions?

highlander, the prize?

From the article: "In the Highlander series, immortal characters battle each other for a "Prize" which is never specified."

I thought the prize was all the power from the other immortals, and rulership of the world/universe?

This is correct. It's mentioned at the end of the first Highlander movie. The last remaining immortal gains influence in and influence over the minds of the political leaders of the world in some way (telepathy, telesuggestion), if I remember things right. Another aspect of the Prize was (I think) mortality. While the immortals cannot father/conceive children, the winner of the Prize will be able to do so.

However, the description of the Prize still remains a bit unclear in that movie, and the protagonist is also not seen taking advantage of the Prize. So the Prize may still be regarded as a MacGuffin...although I am not really sure about that. Maybe the reference to the Highlander movie should simply be taken out? Any ideas, anyone? --Klaws 10:52, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

I think, as with other examples, "The Prize" should be removed if there's not a reference claiming it to be a MacGuffin. Having said that, it arguably fits the criteria ("The Prize" is never shown to actually affect anything in the plot at all, other than be pursued). -- Zagrebo 18:10, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

Holy Grail

Surely the Holy Grail, as it features in some of the Arthurian legends, is the msot famous MacGuffin?

I'd say no. It is irrelevant to the plot of many sub-legends and merely contributes to the setting, but that doesn't make it a MacGuffin. Where it does feature, the Holy Grail has properties that convey why this item is of such tremendous importance other than the bare fact that people are interested in it. In short, if it is used as a MacGuffin, this is never done consciously; instead the teller is implicitly referring to a well-known object of legend that is implicitly accepted by the listeners as a good reason to do what the Knights of the Round Table do.
Compare it to a hypothetical cycle of stories where, say, some cryptozoologists team up to hunt Bigfoot, having all sorts of, eh, exciting adventures in the progress (use your imagination). Here Bigfoot is not a MacGuffin, even if Bigfoot never actually appears in any of the stories; he/it is essential to the plot, and not replaceable by a generic thing of interest. Or how about Godot from Waiting for Godot? Though ostensibly motivating the characters, Godot never appears and we learn almost nothing about him, yet nobody would call him a MacGuffin. (Of course, Bigfoot and Godot are not objects like MacGuffins usually are, but I hope you see how the analogy works.)
In short, calling the Holy Grail a MacGuffin would seriously muddy the waters, as it would set up any object of great importance that rarely or never plays an active role in the story to be called a MacGuffin, and that's not what MacGuffins are. The central aspect of a MacGuffin is not that it's a passive, unused thing, but that we don't know what it is and/or don't need to know in the first place: all that matters is that people come into some sort of conflict over having the MacGuffin. Microfilm, secret documents, diamonds and glowing briefcases qualify; the Holy Grail does not, and I can't image Arthur and his Knights doing the whole "knightly virtues" thing because they're after, say, the Eye of Argon. 23:04, 27 November 2005 (UTC)

Mulholland Dr & Flux-capacitor

As for Mulholland drive, all of those details are in fact critical to "decyphering" the film; this is typical of David Lynch's style.

For the flux-capaitor and other techno-babble, I think there's a very important difference between a _plot device_ and a MacGuffin.

The flux compensator (as well as the complete DeLorean) is not a MacGuffin. The "techno-babble" provides some background (spices up the movie), but does not provide any motivation to the characters. Yes, the flux compensator does motivate the usual mad scientist to pursue time travel, simply because it can be done (ya know, iresponsible as scientists usually are...). And the flux compensator does actually work, and we all see the results and benefits of that. Erm, flux capacitor I mean. It was called "Flux-Kompensator" in the german language version of the movie.

Anyway, the reference to BTTF is a bad example and should be removed. --Klaws 11:04, 2 September 2005 (UTC)

Agreed. Ditto for the Lord of the Rings' "One Ring." The ring is specifically identified, examined, explained, utilized, and tied to other "rings of power" in the story. It's so incredibly not a McGuffin that I'm embarrassed for whomever added that...
It is a McGuffin in that it's the central object etc., though. I'm not convinced that the idea that it has to be meaningless or never explained to the audience is particularly important to the definition: certainly from this article it seems to be something of an afterthough, "especially" rather than "always". Foolish Mortal 22:40, 15 October 2005 (UTC) (PS: No, it wasn't me. I did consider adding it, but thankfully decided to check the talk page first.)
It is a McGuffin in that it's the central object etc. - That's not what a MacGuffin is, though. A MacGuffin is an object that drives the plot and that could be, for the purposes of the plot, replaced by any other object - the properties/powers of the object are unimportant. You certainly can't say that about the One Ring - its powers are well-documented in the books and they also directly affect the story at certain points. Zagrebo 10:16, 25 April 2006 (UTC)


In the UK, Yorkshire TV's quiz show 3-2-1 featured an end game that revolved around a series of sketches. After each sketch ended, a character would join the show's host Ted Rogers and the contestants, and leave with them a prop from the sketch together with an envelope upon which was written a rhyming clue.

The clue and the prop pertained to one of the prizes. After all the sketches, the contestants would attempt to reject the prizes they didn't want, including Dusty Bin, a booby prize, leaving them, hopefully, with the star prize. (The prize in each case was written on a piece of card within the envelope, explaining how the rhyming riddle could be solved.)

Anyway, in early shows, the prop was referred to as a McGuffin. Mysteriously this nomenclature was dropped later on.

I'm removing the line that signals Wilson the volleyball as a MAcGuffin. The story could just as well have taken place without it and is not the central motivation for the film.


Integrated the two sections for non-Hitchcock films

Seemed ridiculous to have two different sections on exactly the same topic (MacGuffins in non-Hitchcock films) so I integrated them into a single section. BinaryTed 15:30, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

"The term "MacGuffin" was invented by writer Angus McPhail (not to be confused with Angus MacSpon)" - Apparently Angus MacSpon is a humorous pseudonym - moving this here until evidence otherwise. - 4 january 2006

Inappropriate items on list

The list of Macguffins seems to include numerous examples that hardly fit under the definition of Macguffin. I removed the coke bottle from The Gods Must Be Crazy as the storyline is entirely dependent on the identity of the item. It seems to me that a lot of the items on this list aren't Macguffins. They are just plot devices. The terminator arm example, for instance.

Agreed, things need to be removed. I took out the Terminator entry. We know why they need them to be destroyed (to stop the Terminator research), and we know exactly what they are. I also removed the Saw II entry. Antidote syringes a McGuffin? They would not be killing each other over pieces of cake. It seems some serious work needs to be done on the list. --TG
I agree with this. The list is too long and many items aren't right. Rmhermen 03:55, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

I'm going to remove the Lost note. The island's power has yet to be revealed as a Macguffin, especially since it's still being noted in recent episodes. --anon

There are two entries described as "may not be a McGuffin, may have deeper meaning." Should these be removed as well? --jackr

Desdemona's handkerchief is not a MacGuffin. The device had to be something easily misplaced (for Iago to recover it), something intimate (for Othello to get jealous over), something personal (so that it couldn't be confused with another person's) and something trivial (so that it would not be noticed when misplaced). The handkerchief could have been another item, but the list of items that could have been substituted is quite small and particular.

As such, I have replaced Othello with the Iliad, and the handkerchief for Briseis, which could have been any glittering prize.

The physical letter in the Purloined Letter is not a MacGuffin. It is essential to the plot that the device be a letter. Had it been something such as an incriminating article of clothing, the plot would have been much different.

As such, I have changed "the letter" to "the contents of the letter".

In The Cask of Amontillado, the offense is not a MacGuffin. The offense is never specified, and the offense takes place outside of the plot of the story. The offense could not have been exchanged for something else--it would always be an offense.

Superluser 02:14, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Nearly all of the examples on this list are not true examples of a MacGuffin. For example, if a story is about a treasure hunt then the gold itself is not a MacGuffin but an essential part of the plot. Without the gold, there is no plot. This point alone kills several examples from this list.— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) [1]

The shotguns in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels are also not a good example. Their "shotgun-ness" is important to the story, as they are used or purchased as weapons. They could not have been replaced by, say, a pot of gold without altering the story. Replacing them with any generic high value item would destroy several major plot points, including the attempted disposal them as weapons used in a felony which provides the critical twist at the end.

  1. ^ This comment was inserted between a comment that I made and my signature. I did not catch it before it was archived. You can find the change here

Are these McGuffins?

In friends, Ross and Chandler argue over a joke, that was sent into playboy about a Dr Monkey. You never find out what the joke is. Is this a MCGuffin? Similarly, in Malcolm in the middle, Hal has to choose between pulling the plug on someone or not. At the end, it's revealed he found out about a third option, which was a much better desicion, but you never find out what it was. --Richy 19:02, 6 January 2006 (UTC)

"The audience never finds out what it is" doesn't automatically make something a MacGuffin. The MacGuffin is the thing that drives the plot. As such, I would say that your first example might be a MacGuffin (but shouldn't be added to the article unless there's a citation from a reliable source that says it is); the second definitely is not. The third option is something Hal finds out about at the end of the episode; it's not something that drives the plot from the beginning. Chuck 20:30, 9 October 2006 (UTC)


I'm going to remove the idea of FLCL as a MacGuffin. While it is suitably vague, it really doesn't motivate or drive the plot, so it's not really a MacGuffin, is it?

Also, the idea that "FLCL is obviously a reference to" a Led Zeppelin song strikes me as odd, considering this is the first place I've heard that suggested.

--Awa64 07:42, 8 January 2006 (UTC)

also Grand theft auto III?

if i remember correctly, there was a mysterious suitcase you had to get for one of the crime bosses.(homage to pulp fiction?) You go to visit the boss later in the game, and he has vanished, leaving behind the empty suitcase.

"The written word"

How does Othello, correctly described as a play, count as written word? Films scripts are just as much written word as a play script. Just saying it doesn't belong in that category. Pipedreambomb 23:05, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

Ducinea del Toboso in Don Quixote?

It's the first time in my life that I read about this. Could Dulcinea del Toboso, the platonic love of Don Quixote, be considered as a MacGuffin?

  • Probably, I'm not familiar enough with the story to say for sure.

The example section is unhealthy

I've got some concerns about the "examples" section of this article, which appears to have cancer.

It has become a list of everyone's personal favorite MacGuffin reference, no matter how obscure. Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information.

Several of the examples given aren't really MacGuffins. The essence of a MacGuffin is that it does not matter what it is; it is an interchangeable, modular, generic part. You can change the MacGuffin to something completely different and still have the exact same movie. Indeed, it appears most of the effort on this talk page has been about whether this or that really is a MacGuffin.

There is a lot of commentary and detail in the various examples which have no relevance to the actual article. It doesn't really matter (to this article) what the briefcase in Pulp Fiction is a homage to, if anything.

I'm tempted to say it should just be culled down to a few examples, but that will prolly bring about a debate on which ones should be kept.

What do others think? (Don't forget to sign your comments.)

--DragonHawk 21:16, 1 April 2006 (UTC)

The list is taking over. Also, it's too heavy loaded toward more modern examples. Some, in fact, should be taken out and put in a section about the borderline between MacGuffins and non-MacGuffins. (The article could really use a section on what sort of things might or might not be MacGuffins.) Goldfritha 18:28, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
  • Maybe you could propose the list of what you think they should be. Wahkeenah 16:33, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

DragonHawk, I completely agree, although I did participate in a few arguments before I read this. I think we shouldnt remove the section completely, but limit it to those few that have been unanimously agreed on as being correct or those that are provided to a valid source.--Jonthecheet 07:09, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

  • I think y'all are overstating the case a tad. However, you could trim the items that don't fit the strict definiton of a MacGuffin, i.e. that fail what I call the "Rolex watch test" (see Da Vinci Code comment farther down the page). Wahkeenah 08:25, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

I strongly agree that the examples section needs seriously pared-down leaving only a few examples from each genre that we can all agree are good MacGuffins. Anything contentious should be culled. -- Zagrebo 14:02, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

I completely agree. As for which examples are truly MacGuffins, I'd say that a lot of the examples currently listed violate Wikipedia's no original research policy. (And thus I've added the unreferenced tag to the section.) If item X is truly a MacGuffin, find an external reference that says so. It seems to me that if someone watches a movie, says to themselves, "Oh, X is a MacGuffin in this film," and comes here and adds X to the list of examples, that constitutes original research. Applying an "is there an external reference which says X is a MacGuffin?" test would also avoid a lot of the long "is this a MacGuffin" debates here on the talk page. Chuck 18:23, 16 June 2006 (UTC)

There are examples (in such-and-such a book/film/computer game/whatever, this particlar plot device could be substituted for another without any substantial effect on the story, and is, therfore, a McGuffin), and there are references (in such-and-such a whatever there is a character/place/something called McGuffin). And the two are all mixed up together. Could someone sort that out?

TRiG 20:04, 13 July 2006 (UTC)

Unsure about The Simpsons

After reading this article Im thinking that The Simpsons would be great to use as an example - every episode up to about series 14 had one, but I dont feel I know enough about MacGuffins to add to the article. Especially in the episode A Tale Of Two Springfields, where a badger is the MacGuffin and Homer actually says to it "Go away! We got bigger problems now." 13:31, 17 April 2006 (UTC)DJM

The Da Vinci Code

Quote: "It could be argued that the Holy Grail in Dan Brown's popular novel The Da Vinci Code is a MacGuffin. While it is the driving force of the novel, its importance is quickly lost as the main characters spend most of their time running from the police." I believe this should be removed because the Holy Grail is the central part of the plot and its existance is understood at the ending. The statement "the characters spend most of the their time running from the police" is a horrible explaination of what the story is about. User:Jonthecheet 07:09, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

  • The test of the "MacGuffin" is if you substitute another totally different object, does the story turn out the same way? This doesn't quite work where The Da Vinci Code is concerned, because the Holy Grail is a religious object. Use the Rolex watch test. Does the story make sense if you substitute an expensive but commonplace piece of jewelry? Not without substantially re-working the plot. So I would argue that it is not, by strict definition, a MacGuffin, at least not in the most generic sense. You could substitute another object, but it would have to be another holy relic, such as the Turin shroud or a piece of the cross or some such, i.e. something directly connected with the religious undercurrent of the story. Wahkeenah 08:23, 20 April 2006 (UTC)
    • Wahkeenah, I have removed the example for The Da Vinci Code because I believe that other people will accept your reasoning more than mine. However, I am assuming that you wrote The Lord of the Rings example due to the use of the Rolex watch test. If I am correct, I would like to argue that the Rolex watch test does not apply in that case. Much like your explaination of "substitution by another holy relic" the ring cannot be simply replaced in that same manner. I believe in the book and definitely in the movie, the importance of the ring is established: it is a powerful ring which was created by Sauron to be able to hold power over others inhabitants of Middle-Earth. Even if you disregard that "history" (which I must apologize for because it is not detailed; I havent read the series in awhile), in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit the ring exhibits powers such as being able to draws creatures to it (e.g. Boromir trying to kill Frodo for the ring, Smeagol's reactions, and Frodo at the end of the movie) and turning the wearer invisible. If you did not write the Lord of the Rings example, I apologize.--Jonthecheet 01:20, 23 April 2006 (UTC)
      • I did not write the entire section about Lord of the Rings, I only added the Rolex watch test, on April 10. And I could argue that you could just as easily assign all those powers to the special-edition Rolex watch! However, I would not have deleted the paragraph about the Da Vinci code. Instead, I would have explained why it might not qualify as a MacGuffin, because it would likely fail the Rolex watch test, although any other holy relic would still work, so it is kind of a "partial" MacGuffin. I wonder what Hitchcock would say about all this trivia? :) Wahkeenah 05:30, 23 April 2006 (UTC)
      • Come to think of it, if Jesus had worn a Rolex watch, it would pass the test. :) Wahkeenah 05:31, 23 April 2006 (UTC)
      • Well my understanding was that if there was some history behind a MacGuffin that is outside of whatever story it is used in, it is no longer a MacGuffin, regardless of how it is used or not used. The attachments to history and other stories explain its importance. I deleted the Da Vinci Code example because the Holy Grail obviously has many of those connections and therefore the Holy Grail, and only the Holy Grail could've been used. I doubt that a Rolex watch could've substituted a whole line of blood related people to Jesus, compared to "Dude Where's My Car" turned into "Dude Where's My Rolex"--Jonthecheet 07:33, 24 April 2006 (UTC)
        • You've got a point. I was just now thinking of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is vaguely similar in that another religious artificact, the Ark of the Covenant, plays the MacGuffin role, if you will, but doesn't really qualify, on the same grounds as with the Holy Grail (which was also the subject of an Indiana Jones film, but that's another story). Ironically, comic singer Ray Stevens had a song called "Would Jesus wear a Rolex?" Wahkeenah 07:50, 24 April 2006 (UTC)

Temple of Doom

I don't think the sacred stones can be regarded as a MacGuffin since their power is necessary to restore the prosperity of the village. Whilst they undoubtably help drive the plot they are not something that could be replaced with any old object since they have a unique power important to the whole storyline. - Zagrebo 21:08, 24 April 2006 (UTC)

  • Ah, that was the exact same argument that I had for the Ring from The Lord of the Rings. I think someone should clarify this because it seems that if there is history to an object can no longer be considered a MacGuffin; its presence itself serves a purpose.--Jonthecheet 23:09, 24 April 2006 (UTC)
    • The sacred stones are definitely a MacGuffin, because they could be replaced with "any old object". The point of the MacGuffin concept is that it doesn't matter what the specific object is. Instead of stones, it could be rings, for example, and the story still plays out exactly the same way. The object exists only within the story. The reason that objects like the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail don't quite qualify (though I question that premise) is because they have an existence outside of the story and have a real history connected with them. The "history" of things like the sacred stones and the Rings of "Lord of the Rings" is totally artificial, contained within the story itself. Wahkeenah 01:09, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
      • I don't agree. The sacred stones have a power that the story recognises as unique, so they couldn't be replaced with anything else (eg a rolex) because a rolex wouldn't have the power to restore life to the village and the Thuggee cult would have no interest in a rolex. My understanding is that a MacGuffin can be any item since its properties are completely unimportant to the story - it merely drives the plot. The sacred stones have properties crucial to the plot so, I would argue, are not a MacGuffin. Zagrebo 10:12, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
        • But you're missing the point. The fact that the object happens to be a group of stones, or a ring, or a Rolex watch, does not matter. The powers ascribed to those objects only exist within the context of the story, not in "real life". So it does not matter what the object actually is. You could take any object and ascribe it those same powers, within the fictional story, and the story would still come out the same way. That's the definition of a "MacGuffin". Wahkeenah 11:02, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
        • This is in contrast to the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, which have a "real life" history and/or long-standing legend outside of any fictional work about them. In those cases, it is more difficult to tag them as "MacGuffins", because there is an external cultural history of those items that the movie refers to. However, in the fictional works about the Temple of Doom and Middle Earth, the objects exist only within the story. They are totally inventions of the authors and have no external history. Wahkeenah 11:14, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
  • The definition of a MacGuffin, though, is that it can be replaced by any object. Its history within the film is as relevant as that of any "real world" object bought into the film - the stones are fictional and so is Indiana Jones. Take the rolex test - replace the magic sacred stones with an ordinary rolex watch - can the film carry on in the same fashion? No, the Thuggees would be disinterested in a simple timepiece and the village would not suffer (indeed would never have prospered) because of such a timepiece. The stones are magical and we see their power in action several times, because of this they are not interchangable with any other object. A MacGuffin, by definition, is something whose nature is completely unimportant to the story and its abilities (if any) play no part in the story. You can say this about the contents of the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, since we have no idea what they are, it's not important and their use is never mentioned nor serves the plot beyond being pursued - the suitcase and its contents could be changed for a silver candlestick, or a bowler hat. However, the sacred stones have a history within the film, they have power that is described and seen and that power, specifically, is essential to their place in the plot. Replace them with another object and the plot doesn't work - hence, not a MacGuffin. Zagrebo 11:30, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
Incidentally - You could take any object and ascribe it those same powers

This is why it's not a MacGuffin - it would, as you say, have to be something possessing the same powers. In order to be a MacGuffin it would have to be replaceable with something without those powers (such as an ordinary rolex watch) since the powers are (as you concede) essential to the plot. Zagrebo 11:33, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

  • Take the magical stones and replace them with a magical ring or a magical Rolex watch (not an ordinary Rolex watch), and you have the same story. The magical part is important and key to the story. The fact that they happen to be stones is not important. The stones themselves are the MacGuffin. However, I begin to see where you're coming from on this. It does not matter what the object is, but it is necessary to the story that the object be magical. So do they qualify as a "partial" MacGuffin? Hmmm... It's too bad Hitchcock isn't around to settle this, since he's pretty much the one to blame for the whole idea. :) Wahkeenah 12:39, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
  • The magical part of the stones is as much a part of them as their shape, though. If you need to replace them with another magical object with the same properties then it can't be a MacGuffin. In order to be a MacGuffin it would have to be an ordinary rolex watch or stones. All you're suggesting changing is the shape. I agree that the shape of the stones on its own could be ascribed the status of MacGuffin (in that their shape is unimportant to the plot, although it would have to be something small enough to fit in a sack/on a shrine so that's possibly still debatable) but in the context of the film, they would have to change not just their shape but their properties - ie be replacable with any object. If we were allowed to change merely the shape and size of the object but retain powers or abilities then all sorts of things become MacGuffins - eg you could replace the nuclear missiles in Thunderball with rolex watches that happen to be capable of detonating a nuclear explosion.

Re: Hitchcock, I think part of the problem of confusion rests on his quote of the MacGuffin merely being "the thing the story revolves around" which is a gross simplification. It must be something that is interchangable, the point being that the object itself and abilities ascribed to it (if any) are irrelevant regarding the film's plot. If the sacred stones were, for example, part of an exhibition passing through india and the thugees and Indy were pursuing them without any indication of why other than to move the plot along and the stones had no magical powers that affected the story outcome in any way then it would be correct to call them a MacGuffin.

I appreciate your argument and I see what you're trying to say, but as soon as you start needing to ascribe the stone's magical powers to an object then they cease to be a MacGuffin since a MacGuffin must be replaceable with anything (hence the rolex watch test). You don't get a choice of it's powers anymore than it's shape. Zagrebo 12:53, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

  • Given that it is uncertain, if it's still listed as a MacGuffin in the article then it should be deleted. Go for it. Wahkeenah 16:15, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

One Watch to tell the time, one Watch to find them

  • The Ring In The Lord of the Rings trilogy may be viewed as a classic MacGuffin, which is pursued throughout all three of the books and is frequently the center of the plot. Arguably, one could substitute a limited-edition Rolex watch for the ring. Substitute "Rolex watch" every place that "ring" appears, and the story is still the same.
Except, of course, the parts where the ring confers invisibility and unnatural longevity, mystically draws the attention of its forger, reveals an inscription when thrown into a fire yet manages to remain cool, is the ruling object of several others, represents absolute power that inevitably must lead to ruin and, well, cannot actually tell its wearer what time it is.
I see some discussion has been held on this already, and as far as I can tell it leads to an obvious conclusion: if you need to transfer properties of an object, it cannot be a MacGuffin. A real MacGuffin is an object whose properties are completely irrelevant save for the sole property that characters want to possess it because it has some unspecified but great value. This is the key.
You can substitute a limited edition Rolex watch for diamonds, or a microfilm with the Anti-Life Equation, or a glowing briefcase, or a Lektor device, but not the Holy Grail or the One Ring. It doesn't work, because the Holy Grail and the One Ring have clearly defined properties that matter to the plot of the story. The Ring needs to represent absolute, corrupting power for the story to work; the Holy Grail needs to have its religious significance (in most stories that feature it, anyway). The One Ring is in fact a good example of "may look like a MacGuffin but isn't".
The "Rolex watch" test must be taken in its strictest sense: if you replaced the object in question with an actual, normal, but very valuable Rolex watch (or pot of dubloons or secret documents with unspecified contents or...) does the story still work? If so, you've got a MacGuffin. If not, you've got an object that may be a very transparent plot device or (especially) a plot voucher, but it's not a MacGuffin. If you extend this definition you easily slide down a slope where every object that's uniquely important to a story suddenly becomes "a MacGuffin", and that (as far as I can tell) is not what a MacGuffin is commonly taken to be. The complete irrelevance of what the MacGuffin is and what it can be used for is the central element, not that it's the main thing that moves the plot along. 22:38, 1 May 2006 (UTC)
I agree - in order to be a MacGuffin the object's abilities must never come into play in the plot itself (and therefore, for the purposes of the plot, it could be anything) - this is why the Lekter Machine in From Russia with Love is a MacGuffin but the nuclear missiles in Thunderball are not. Zagrebo 10:35, 2 May 2006 (UTC)
I had the same argument awhile ago and I think this problem should reflect not only in the examples but the actual definition. I guess we can start searching for specific definitions, or if not we have discovered a flaw in this definition that was not noticed before. Either way something should be done.--Jonthecheet 09:32, 6 May 2006 (UTC)

Unsurprisingly, the One Ring has been added to the list again. "It exists as an object to be destroyed and as a motivator for the actions within the story. Its actual function, other than it will allow Sauron to rule Middle-Earth, is irrelevant." It's probably impossible to argue for or against without a clear definition of a MacGuffin. I'll just limit myself here to saying that if the actual function is irrelevant, I'd like the author of the above to rewrite The Lord of the Rings by turning the Ring into, say, a devastating nuclear weapon. (This is popular simile, after all.) You can even keep it ring-shaped if you want. Then watch how key moments of the story just stop working. The One Ring is a plot device, it's even highly symbolical, but I feel strongly that it's not a proper MacGuffin. There's just something deeply wrong with the concept if it were. 22:59, 15 May 2006 (UTC)

I've removed it again because, as discussed here the one ring is not a true MacGuffin because its unique powers are not only important to the plot but affect it directly many times (such as the power of invisibility it gives, or its ability to affect the minds of characters). In order for it to be a MacGuffin it would have to be replaceable with any object at all - it fails the "rolex test" because in order for an ordinary watch to work in the story it would need to have the ring's powers and history and an ordinary watch has none of these -- Zagrebo 14:33, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Rather than remove poor examples every time someone adds one, perhaps we could simply prevent the poor examples from appearing by specifically explaining why the One Ring is not a MacGuffin. There's a huge list of things considered MacGuffins, but there are no counter examples of things that aren't. If a lot of well meaning Wikipedians get through the article and don't yet understand what a MacGuffin isn't, then maybe the article needs more clarification on that. Derekt75 02:19, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

I actually agree more with a suggestion made above which is that the "examples" section should be severly-culled and only a few from each genre that are widely agreed on should be included. Currently, this isn't a good entry as a direct results of the examples list. -- Zagrebo 14:01, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

non-transferrable properties, F/X2 and Pokeguffins

"if you need to transfer properties of an object, it cannot be a MacGuffin." - 22:38, 1 May 2006 (UTC)

I'm not sure that I agree with this. By and large, I think that this is an excellent test, but there are at least some grey areas.

For example, the Vatican medallions in F/X 2 are rather irrelevant to the plot, and you could easily substitute a Rolex Watch or Lenin's body. But is it a MacGuffin? It is essential that the artifacts be Catholic in origin, since that's how they get the Italian Mafia interested in it. The Italian Mafia professes to be loyal to the Catholic Church, and they want to retrieve the artifacts to return them to the Vatican.

But it could just as easily be a statue from the Vatican, or Lenin's body, and the Russian Mafia is trying to return it to Red Square. Or even Edvard Munch's The Scream, and any cultured organized crime trying to return it to the art gallery. Changing those few details would not significantly change the story, so would that make this a MacGuffin?

Also, there are the things that I like to call Pokeguffins--Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Inuyasha, Highlander, among others. You have to get them all (pocket monsters, cards, shards of the sacred jewel, heads of the highlanders, respectively). You can largely interchange these devices without doing much damage to the plots of individual episodes or chapters. So are they MacGuffins?

Superluser 03:09, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

It's true that MacGuffin-ness is not necessarily a black and white property. It's easy to start with a MacGuffin and make it somewhat relevant to the story; you can imagine adding more and more relevance until nobody would call it a MacGuffin anymore. In that sense you're right: there's legitimate debate over whether something is really a MacGuffin or has some, rather trivial, trappings that are superficially integrated into the plot.
I would still prefer to err strongly on the side of complete irrelevance, though, because otherwise, where is the end? It's obviously possible to take any story that has an object which is very important to the plot and transmogrify it to show the actual nature of the object doesn't matter—does that make all plot devices which are objects MacGuffins?
Pokeguffins are more appropriately called plot coupons—things that drive the plot along in a linear fashion because it gives the writer(s) an easy way to motivate the characters. Are they MacGuffins? Pure plot coupons (X broken into Y pieces, with X some Ultimate MacGuffin of Get-This-And-The-Story's-Over) usually are, but otherwise the issue is just as unclear. Are heads of immortals or Pokémon MacGuffins? I don't know, with what would you like to replace them? I don't see Duncan McLeod catching Pokémon throughout eternity, or Ash Ketchum lopping off heads to stuff in Pokéballs... I'm kidding, of course, I see what you mean—but it does matter whether you kill a person every episode or add a new foot soldier/friend to your arsenal, since the resulting stories are different.
I guess it really depends on what you want the definition to be. Let's take, for the sake of argument, "an object or single set of objects whose only relevant property is that people come into conflict over possession of it". I think it's a good definition because it highlights your point as well: it depends on what you consider "relevant". Is it relevant that the Vatican medallions are from the Vatican, or medallions? Couldn't you easily change either of that and obtain the "same" story, and doesn't that prove their nature is irrelevant? The argument can be made; it depends on what the "same" story is.
It would go too far, for example, to replace the One Ring with a reusable nuclear weapon, Sauron with a malevolent superpower who wants the nuke back, and Frodo and Sam with a two-man commando unit who have to take the weapon to the only decommissioning site in the world, resisting temptation to take control of it themselves. If that "proves" that the One Ring is a MacGuffin because its exact nature doesn't really matter to the story, the concept is a whole lot less meaningful.
So I guess I'll amend my "if you have to transfer properties it's not a MacGuffin" to "if you have to transfer relevant properties it's not a MacGuffin". That's fuzzy enough to accurately reflect both our opinions. As for what the article should say, I don't know. Quoting sources is usually our friend, but a section with examples is always trouble. 17:22, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

stevehadd 12h07 GMT, 29 May 2006 (UTC) The One ring is certainly a MacGuffin. The invisibility and drawing of creatures and link to other rings is all generic magic stuff. One might say that is the archetypal macguffin in the fantasy genre. The drawing or dark creatures and ivisibility are most certainly the least of its powers. Instead, what makes it a macguffin is that the function of the ring (that is the the specific things it does that interest those who seek it). Also, we can safely interchange with many objects. Sauron could have handed out magic umbrellas! All we, the readers, need to know is that the ring is powerful, everyone wants it, therefore it must not fall into the hands of the baddies! Absolutely nothing specific to the ring (in the context of the fantasy genre) is important to plot, only who is in possesion of the ring, which is a standard use of a macguffin. It is perhaps slightly similar to the statue in the Maltese Falcon. We are told quite a few things about the statue, but ultimately it is just a something of value that drives the plot. In the same waywe are told about the rings, but that it is something of supreme power is all that is needed to drive the plot. In todays world (late 20th/early 21st century), a nuclear weapon is almost a macGuffin, in that all that is important is that it's a big weapon and who has how many dictates international relations. I think the test above is flawed, in that MacGuffins tend to be genre-specific. In spy movies, it is the data/information. In '24' type shows, it is some apocalytic weapon. In fantasy, it is some object of extreme magical power. Macguffins do have a property, but it is generic to the genre. This has been pointed out, just needs to be reiterated.

"The One ring is certainly a MacGuffin. The invisibility and drawing of creatures and link to other rings is all generic magic stuff."

It isn't because its powers are relevant to the plot and are used several times. The fact they are generic is irrelevant. Let's say a spy story revolves around a communication device and at the end the device is used to signal to home base. That's very generic spy stuff but it's not a MacGuffin since it's been used in the context of the story. For something to be a MacGuffin, it's powers and useage must be irrelevant to the story - it could (for the purposes of the plot) be anything. As soon as you need to transfer powers - whether to make someone invisible, or blow up a city, or communicate with home-base, it ceases to be a MacGuffin despite how much of a genre-cliche it might be. A common misconception seems to be that a MacGuffin is simply something that drives the plot - it's not and there are other names for just such a thing. It must, crucially, be of itself irrelevant to the story as it appears in the book, film or whatever. Good examples of true MacGuffins are the Lektor Device in From Russia with Love and the rug in The Big Lebowski. If, for example, the Lektor was directly used to decode/encode something within the plot of FRWL *or* if something happened in the story that would and could only have happened as a *direct result* of powers attributed to the device within the story then it would cease to be a MacGuffin (nb this might well be the case, I've not seen the film in years, but from what I recall it serves no direct purpose in the plot). -- Zagrebo 12:57, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

origin of the term

After reading the article, I still wonder why "MacGuffin" instead of "weenie". If Hitchcock spontaneously came up with a nonsense name with the train story, can we add something to the article saying that's what happened? and if the term was coined/invented by Hitchcock, can we say that it was invented by him, rather than merely "popularized" by him? Derekt75 02:29, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

Inside Man

Don't we know exactly what's inside the safety deposit box? How is this a MacGuffin? 03:08, 30 May 2006 (UTC)Seth

DarkSeid's MacGuffin

Submitted for Approval

  • In DC Comics, the Anti-Life Equation is a MacGuffin for DarkSeid and anyone who dares oppose him. The Anti-Life Equation is a plot device inserted into multiple storylines predominantly to give rise and purpose for DarkSeid's interest in the human race in general and the given storyline in particular. It is ultimately an unattainable thing or concept which DarkSeid endlessly seeks, and has even been defined in a myriad of ways but never in a concrete and definitive manner. It is among the greatest and most overused of MacGuffins in comic book history.


I had originally just put this in the article, but after reading this discussion page again there seems to be some uncertainty or misunderstanding among Wiki's group mind as to what justifies a MacGuffin. The Anti-Life Equation cannot be described in detail. Many writers have tried but multiple attempts have only led to DarkSeid's disappointment. If he ever succeeds in finding the Anti-Life Equation, he wins and the story (and all future stories) is finished and the bad guy wins. Game over. So it's the ultimate MacGuffin in that it can be defined multiple times but never to the villain's satisfaction. It's eternally elusive to him and unattainable, allowing writer after writer to insert it into any DC comics storyline for the sole purpose of increasing the gravity of a storyline to cosmic proportions. DarkSeid would appear in a dark alley or a submarine or a child's playground if he believes it would lead to him attaining the Anti-Life Equation. I welcome arguments against the Anti-Life Equation being considered among a list of mankind's greatest MacGuffins. ZachsMind 18:04, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Is there an external reference which states that the Anti-Life Equation is a MacGuffin? Chuck 15:03, 20 June 2006 (UTC)
That sounds like a MacGuffin to me, although I agree it would be helpful if there was an external source that could back this up. -- Zagrebo 20:57, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

Lord the Rings

Doesn't the ring count as a macguffin for most of the story ? Where it should be thrown but is otherwise a subplot in its own book ?--Karimi 22:56, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

You couldn't substitute a Rolex watch for the ring and have the story work. The ring is necessarily a powerful thing that Sauron made. This means it is not a MacGuffin. Goldfritha 23:14, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
I realize its importance overall, but I meant from the second book onwards and in the parts with Aragorn and etc. that didn't really use the ring except as "lets hope frodo is doing well." and "for frodo" couldn't the ring be considered as a MacGuffin ?
No. This has been discussed before. Apart from anything else, something can't be a MacGuffin at certain periods and then not at others. It's one or the other for the whole story. -- Zagrebo 22:51, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Massive Pruning

I cut down the list of "examples" to a bare minimum. In some cases, what I cut was at random, trying to distil things to "key" examples that really illustrate the point, as opposed to an indescriminate list of information. However, in many, many, many other cases, the things I cut either were not MacGuffins at all, or weren't firmly established enough in the text. All MacGuffins are Plot Devices, but not all Plot Devices are MacGuffins. One of the reasons the list was growing so huge was that it was becomming a list of plot devices. In all too many of the examples, the item in question could not have been replaced by "any other object"... there was a quality about the object in question that made it inherantly important to the plot; making it a plot device, not a MacGuffin.

The list still isn't perfect though. I'd like to cut it down even more; preferably to ONLY those entries that have been referenced BY OTHER RELIABLE SOURCES as being MacGuffins. We'd need a Hitchcock, and the Maltese Falcon, the briefcase from Pulp Fiction, as those are the most commonly referenced MacGuffins, but anything else would need a cite before being added.

Lets get some respectability here. Fieari 18:07, 15 July 2006 (UTC)

Elder Scrolls

Removing. Not sure about Arena and Daggerfall but AFAIR you don't pursue the Elder Scrolls there. They are just a background settings element. In Morrowind you most definitely never get even bothered with an Elder Scroll. In Oblivion the character of the item (ability to modify the past) is an essential plot device. Adding a much better MacGuffin from Fallout instead. -- 08:34, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

MacGuffin all but forgotten

Sometimes the MacGuffin is all but forgotten by the end of the film. is marked as original research?

  • Most of disaster movies spend the first half on introducing the characters. Each of them has some MacGuffin motivation that is completely irrelevant to the plot, then the disaster destroys their plans and puts them together against the forces of nature.
  • Survival Horrors usually drag the characters into the dangerous place using a MacGuffin, which gets completely forgotten later. A party at abandonned house, an empty hotel in the mountains being a good place for writer's work, a mysterious town because it has appeared in dreams, ancient ruin explored by scientific expedition and such. The original reasons why the characters got in there are rarely of any significance later after the "horrifying discovery" is made.
  • Sci-fi, fantasy - all too often people "from our world" get dragged into the other world, and the transport device (time vehicle, spaceship, magical amulet, whatever MacGuffin was used to get them there) remains forgotten till the very end when it's used to get them back home.

Specific examples:

  • "From Dawn to Dusk" the original "escape" plot device gets completely obliterated by the events at Titty Twister.
  • "Soylent Green" the murder invastigation becomes insignificant at revelation of the origins of Soylent.
  • "The Chronicles of Narnia" The german bombings and IIWW loses any meaning whatsoever really fast.

The point being, this is not a fact on the side of "research" but on the side of "common knowledge" and any movie fan can cite a dozen of forgotten MacGuffins from memory.-- 08:35, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

I dispute that the examples above are MacGuffins at all, but rather that they qualify as plot devices. I'll leave the OR tag off, but I'm going to label it citation needed. Assertion that something is a MacGuffin doesn't nessesarily qualify it as such. Fieari 16:19, 18 July 2006 (UTC)


'Many video games in the adventure and RPG genres include simple fetch quests, in which the object is to obtain an item for some random Non-player character in order to advance the plot.' I dislike the use of the word random here. The non-player character is not 'random', but instead unimportant, disposable, inconsequential... take your pick.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Would the antique shotguns in the movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels be considered MacGuffins? I'm not sure... because the movie is a caper that revolves around them, they are valuable, but could easily be diamonds or bullion I suppose, but they are shot, so I don't really know. Xzamuel 15:04, 24 August 2006 (UTC)

If they're ever utilised in the film (which you suggest they are) then I'd say no. -- Zagrebo 18:10, 24 August 2006 (UTC)
I think the real question to be asked is not "are the shotguns in LS&2SB MacGuffins?" but rather "should the shotguns in LS&2SB be mentioned in the MacGuffin article on Wikipedia?" Given Wikipedia's no original research and reliable sources policies, my answer to the latter question would be that they should be cited if there is an expert (e.g., a film or literary critic) who says they are MacGuffins. If there is no such expert, then they should not be mentioned in the article, even if they are in fact MacGuffins. Chuck 22:09, 18 September 2006 (UTC)

Original Research Problem

Every example of a MacGuffin in the article is the result of original research. No movie ever made openly, explicitly, and objectively proclaims that it contains a MacGuffin. Every MacGuffin mentioned in the article is the result of someone's personal judgment. 23:29, 28 September 2006 (UTC)Lestrade

I think you misunderstand the no original research policy. It means that Wikipedia editors can't add their own, personal original research. It doesn't mean that no one's research at all can be added--and naturally, all research is original at some point. No original research means that just because I think something is a MacGuffin isn't a good enough reason to include it in the article. If Roger Ebert or Alfred Hitchcock thinks something is a MacGuffin (and has publically expressed that opinion), then it can be included, ideally with the appropriate citation. Yes, every example in the article is the result of "someone's personal judgment." Whether it's acceptable for inclusion or not depends on who that "someone" is. Chuck 05:13, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

The Third Man; not a MacGuffin

Someone just added The Third Man, with the illegally trafficked penicillin as the MacGuffin. I think this is far too facile a read of this work; the fact that the penicillin is never actually seen (in the film) doesn't necessarily make it a MacGuffin. In the film (but even more evident in the novel), the matter of the penicillin gives a definite moral dimension to the work: the fact that it's being stolen, and that therefore those it was intended for are likely to suffer without it, colors the Harry Lime character, and is an essential part of the story.

Therefore, I'm removing this entry. +ILike2BeAnonymous 03:29, 2 October 2006 (UTC)


Would Merris in Frasier be a macguffin? Musungu jim 23:44, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

No--I think you're confusing something unrevealed with a MacGuffin. Just because something or someone is never seen on screen does not automatically make it a MacGuffin. It's true that there are numerous examples of MacGuffins which are never shown on screen (I suppose this is the filmmaker's way of highlighting just how irrelevant the MacGuffin is to the audience), but that doesn't mean that everything that's never seen on screen is a MacGuffin. Conversely, many things that are shown on screen are MacGuffins. Perhaps the prime example is the statue in The Maltese Falcon, which is seen on screen, and is also one of the most widely cited examples of a MacGuffin. To be a MacGuffin, Maris would have to a) be the driver for the plot (which she's not, AFAIK, just the butt of the occasional joke), and b) be pretty much interchangeable with anyone else doing the same thing (which, in her role as "Niles's wife" (or ex-wife, depending on when in the series the episode occurs) doesn't seem to be likely).
Over at the TV Tropes Wiki, Maris is classified as an example of The Ghost. Chuck 23:39, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Split off into a dedicated list page?

People seem to LOVE adding their favorite movie/show/novel/whatever to the list, and if every MacGuffin ever made was added, the bloat would be incredible. We need to tighten our criteria a bit. Or perhaps, what do people think about splitting the example lists off into another page, say, List of fictional works containing a MacGuffin? Potential? Or cruft any way you look at it? Fieari 06:49, 16 November 2006 (UTC)

Video games don't apply here

I've removed the entire section covering video games because they do not fit the definition of a MacGuffin. While many of the video game examples do have characters or objects that are ultimately irrelevant to the game, the problem is that a MacGuffin exists in a work that has a narrative structure, either a novel, movie or similar-scale work. Since video games in general lack the same type of narrative structure, they cannot really host MacGuffins. (Even comics are suspect, but I've left them in for the time being.) +ILike2BeAnonymous 17:57, 16 November 2006 (UTC)

I don't know if I'd agree with you that video games can't have MacGuffins, as many games do in fact have pretty strong narrative structures, and though you have the illusion of freedom in the game, you can't really do anything but follow that structure. In such games, I would argue that MacGuffins can potentially exist. On the other hand, finding references and citations for legitimate sources calling various things in video games MacGuffins... that's a bit more difficult, and without such references, I support removing the section. Fieari 23:24, 16 November 2006 (UTC)
Well, OK, I didn't mean to imply that video games have no narrative structure—they clearly do—just that that structure, whatever it is, is different from that of novels, films, etc., which can contain MacGuffins as devices for "moving the story along", a function that's either missing or operates differently in video games. +ILike2BeAnonymous 03:06, 17 November 2006 (UTC)
Feh, what snobbery. Obviously lots of video games have narrative structure (especially adventure games and RPGs), and narrative structure is narrative structure—video games just emphasize different sets of tropes to move their stories along, but the classic elements are all there. MacGuffins are actually pretty common. One form is "this artifact will bestow Ultimate Power in some undefined way if the bad guy ever gets it", with the resulting plot of course being that the heroes have to retrieve the artifact and dispose of it, or must otherwise make sure the bad guy doesn't keep it. The exact nature of the artifact never matters, since it's either never used or only at the very end, which just results in a big fight between the upgraded bad guy and the heroes. The other is in the dreaded fetch quest: you are told to get object A because person B wants it, but what object A is is completely irrelevant; it could be anything from a golden chalice to enchanted toenail clippings, and only serves to get the player to do something to get the story rolling. Sometimes you don't even reach the desired object, because Plot Happens. In short, "moving the story along" is no less necessary in video games that have a story than it is in novels, films, etcetera andsoforth, nor are the means of doing so actually very different.
All that said, trying to list all instances of MacGuffins in video games wouldn't be illustrative at all, and there aren't even a lot of notable examples that really illustrate the concept well. I'm all for not mentioning video games in this regard, or only very generally. 01:00, 31 December 2006 (UTC)

Number of examples

Hi all, the list of example MacGuffins (particularly for films) seems a little long, containing a few non-notable examples. Should we be a little more restrictive in the number and notability of which films we include here? Also, I think clear MacGuffins should be used... for example, while I can see how the Snakes on a Plane example could be a MacGuffin, it really required a bit of a stretch to fit the mold. --Deathphoenix ʕ 15:06, 21 November 2006 (UTC)


All material objects of value, when not possesed, are MacGuffins.

Not until they drive the plot of a fictional story, they aren't. Fieari 18:54, 25 November 2006 (UTC)


Could the Triforce from the Legend of Zelda series be considered a MacGuffin? It drives the plot, but it's only ever loosely defined...

Do try to pay attention: a MacGuffin isn't something that's "loosely defined", but something whose precise form is irrelevant to the plot. Sounds like what you describe (I have no idea what it is) is more a case of bad writing than a plot device like a MacGuffin.
Besides which, the article really doesn't need any more examples overloading that section. +ILike2BeAnonymous 17:12, 29 November 2006 (UTC)