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An object in a work of fiction, especially in film, whose only purpose is to advance the plot.

[Popularized by Alfred Hitchcock and possibly coined by British screenwriter Angus MacPhail (1903-1962), after a joke about a MacGuffin, a nonexistent device for trapping lions (or tigers) in the Scottish Highlands, from the surname MacGuffin.]
Word History: Alfred Hitchcock popularized the word MacGuffin in screenwriting jargon to describe any object that advances plot, usually because the characters desire to acquire or protect it. One such example is the titular statuette in Hitchcock's film The Maltese Falcon. MacGuffin may have been coined by British screenwriter Angus MacPhail (1903-1962). The word is thought to be a reference to a joke. In one version of the joke, two people are riding on a train. When one asks the other what's inside a strange case, the owner of the mysterious case replies that inside is a MacGuffin. "What's a MacGuffin?" says the first person. The owner answers that it's a device for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands. "But," says the curious traveler, "There are no lions in the Scottish Highlands!" To which the owner says, "Well, then that's no MacGuffin!" (Some versions of the joke refer to tigers instead of lions.) MacGuffins are a common storytelling device. Further examples include the one ring in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, and the Holy Grail in numerous films and novels.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.MacGuffin - (film) a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot; "the McGuffin was a key element of Alfred Hitchcock's films"
plot element - a component or element of the plot of a story
cinema, film, celluloid - a medium that disseminates moving pictures; "theater pieces transferred to celluloid"; "this story would be good cinema"; "film coverage of sporting events"
References in periodicals archive ?
Mostly these motivations are what Alfred Hitchcock called the MacGuffin, an explanation for the struggle but not really of interest in itself--like the uranium in Notorious, or the stolen payroll in Psycho.
They run into kidnappers, fake federal agents (we think), a nasty crime kingpin (a deliciously villainous Danny Huston) and search for a Faberge egg that could be a classic Hitchcockian macguffin.
It felt like we should stick with our one MacGuffin for the country and explore that, let that be the important thing because, frankly we didn't need to have another piece like that.
GirardAEs mimetic theory is presented as an alternative to Freudian and Lacanian theory for examining the violence in HitchcockAEs films and themes such as the innocent victim, the wrong man, the scapegoat, and the MacGuffin.
The movie, which won the Best Director honour for Sharma at the New York Indian Film Festival, is jointly produced by MacGuffin Pictures and Studioz IDrream.
That was the genius of the first Iron Man movie--the macguffin, nerds will recall, was the "arc reactor," a fantastically small source of huge amounts of power.
The plot, in the meantime, gets gradually more implausible as a floating orb MacGuffin comes into play.
She's been a featured reader at Cornelia Street, Parkside, Bowery, HiFi, et al, been published in Live Mag, MacGuffin Reader, Spit, Assembling, and The Big Book of Sex.
Le falta solemnidad para ser un romantico y no lo imagino como clasico pontificando en las sedes de Ferney o de Weimar; lo suyo son las estaciones de trenes, las maletas olvidadas, los aeropuertos, las conspiraciones, las habitaciones de hotel, los dobles y los espias, el macguffin.
Does it have anything to do with anything in the real world, or is it just a sort of MacGuffin of its own, a part of what everybody agrees was Hitchcock's genius for marketing and publicity--and self-publicity?
and mckidd In 2012, he voiced the characters of Lord MacGuffin and his son Young MacGuffin in the Disney/Pixar film Brave.