The Ten Most Important MacGuffins in the History of Cinema

6. The Horcruxes

Film(s): Harry Potter and the…Chamber of Secrets, Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows Part 1, Deathly Hallows Part 2

The first MacGuffin that transcends a single film is actually a set of MacGuffins. The Horcruxes are a series of objects that are created by Dark Magic and unspeakable deeds in order to gain immortality. To defeat Voldemort, Harry Potter must destroy all of the Horcruxes. Although this effort doesn’t consume the entire series of films, it does become the focus from Half-Blood Prince onward. This is a great use of a MacGuffin because it turns the characters onto a quest and also gives the narrative a foreboding quality. The last three Harry Potter films are very dark and heavy, which is what makes them so effective. Part of the reason they are so dark is due to the burden that these MacGuffins create on the central characters.

5. The One Ring

Film(s): Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, Return of the King, Hobbit trilogy

A common use of a MacGuffin in film is to first introduce it to the audience at the beginning of the film, and then the rest of the film consists of the characters trying to obtain it. That is what Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films do, but this process is stretched out over the course of 6 films. The Hobbit prequel trilogy is the backstory. The opening of the Fellowship of the Ring describes the conundrum, and the importance of the ring. It also provides the reason why it must be destroyed. The remaining two films are the conclusion of that effort. The trilogy is basically six films revolving around a single MacGuffin. That makes the One Ring a powerful MacGuffin.

4. The Holy Grail

Film(s): Indiana Jones, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Fisher King, The DaVinci Code, others

The Holy Grail is the ultimate tangible MacGuffin in the movies. It is the ultimate treasure for adventurers, the ultimate conquest for kings, and the ultimate achievement for an inconsequential man. The importance of the Holy Grail also seems to attract all sorts of evil and danger, which is the perfect formula for an entertaining film. We’ve seen the Holy Grail in countless places, in tones of deathly seriousness, rambunctious comedy, and worshipped through the eye of history.

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