Here’s what a MacGuffin is, and 15 killer examples that made movies memorable

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Whether it’s Maltese Falcons, Tesseracts, or Crystal Skulls, Hollywood just can’t quit MacGuffins — and for good reason.

First popularized by master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, “MacGuffin” is the term used to describe a basic plot element that drives a film’s story forward. It often takes the form of an object, event, or character that’s being pursued — usually by opposing sets of characters — but it can also be more abstract, like a sense of love or power.

In the 2016 film The Nice Guys, for example, the protagonists find themselves caught up in an investigation of a missing person that puts them on the trail of an amateur pornographic movie that just happens to contain evidence of a far-reaching conspiracy.

Not all MacGuffins are as … unique … as the one in The Nice Guys, but they can still manage to be memorable. Here are 15 of cinema’s greatest MacGuffins that not only served their stories, but made the movie better for being in it.

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