Examples include the meaning of rosebud in Citizen Kane (1941), the Falcon in The Maltese Falcon (1941), the briefcase in Pulp Fiction (1994) and Ronin (1998), the crystal skull in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), and the mineral Unobtainium in Avatar (2009).
Alfred Hitchcock popularized the term "MacGuffin" with The 39 Steps (1935). He 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 almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers".Interviewed in 1966 by François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock illustrated the term "MacGuffin" with a story, which he repeated in an interview with Dick Cavett. The voice over in the following video comes from the Dick Cavett recording. Thanks to Isaac Niemand for this re-edit.
You can see the original interview here.
First posted: 24 November 2012