A MacGuffin Full of Money

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A popular subtrope of the MacGuffin concept. Rather than make the MacGuffin be a piece of obscure technology, or the Chosen One brought back to life, it is quite simply a giant pile of cash. Because money has intrinsic value, the viewer can instantly understand why it is that the characters are so determined to retrieve it.

The problem with this trope is that it can't be generally used to power stories that involve things like the villain seeking world domination. As such, it tends to show up most often in mundane fiction, although ironically, a MacGuffin full of money can make characters who would otherwise be normal act kind of insane.

See also Mock Guffin, Briefcase Full of Money, Hate Plague, Zillion-Dollar Bill, Pirate Booty and Treasure Map.

Examples of A MacGuffin Full of Money include:

Comic Books

  • An old Donald Duck comic involves Donald knocking loose a concrete egg and discovering that the thing's actually filled with money. After cracking it open with a wrecking ball, he finds out it belongs to Uncle Scrooge, -and he kept it around in case of emergency. Yes, it was his nest egg.
  • In Hitman Annual #1, the MacGuffin is a coffin full of dollars. The story title? "A Coffin Full of Dollars".


  • It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World has the characters spend much of the early part of the movie gradually progressing from "let's be reasonable" to "screw it, every man for himself" regarding the location of a cache they discover in the opening minutes.
  • This was the MacGuffin used to drive the action in No Country for Old Men. At a few points, characters end up needing to spend some of it after getting themselves in a tight spot.
  • A Simple Plan is about a group of characters who find a wrecked plane full of cash (which turns out to be the ransom from a kidnapping).
  • Ocean's Eleven uses this, though it differs from most Thief Caper films in that it was very specific money.
  • Rat Race makes pure use of this trope. The object of the whole film is to be the first to reach and open a briefcase with two million dollars in it.
  • Dumb and Dumber centers around the protagonists trying to return a briefcase full of ransom money, which they picked up in the belief it was left behind by mistake. Once they spend it all on luxuries, it becomes a briefcase full of IOUs instead - and they can't understand why the bad guys won't accept those, since they're practically the same thing.
  • Millions is about a 7-year-old boy who finds a duffel bag full of money, and what he and his brother do with it.
  • This is the basis of several Cohen brothers films including No Country for Old Men, Fargo The Big Lebowski and Blood Simple.
  • The Nazi Gold in Kelly's Heroes.
  • The suitcase full of cash in Shallow Grave. The film is about a group of friends trying to cover up an accidental death in their apartment so they can keep said money.


  • In The Twelve Chairs, the MacGuffin is a chair stuffed with diamond jewelry. To make things worse, there are the other eleven, which look the same.
  • Subverted (kinda) in the Mistborn Trilogy. The atium cache is initially desired for its monetary value, but when they finally find it near the end of the last book, money of any sort is kind of worthless...
    • In the end, it's still valuable, but because it's actually the "body" (read: power) of a god in metallic form, and the Big Bad (the god it was essentially scooped out of) wants to re-ingest it to get himself back to full strength.

Manga and Anime

  • The titular Pirate Booty treasure in One Piece is probably this trope, given the genre trappings, but as yet no one really knows for sure.

Video Games

  • The Philosopher's Legacy in Metal Gear Solid 3 is a microfilm with details of bank accounts containing a colossal amount of money. Enough, in fact, that despite the usual trapping of this trope, the group that gets their hands on it does take over the world.