One of the most ubiquitous tropes of all. Whenever someone is offering someone else an obscene amount of money for whatever reason, it will always be in the form of neatly stacked and bound stacks of bills in a briefcase, or, if the amount is even larger, a suitcase. Always. Frequently appears where the people making the briefcase can't afford enough money and therefore try to pad out the suitcase with stacks of paper with a few dollar bills on top. For accuracy, the briefcase should be a Zero Halliburton brand brushed-aluminum model (oddly just the right size for ten thousand one-hundred-dollar bills), the first choice of terrorists, drug dealers, and Las Vegas whales.
A briefcase full isn't really an obscene amount these days, relatively speaking. Assuming all US$100 bills, an average sized briefcase (25" x 18" x 4") could theoretically fit about US$2,400,000. An average attache case (18" x 12" x 4.5") is good for about US$1,000,000. That's obviously a lot of money, but not generally enough in the modern developed world to live on like a king, sufficient to fund a significant enterprise, or worth hiring a bunch of men to kill people over. That's precisely the reason why the US treasury doesn't make any bills bigger than $100. Notice, however, that if you fly across the Atlantic it is possible to cram in a briefcase an obscene amount of euros: using 500 € bills and assuming each bill has a thickness of 0.16 mm, a briefcase as described above can hold €6,350,000 (US$8,550,275), whereas an attaché case can hold up to €3,213,000 (US$4,326,304).
This is probably the most common manifestation of A MacGuffin Full of Money.
As this trope is so common, only exceptions, parodies and subversions will be listed.
- A Canadian commercial for a hybrid car has a guy going into a gas station with a brief case and puts it on the counter, opening it up. You expect that the "gas station" is a front for something... until the guy says "Pump Number 3?", and the clerk motions towards the door. High gas prices indeed.
Anime & Manga
- An episode of Case Closed had a rich person trying to get his daughter back by paying one of these...only the bills were all fake because he couldn't get that much in cash at the time without bankrupting himself and the kidnapper didn't really want the money anyways.
- Invoked in the third round of the Liar Game, in which the scenario has participants role play as smugglers trying to sneak conspicuous suitcases through customs and inspectors determining whether or not the suitcase really is full of money or whether the smuggler just wants them to think that.
- Played straight several times, but also averted in that the obscene amounts of money also come in: rare gems, checks, bank-accounts complete with ATM cards, and poker chips.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Seto Kaiba substitutes a briefcase full of Duel Monsters cards. The implication is that they are all rare and valuable. In real life, a lot of them are common because his deck was released as a starter deck, but card availability is a lot different in the anime.
- In Hayate the Combat Butler, Nagi offers one of these in order to pay off Hayate's debt to the "nice men". They gladly accept.
- In Ultimo, Iruma Tonomitsu, a shady politician (falsely) offers Present!Yamato a briefcase that contains $100 million in order to buy Ultimo. After Iruma ends up getting stabbed by his own Karakuri douji, Yamato's mother apparently takes the money to get a nice apartment.
- At the beginning of One Piece's Water Seven Arc, the gold retrieved from Skypiea is exchanged for three of these. Two are stolen by the Franky Family, and the theft is only noticed when Luffy realizes that the briefcase he's holding is lighter than it used to be.
- Subverted in Kick-Ass when it's revealed that Big Daddy was never actually a cop, made up everything about his past, and that the trunk he keeps with him is, in fact, full of old comics that he sells on the internet to fund his operations.
- How Frank stays liquid in Catch Me If You Can.
- In Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, the briefcase is opened to reveal a single, lonely stack of bills.
- Even funnier is the fact that the man offering says that it's $100,000, which is more money than is shown. $100,000 would require ten 100-deep stacks of $100 bills.
- Except it's a suitcase, the main plot point of Shallow Grave after the drug addict/thief dies the group of friends decide to keep the money and go about removing the body. Then some other criminals come about looking for the money.
- The Way of the Gun overtly subverts the trope. When Parker and Longbaugh demand $15 million ransom in mixed bills, Jeffers yells, "You know how much that's going to weigh?" Even with the random in hundreds, it takes up three gigantic dufflebags.
- In an outtake scene from the first Austin Powers movie, Number 2 offers Austin a billion dollar bribe this way. Austin flips through one stack of bills and says he's $832 short. Number 2 explains that he had to buy the briefcase as well. They then argue over who should have to pay for the briefcase until Dr. Evil gets fed up and dumps Number 2 into the fire pit.
- In Once Upon a Time In Mexico, at a payoff between two characters, one of them hands the other his fee... in a metal lunchbox. Slightly lampshaded, as the character then comments he was unable to find a small enough suitcase for the sum of money the other had requested.
- Indeed, almost every time this trope is used in that film, it is via a lunchbox full of money. In one case, it is shown that this is enough money to pay for the President's aide to betray him to the Barillo Cartel. The exception is the end of the film, where there is so much money shown that it fills the protagonists' guitar cases, with enough left over to stuff their jackets with.
- The script for Beethoven features one of these, but the actual film cut replaced it with a rather less impressive brown envelope of notes.
- In Kill Bill, a suitcase filled with one million dollars also contains a highly poisonous black mamba.
- Subverted in Die Another Day when Bond adds a C4 charge into the lining of a briefcase full of diamonds which then end up buried in The Dragon's face when Bond sets it off.
- The Big Lebowski features a Briefcase Full of Money as the MacGuffin; Or is it? The Dude deduces that the eponymous false millionaire has planted a False MacGuffin in an attempt to rid himself of his unfaithful Trophy Wife.
- Subverted and lampshaded in The Brothers Bloom:
"Only Russian mafia men and Hollywood spies deal in large briefcases full of money. YOU get a certified check."
- Later, the Russian mobster Diamond Dog turns up with a a briefcase full of money.
- Dumb and Dumber characters, Lloyd and Harry, travel to Aspen to deliver a Briefcase Full of Money to Mary Swanson, initially believing that it's merely forgotten luggage. When they do discover the money, they quickly spend all the money and fill the briefcase with IOUs.
- Played with in Beerfest; the German Beerfest team is willing to play for the von Wulfhausen beer recipe with one of these, but they brought a briefcase full of German Euros, which the Americans mistake for Monopoly money. The Germans start arguing among themselves that they should've brought the now-obsolete Deutsche marks.
- Played with in Pulp Fiction: the MacGuffin is a suitcase full of something extremely valuable and impressive (so much so that it bathes everything before it in a diffuse golden glow) but we never get to see precisely what it is.
- In the 2009 film Astro Boy the robots open up a briefcase and are bathed in golden light, parodying Pulp Fiction, but the suitcase merely contains a flashlight.
- Used in Ocean's Eleven as a way for the con men to empty the vault: the fake SWAT team enters with empty duffel bags and leaves with duffel bags full of cash.
- Subversion of this trope is discussed in detail in William Gibson's Spook Country. At the climax of the novel, Tito uses his Le Parkour skills to camoflage the contamination of a cargo container full of cash with radioactive material. When it comes to transporting ridiculous amounts of cash to fuel a Government Conspiracy, a briefcase just won't do.
- Three books in Tim Dorsey's Serge Storms series (set Only in Miami) follow a variety of wacky yet violent criminals (as well as a few unsuspecting Muggles) who chase after a suitcase containing $50 million in cash, which a Con Man ripped off from an insurance company that was actually a front for The Cartel.
Live Action TV
- Three skits in Trigger Happy TV involve these briefcases. In one a character walks up to some street performers and drop a open briefcase full of money into the hat. In another, a character dressed like a covert spy tries to hand off the briefcase to an unsuspecting man on the street in exchange for the "dossier". In the third, a character confronts a random stranger in a parking garage by sliding a briefcase to him and begging him to let his family go.
- Bionic Woman managed to liven up the trope a bit by using a briefcase full of bearer bonds which, while definitely a more practical way to carry around a large sum of money, still isn't a very good idea.
- On The Wire, Drug dealer Marlo Stanfield tries to pay with a briefcase full of money, but the cash is dirty and disorganized because it came directly from the drug corners. The other party actually rejects the case until he washes the money and returns with a proper bribe.
- Actually, Spiros rejects the money because it's "dirty," which Marlo mistakenly thinks is a comment on the physical condition of the money. When Marlo returns with a briefcase full of cleaner bills, Spiros explains to Marlo that he meant that the money was from the streets, but he decided to do business with Marlo anyway because Marlo was persistent.
- On the Top Gear Vietnam special, the presenters were each given 15 million dong to buy a vehicle: a small box full of bundles of bills. While initially delighted at having "inches of money," they quickly discovered this was worth only about US$1,000. They had to settle for used motorbikes instead of the luxury cars they were expecting.
- In one episode of Lost, we see Sawyer run a con in which he "accidentally" knocks open a briefcase full of cash, intriguing his mark. In a later episode, we see him do it again, except the mark laughs at how obvious the con is, and discovers the "money" is just newspaper with bills on top. Doubly subverted, though, because this turns out to be exactly what he wanted to happen.
- In an episode of the Chris Elliot sitcom Get A Life, he is bribed with the hefty amount of five dollars, leading to scenes of him parading his newfound cash around town. At one point he tries to buy a car, and opens a briefcase containing the solitary five-dollar bill.
- While the briefcases in Let's Make a Deal actually just contain a card with a dollar amount on it, the allusion to this trope is clear.
- Parodied on Deep Space Nine when O'Brien and Bashir attempt to gain entrance to Quark's game of Tongo (A Ferengi gambling game). When Quark explains that the game is not played for small amounts, O'Brien holds up the briefcase to show that he and Bashir are serious, and have the money to back up their interest. However, after Quark explains that buy-in is five strips of latinum (DS9 never established a definitive exchange rate, but one strip of latinum appears to be approxmately equal to $10) O'Brien carefully opens the case so that none of the Ferengi can see inside it, and it is revealed to the viewer that the (extremely large) case only has six strips of latinum total.
- In the Lie to Me pilot episode, Dr. Lightman's suspicious behavior and Briefcase Full of Money are a test of Transportation Security Administration profiler Ria Torres's abilities. After he and Dr. Foster end their hiring pitch, they leave behind the briefcase. When Ria calls them on the "forgotten" item, Lightman says nonchalantly that's her hiring bonus.
- Lampshaded in The Middleman:
Wendy: If action movies from the '90s taught us anything, it's that no good can come from anyone of Eastern European descent carrying or exchanging a shiny metal briefcase!
- In Perfect Strangers, Larry is trying to sting counterfeiters, and tries to fake this trope where only the top of the stacks are money. Hilarity Ensues when Balki tries to show how the plan would fail.
- Many episodes of The A-Team ended in drug deals gone bad or other situations in which the Team has just won the firefight and packed the bad guys off to jail. But what happened to the bag of money the villains left in that motel room? The subtle inference is that the Team got to keep it.
- Subverted in the White Collar episode "Front Man," in which Neal and Mozzie run a scam to obtain a titanium briefcase filled not with cash, but high-limit credit cards.
- In an episode of Everybody Hates Chris the homeless person and local crazy man Kill Moves has a briefcase full of money and we don't know where it came from. He spends on finding a gift for his mother. at the end, it turns out that his mother was filthy rich and always gave him a briefcase full of money when he visited
- Subverted on Veronica Mars. In the season 2 finale, Kendall just gets a several-million-dollar windfall as the result of Cassidy's suicide. She then walks into Keith's office with a briefcase and tries to offer him a job. When he refuses, she shows him the contents of the briefcase—which the audience doesn't get to see—and he agrees to take it. A few episodes into season 3, we learn that the briefcase actually contained a van Gogh painting, not cash.
- The basic objective of the game show Take the Money And Run for the team of two civilians is to find a safe spot to hide a briefcase containing the $100,000 cash prize, after which the opposing team of two police detectives have 48 hours to try and track down the briefcase and take it for themselves.
- At the beginning of one episode of Person of Interest Finch goes to a morgue with a critically wounded Reese (He had been shot at the end of the previous episode) and tells the coroner that he knows that the man is a brilliant surgeon who hadn't practiced medicine since immigrating to the US because he couldn't afford the fees involved in getting certified to practice in the US (He was sending most of his money to his family overseas). Finch then produces a large handbag full of cash and says "Stitch him [Reese] up, and you can be a doctor again."
- Every Continuum spanner starts their new life with a big stack of bills, usually in multiple briefcases. An exception in that the briefcase or briefcases almost never include the full amount of money, and the Moneychangers usually just provide the equivalent currency in credit or direct deposit. The briefcase is used just to make sure the point sinks in, and that spanners don't try something stupid.
- In Kingdom of Loathing, you may open a briefcase to find "fat stacks of cash"... which aren't of any use except as Vendor Trash, since the game's Global Currency is "meat." Though they briefly found a use in the Crimbo 2008 quest for bribing members of the Penguin Mafia.
- To be fair, they go for 500 meat each. A pithy exchange rate for a fat stack, but it still ain't chump change (at lower levels).
- In Evil Genius your construction workers carry the gold for purchases to and from the dock in briefcases.
- In Scarface the World Is Yours some gangsters will drop these. Where they're keeping them, on the other hand...
- For whatever reason, these briefcases are used to store rough cut diamonds in Far Cry 2
- Referenced in Scott Pilgrim VS the World: The Game, where they can be picked up and used as weapons in a stage based on a filming studio.
- In Interstate 76 vigilante Taurus finds one of these in the wreckage of a destroyed gang safehouse. He comments that it must be a pay off for something. His partner, a green vigilante named Groove asks how Taurus can be sure, to which the Genre Savvy Taurus says "Cuz' a suitcase ain't a BANK, Groove!"
- Left 4 Dead - The episode "The Passing", finding one of these (with some handguns too) in a bar is an Easter Egg. Depending on what character you're playing, you'll get a different reaction. Playing as Nick, you'll get the quip "I like how this guy packs!". It also allows you to pick up a second pistol if you haven't already got one.
- During the first few levels of MadWorld, you can throw one of these. When it hits, it scatters money everywhere, which will distract any enemies that see it.
- Dead Rising 2 has a few of these in casinos - in addition, several characters will use the outbreak as an excuse to fill their briefcases with money. If Chuck throws one at a zombie, it will break and spew out $1,800.
- Mimicking the page picture above, Devil May Cry 4 parodies this trope: After Dante and Trish are done helping Lady, the latter gives the former pair a briefcase. Trish opens it to find just a small roll of cash and complains.
- In X-COM, an agent holding an open briefcase full of money is the background screen for financial transactions like buying or selling equipment and hiring or firing personnel.
- In Sluggy Freelance Bun-Bun actually requests "two briefcases full of money" as payment for fighting Oasis. Well, he requested two suitcases full of money, but those were a little too heavy for Torg.
- In the Zokusho Comics universe it's beginning to look like the only times that briefcases are used, they aren't full of money, but of explosive magic or some other form of trap.
- An episode of South Park has Tweek's dad trying to be bought out with an ordinary, empty briefcase. When he turns the offer down, the investor whips out good-old-fashioned-bags filled with $500,000 cash, which he also turns down.
- Referenced/parodied in an episode of The Simpsons where Fat Tony gives Mayor Quimby a kickback in the form of a bag with a dollar sign on it. The mayor says that he'd prefer future kickbacks to come in a nondescript briefcase instead.
- Mayor Quimby can also recognize a suitcase full of cash by the sound it makes when it opens.
- Also, an early episode had Smithers attempt to hire singer Tom Jones by showing him a briefcase full of money. When Tom refuses, Smithers opens a second briefcase and it sprays him with knockout gas.
- Referenced again in 'The President Wore Pearls' where Homer, after winning big at the school's faux casino, asked for his winnings in cash and suitcases to carry it.
- The Germans who buy the plant use a briefcase full of cash, which apparently contains not only enough cash to buy Springfield Nuclear Power Plant but also will have enough left over to buy the Cleveland Browns.
- In "Homer vs. Dignity", Homer is given a briefcase of money to buy a rare Spider-Man comic and then eat it in front of Comic Book Guy.
- In an episode of American Dad, Stan opens the briefcase upside down, revealing a phone book that was supposed to be hidden under the bills to make it look full.
- Parodied in Squirrel Boy, when the protagonist is bribed into taking the blame for several pranks with a briefcase... that is revealed to be empty. As the protagonist is a squirrel, he considers the briefcase a good payment anyway.
- In Mutant League, Bones Justice gets a therapist to leave by offering her a duffel bag full of money. Unfortunately, the extremely heavy duffel bag tuns out to contain his formerly lovestruck teammate, doing some Exact Eavesdropping.
- In an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, when Birdman's at a baby shower for his pregnant wife, Phil Ken Sebben gives him a briefcase full of cash.
Harvey: Phil, wow. You shouldn't have!
- In Pinky and The Brain, a doctor with the conclusive proof that would have made Brain's insurance fraud scheme successful is bribed with a briefcase that will "change [his] mind." It contains lingerie. (Make your own conclusion what it will be used for...)
- Parodied in an episode of Stroker and Hoop. The briefcase was a graduation gift so Stroker had to stuff all the money in his jacket. He ends up losing most of it in a chase.
- Archer has multiple occasions where someone has a briefcase posing as one of these...only to have it turn out to have a single cupcake instead.
- Parodied in The Venture Brothers where Rusty tries to pay Monarch for Hank and Dean's ransom with a bag full of photocopied money. Monarch calls him out for being too cheap to spring for the double-sided copies.
- In one episode of Gargoyles, a ransom for Thailog demanded one filled with 20 million dollars. Turns out, Thailog orchestrated his own kidnapping and then faked his own death (and apparent destruction of the briefcase) to escape with the 20 million and start his own fortune.
- The Scooby Doo episode "The Backstage Rage starts with Shaggy and Scooby discovering a violin case full of money. It's the start of a counterfeiting caper.
- In the Total Drama franchise, this is how the prize money is delivered. However, it usually gets stolen by a rouge contestant (Ezekiel in TDWT and Heather in TDRI) or comically destroyed whether it's eaten by a shark or burned in a volcano.
- The million-dollar grand prize of the World Series of Poker is traditionally paid in cash. Before the final round, the prize is hauled out to the playing floor. In ordinary cardboard boxes.
- The video gaming site ScrewAttack holds an annual "Iron Man of Gaming" in which the winner gets a briefcase-sized package of real money. They're all one-dollar bills. [dead link]
- How Much Is Inside? decided to show what a million (fake) dollars in a briefcase entails.
- Victor Suvorov, a real life Soviet spy, wrote in his semi-autobiographic book how they used a sneak glance of a hidden compartment in a case in order to recruit agents. The trick was that they showed a relatively small (or rather, shallow) compartment which is easy to conceal, full of new shining bills, but the actual payment was in older cash.
- Photos from a raid on a Mexican Drug Lord's house show stacks of money in all corners of the house, filling multiple filing cabinets, and 18 Briefcases Full Of Money proper.
- For U.S. Dollars, even at the highest denomination ($100), you'd actually need a large suitcase to hold a sufficiently large bribe. Unless you're planning to do the hand off at an airport, train station, or the like, this will be rather conspicuous.
- In the days before electronic money transfers, this trope was more plausible; the no longer printed $500, $1000, $5000, and $10000 bills (there was also a $100000 bill, but it was used only for payments from the US government to foreign governments) combined with the much higher value of the dollar in those days meant that a briefcase full of cash could make for a very hefty bribe.
- In Dubai, this still holds true for purchasing property. If you pay cash up front, literally, you get the deed. Otherwise, regardless of how much you made for a down payment, if someone else does this, they get it.
- According to one of the former band members, when Black Sabbath first became well-known their producers actually gave them several of these to go buy drugs with. Hey, it was The Seventies...