While others might have invented the term, no filmmaker in history is more closely associated with the concept of “MacGuffins” than Alfred Hitchcock. And here is how Hitchcock himself described what a MacGuffin is during the interviews with Francois Truffaut that became the basis of the book Hitchcock/Truffaut:

It’s the device, the gimmick, if you will, or the papers the spies are after... the ‘MacGuffin’ is the term we use to cover all that sort of thing: to steal plans or documents, or discover a secret, it doesn’t matter what it is.

“The only thing that really matters is that in the picture the plans, documents, or secrets must seem to be of vital importance to the characters,” Hitchcock continued, adding “To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever.”

Through the years, though, some MacGuffins have taken on enormous importance in the minds of moviegoers. Studios sell replicas of the most popular, and the original props of others sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A recent article about one such item got me thinking: What are the best MacGuffins in history? That spawned the list below.

Some of these MacGuffins fall into the very strict definition set forth more than 50 years ago by Hitchcock. Others expand it in interesting ways; a few deconstruct the concept entirely. All of them, I realized as I compiled them, force us to ask questions about what we really value. What makes something worth fighting or dying for? In a few of the examples below, the answer is obvious. In others, it’s downright surprising.

Here are my picks. (Be aware that a few light spoilers for some of the most famous movies in history will follow.) If you disagree, just remember: To me, the narrator, they’re of no importance whatever...

Gallery — The Best Road Trip Movies in History:

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