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The Art of Effective MacGuffins

Storyteller OS users: Clip this video into your Knowledge Base and categorize it under Plot + Structure

This video essay by Just Write explores how the use of the MacGuffin narrative device can affect the quality of blockbuster movies. The video discusses common pitfalls when using MacGuffins, such as shallow conflicts and lack of audience investment, and offers five tactics for making them more effective. Just Write also analyzes examples of MacGuffins in popular films, including Star Wars and The Lego Movie.

Plot + Structure


  • MacGuffins are a narrative device used in movies to set the plot in motion, in which heroes and villains battle over an object.
  • MacGuffins can be used effectively, but they can also be shallow and uninteresting to the audience.
  • Common pitfalls with MacGuffins include shallow conflicts and lack of audience investment.
  • There are five tactics for making MacGuffins more effective: don't make it a weapon of mass destruction, build mystery around it, use an anti-MacGuffin, make it a character the audience likes, Make it symbolic of the theme.
  • Examples of effective MacGuffins include: the word "Rosebud" in Citizen Kane, the Maltese Falcon in The Maltese Falcon, the plan for the Death Star in Star Wars, the Kragle in The Lego Movie.
  • MacGuffins should ideally connect to the theme of the story and not drag it down.