Top 10 Key Movie Plot Motivators

Something needs to kick the action into gear. In countless films, the entire plot revolves around an object that everyone wants to claim or destroy. From the Death Star Plans to the One Ring, these movie MacGuffins have given movies the excuse needed to kickstart memorable adventures. Just to be clear, we're counting down the greatest solitary items to fuel an entire story lines. Join and today we will be counting down the Top Ten Key Movie Plot Motivators, AKA MacGuffins.

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Top 10 Key Movie Plot Motivators

These drive the story forward. Welcome to and today we will be counting down the Top Ten Key Movie Plot Motivators, AKA MacGuffins.

Just to be clear, we're counting down the greatest solitary things that fuelled entire story lines.

#10: Private Ryan "Saving Private Ryan" (1998)

The driving point of this story is exactly what it sounds like. After all three of his brothers are killed in action, paratrooper Private Ryan is chosen by the American government to be sought out and brought home by a team of soldiers as a gesture towards his grieving family. Interestingly, Matt Damon's Ryan refuses to leave the battlefield, but to continue fighting alongside them.

#9: Rabbit's Foot "Mission Impossible III" (2006)

Sometimes, there is nothing worse than being teased with something that is ambiguous and potentially dangerous. That is exactly what the Rabbits foot is all about. Like Keizer Soze in The Usual Suspects - everyone is terrified of its capabilities, but no one actually has proof that it exists. A series of nebulous conversations regarding its power have us almost screaming at the screen. The good guys want it because the bad guys want it.

#8: Maltese Falcon “The Maltese Falcon” (1941)

The ultimate smash and grab movie, this film presents the most iconic classic example of a movie “MacGuffin”, as it was an statue that can be seen, held and possessed, making, while serving as the perfect temptation for any criminal. Here, Humphrey Bogart plays a detective who must outwit three thieves and prevent them from stealing the sacred Maltese Falcon statue, which kept the entire plot moving forward.

#7: The Ransom “The Big Lebowski” (1998)

When a wealthy man’s wife is abducted, and her body parts start showing up, a hippy called the “dude” is tasked with delivering a million dollar ransom. When he enlists his trigger happy friend Walter’s help, only to have him pass off a case of dirty underwear instead, both the abductors and the millionaire come after them in a big way. The solution seems simple, however the ransom is stolen along with the Dude’s car, before the revelation that the million was “borrowed” from a charity!

#6: The Case “Pulp Fiction” (1994)

An ominous glowing case that seems to spark trouble is the perfect driving force behind Tarantino’s 90's classic. Making an appearance in multiple story lines weaved throughout, the contents of the case are never actually disclosed. All we know is that its glow renders you speechless. If it wasn't for this movie gem thrusting our characters into unpredictable and dangerous scenarios, we may not have gone on to think that bible readings where badass.

#5: Death Star Plans “Star Wars” (1977)

From the very moment that first Star Destroyer whirred over the screen in pursuit of a blockade runner, we knew something major was being sought out. As it turned out, Princess Leia had come across the key to the Rebellion’s salvation, and entrusts R2-D2 with the information capable of destroying the empire’s new shiny toy. This allowed all to meet a simple farm boy who will undertake a journey to become a Jedi knight, saving the entire galaxy in the process!

#4: Ark Of The Covenant “Indian Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark”


We could have picked any of the Indie treasures, but we thought this one really stood out. With both Indie and a horde of Nazis hell-bent on finding to the powerful Ark of the Covenant relic, it seems the first one to the finish gets the prize, or so you would think. Why is this one different? Good luck naming another plot device that can both lure you in and then gruesomely, well, melt your face.

#3: The Micro Film “North By Northwest” (1959)

This Alfred Hitchcock plot runner takes its inspiration from the Maltese Falcon, only this time, it’s all about a mysterious piece of microfilm that fell into the possession of Carry Grant’s Roger Thornhill. This allows for elements of espionage, mistaken identity, mysterious antagonists, and a plethora of elaborate chase scenes. That’s right, this MacGuffin led to danger around every corner and a world in which no one could be trusted.

#2: The One Ring “The Lord Of The Rings” Franchise (2001)

The One Ring was forged by the malevolent Lord Sauron, and was created to rule all the other rings of power. With an engrossing aura that possesses those within its vicinity, and the ability to return its master to full power, the MacGuffin is tasked to the Hobbit Frodo who must cast it into the volcano, from which it was made. Of course, this leads to a plot where no one can be trusted, and in which the hero is pursued across Middle-Earth.

Before we reveal what has nabbed the number one spot, let’s give a nod to some of our honourable mentions:

Project Genesis "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" (1982)
The 2 Million "No Country For Old Men" (2007)
The Glowing Case "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955)
The Necronomicon “Army Of Darkness” (1992)

#1: Rosebud “Citizen Kane” (1941)

This film is centred the last word ever spoken by wealthy newspaper publisher Charles Foster Kane. As a result, we follow reporter Jerry Thompson in his journey to decipher the mogul’s dying word. Through a series of interviews and flashbacks, we get to find out who the real Charles Foster Kane was. But what does the mysterious word ‘Rosebud’ mean? Is it someone’s name? An idea? A place? Its clouded meaning is what makes it one of cinema’s greats.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favourite plot motivating MacGuffin? For more tantalizing Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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