A McGuffin is a mysterious object or event in a story that serves as the impetus for the story. A McGuffin is a plot device, a catalyst to get the story going, but is an object or event that is actually of little or no importance to the story. Alfred Hitchcock used the term in a college lecture in 1939 and is credited with inventing the term McGuffin. However, the true source of the term is a screenwriter named Angus MacPhail, whom he worked with. Alfred Hitchcock spelled the term as MacGuffin, today the preferred spelling is McGuffin, though both spellings are frequently found. In either case, note that the term is capitalized.
It feels like they tried to work off the structure of their most successful comedy, “The Big Lebowski”: There’s a mysterious narrator, a kidnapping that’s really just an excuse for a bunch of meandering set-pieces, a McGuffin suitcase of money, and a couple of classic Hollywood musical number parodies. (The Japan Times)
In Vulture, David Edelstein noted, “The movie’s actual scenario is a pure fantasia, complete with a McGuffin … Everything that’s great in ‘Miles Ahead’ seems marginal to the main plot — when Cheadle lets himself go with the flow.” (The Los Angeles Times)
Screenwriter Tom Rob Smith set himself an impossible task with this MacGuffin, and perhaps I should have heeded some of you in not worrying too much about the actual contents of Alex’s plot device. (The Guardian)
Written as a “a caper for three women” by the actor-playwright and Shakespearean scholar Victor L. Cahn, and presented in a single act at NJ Rep’s downtown Long Branch playhouse, the chamber-piece crime drama is not so much a classic caper — its three characters are never exactly working together toward the same nefarious goal — but as a showcase for a trio of capable female players, its opportunities outweigh the generally malnourished (and intentionally vague) script whose central criminal enterprise might have been branded a “MacGuffin” by Alfred Hitchcock. (The Asbury Park Press)