Movie terms define an action, a shot type, a character or a piece of gear. Every movie term is meant to help the plot move along, instruct the crew on which device to use next, or assist someone, like a camera operator or on-screen talent, to prepare for the next shot or scene. Many movie terms are obvious to any video producer: crane move, cowboy shot, or back-story disclosure and they help define the character or plot, but terms like red herring and McGuffin might seem obscure, yet they play a major part in many movies.
- The transfer papers in Casablanca: The papers were of little consequence to the story, which was a love story based in a wartime environment, but the papers were the trigger that brought Ilsa and Rick together - and ultimately separated them in the end.
- birds in the aptly name movie, The Birds: Hitchcock never reveals WHY the birds attack the town - they just do, to great detriment and blood-letting, and the movie scared viewers for years. The real town of Bodega Bay on the Central California coast provides tours of key scenes from the movie and holds The Birds themed events.
- The Aztec Medallion in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Will turner had it, Elizabeth stole it, the "bad" pirates needed it to rescue their cursed souls, and Jack Sparrow (CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow) wanted it for his own selfish desire for immortality.
- Tesseract in The Avengers: A "cosmic cube" that holds unmatched power and can also open doors to other worlds - the good guys find it, the bad guys steal it, the good guys need to get it back from the bad guys to prevent world domination by extraterrestrials, and many exciting battles ensue. (Want to make your own "Cosmic Cube"? check out this DIY Tesseract video on YouTube, simple and effective.)
- Pick one in Indiana Jones: All Indiana Jones movies have an obvious McGuffin, from the ark of the covenant in The Raiders of the Lost Ark, to the eerie glowing glass skull in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Every Indy adventure resulted in a quest for the McGuffin. However, the next entry gets a bit more complicated.
- Rosebud from Citizen Kane: This is a slightly different McGuffin because it's not so obvious to the defined term, but Kane's last words uttered from his last dying breath was the trigger that sent a newspaper reporter on a mission to find who or what Rosebud was. Rosebud can be defined as an inactive McGuffin.
What other movies can you recall with McGuffins in them? How subtle or obvious are they? Do they help or hinder the plot point or is their presence merely window dressing or are they a neutral prop?