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‘Pulp Fiction’: This Fan Theory Explains the Briefcase as a Particularly Evil Plot Device

Although the movie's plot is somewhat direct, one aspect of Pulp Fiction has left fans scratching their heads as they try to unravel the mystery it contains. With Pulp Fiction's 27th anniversary coming up, it's only right we look at the fan theory that explains the briefcase mystery contents.

Pulp Fiction was the movie that introduced Samuel L. Jackson‘s iconic profane catchphrase to the world. The film was a success, especially since it had an ensemble cast of bankable actors who brought their various characters to life most uniquely and funnily.

Although the movie’s plot is somewhat direct, one aspect of Pulp Fiction has left fans scratching their heads as they try to unravel the mystery it contains. With the 27th anniversary of Pulp Fiction coming up, it’s only right we look at the fan theory that explains the briefcase mystery contents.

‘Pulp Fiction’ followed three interrelated stories

Part of the cast and crew of 'Pulp Fiction' sits on a couch in a colorful room.
Part of the cast and crew from ‘Pulp Fiction’ | Getty Images

Without a doubt, Pulp Fiction takes the viewers on a wild roller coaster ride that is almost difficult to keep track of. Regardless it manages to join three stories into one and still relay its story. The story begins with two hitmen Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, storming into their boss’s partners’ apartment to recover a briefcase containing mysterious content.

Vincent checks the contents of the briefcase while Jules does away with one of Brett’s associates. He quotes a passage from the Bible, and the pair kill Brett for double-crossing their boss. They bring the briefcase to Marcellus, who bribes a boxer called Butch Coolidge to lose a match.

The following day, Vincent buys heroin which Marcellus’ wife Mia snorts, mistaking it for cocaine and nearly killing her. He manages to save her from an overdose, and they agree to keep it a secret. Elsewhere, Butch goes against his agreement with Marcellus and bets on himself. He wins the match but accidentally kills his opponent.

Marcellus gets furious and tries to kill him, but they end up hurting each other. They get kidnapped by a pawnshop owner who kidnaps them, but Butch rescues himself and Marcellus, and they escape. Earlier, Vincent and Jules prepare to leave the apartment after completing their job but are ambushed by Brett’s associate spraying them with bullets.

Fortunately for the pair, none hit them, and as they drive away, Jules tells Vincent that their survival must have been a sign. They head to a diner, and as Vincent is in the bathroom, a couple holds up the restaurant trying to take the briefcase. Jules allows them to take the money and leave after once again quoting a Bible passage.

This fan theory explains the mysterious briefcase contents

The briefcase is a significant aspect of the movie as it shows how far some of the characters are willing to go for it. However, we never really see what is in it, leaving viewers to wonder what was in the briefcase that was worth killing for.

If you’ve been wondering, then there might be a few answers to this. Director Quentin Tarantino said in an interview in 2004 that the briefcase was a McGuffin plot device, an object that is necessary to the plot and serves as a motivation to the characters. MasterClass also lists it as a McGuffin within the plot.

Tarantino also noted that the briefcase’s contents were open to interpretation. However, this statement does not sit well with fans who prefer to take a different approach. Of all the fan theories regarding the briefcase, the most significant one states that the glowy contents of the briefcase are actually Marcellus’ soul.

In the movie, we see a band-aid behind Marcellus’ head. The theory suggests that in tradition, the devil takes a person’s soul through their head, meaning Marcellus sold his soul to the devil, which is what we see in the briefcase.

This is perhaps why Marcellus is eager to get the briefcase back and is willing to kill for it. The theory might also hold some weight considering the combination to the briefcase is 666. Tarantino, however, debunked this theory noting that the band-aid on Marcellus’ head had nothing to do with the briefcase and its contents but a mere coincidence of the actor Ving Rhames cutting himself while shaving.

The movie’s appeal was that it didn’t have a linear story arc


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Audiences fell in love with Pulp Fiction for its storytelling and its prioritization of characters over plot. The storyline emerges as the characters’ adventures intertwine, but each character’s quirks drive the movie.

The film starred Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and Bruce Willis. Its lack of a linear story arc might have repelled some viewers away, but its ability to keep the viewers on their toes helped it succeed. The mystery of the briefcase also didn’t hurt.