Unsurprisingly, the briefcase in Pulp Fiction has inspired plenty of theories. Even when Quentin Tarantino's films aren't as successful commercially, they still inspire countless essays and examinations. His unique storytelling technique and the way he leaves certain mysteries unanswered have also led to all kinds of speculation and fan theories from viewers. And Pulp Fiction, among his most complex and convoluted films, may reign supreme when it comes to '90s movies fan theories.
There are several unexpected developments throughout the film, but the biggest lingering question involves the contents of the film's MacGuffin: the briefcase. It's a mystery that's never explained in the movie, and its cryptic nature has led some fans down a seemingly bottomless rabbit hole to find answers.
Some of the most bizarre (but equally well-thought-out) explanations should provide fans with at least an inkling of what might be glowing in Marsellus Wallace's coveted briefcase.
One prominent theory about the contents of the briefcase proposes that a spiritual item is housed within it. The item in question is Marsellus Wallace's soul. This theory relies on several key pieces of evidence. First, the combination to open the suitcase is “666,” an obvious reference to the devil. When the character is introduced, a shot lingers on the back of his head, where a bandage covers up a wound.
Some speculate that when the devil steals a soul, he does so by taking it directly from the back of the victim’s head (though there's no biblical evidence to back up such a claim).
The theory posits that Marsellus sold his soul to the devil and is actively trying to get it back. As an interesting side note, this supposition could explain why Jules and Vincent are unharmed after being shot at. Since they're attempting to save a man's soul, God intervenes, seeing it as a holy endeavor.
Although this links in with another theory about the suitcase containing diamonds, this one is far more specific. That's because, according to several theorists, the valuables are not just any gems; they're the diamonds from Reservoir Dogs. In that film, several crooks carry out a heist on a jewelry store and one person eventually escapes with the goods.
Combined with the theory that suggests Tarantino’s films take place in the same universe, it could mean the contents have a noteworthy history.
This particular fan theory from a former Redditor argues that the briefcase is actually filled with an illicit substance. Specifically, the case likely contains a large amount of smack. Evidence for this assertion comes from the fact that Jules and Vincent take the case back from a group of young men who were clearly meant to have it. This could mean they were dealers who were unable to sell the product, leading Marsellus to send men to recover it.
If it is filled with powdery substance, it might explain why Vincent and other likely users (namely, Pumpkin) find the briefcase so alluring. They see the personal value of the contents while Jules isn't as interested since he doesn't partake.
Of course, it's possible the briefcase doesn't house anything particularly noteworthy or valuable. In fact, this is more than just a fan theory, as director Quentin Tarantino has added weight to this claim himself. He has previously spoken about the idea that the contents of the case are unremarkable and the case is simply acting as a plot device to drive the story forward and give the characters something on which to concentrate.
This is likely a tribute to the MacGuffins often used by Alfred Hitchcock in his movies.