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What’s really in the ‘Pulp Fiction’ briefcase?


As one of modern cinema’s most influential auteurs, Quentin Tarantino is known for having total control over each and every minute detail of his films, no matter how trivial the detail. Such has allowed the filmmaker to create such a formidable body of work, including Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill, Django Unchained and his modern masterpiece Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Though Reservoir Dogs helped Tarantino to enter the industry, it was his Palme d’Or winning Pulp Fiction that would truly establish his name in the industry. A blinding odyssey of American violence, crime and style would help to catapult the filmmaker to almost instant cultural prominence, Pulp Fiction starred the likes of Uma Thurman, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, telling the story of several eccentric characters each hunting down a mythical briefcase. 

Glowing gold, the contents of the suitcases has long gone unknown, with the filmmaker refusing to answer the question, explaining, “It’s whatever the viewer wants it to be”. This has led to several fan theories behind the classic movie, ranging from the bizarre to the highly plausible, as film enthusiasts from around the world attempt to work out what’s really in the Pulp Fiction briefcase?

What’s really in the Pulp Fiction briefcase?

Marseullus Wallace’s soul

This is certainly the most plausible of the briefcase fan theories, with the basis for the argument relating to the prediction that the mysterious suitcase contains the soul of Marseullus Wallace, played in the film by Ving Rhames. Intricate in its explanation, the fan theory points to the plaster on the back of the character’s head along with the combination code to unlock the case being ‘666’, as major pieces of evidence. 

Of course, in biblical references the devil takes one’s soul through the back of their head, so this certainly stacks up with the theory that goes on to suggest that Wallace was trying to buy the soul back. 


Eager to create his own cinematic universe, Tarantino initially wanted the diamonds from the Reservoir Dogs heist to be in the suitcase, with the extended fan theory suggesting that Marcellus Wallace orchestrated the heist and led the ‘Dogs’ to retrieve the case. Regardless, this theory still holds up, with diamonds being a worthy item of desire for many of the characters in Pulp Fiction.

It is thought that this idea of diamonds or gold bars being in the case was floated around when the script for the Palme d’Or winner was written by Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery.

A homage

Bypassing film school to immerse himself within the world of filmmaking, Tarantino educated himself on the world of cinema and is proud of his encyclopaedic knowledge for the silver screen. As a result, the glowing gold case of Pulp Fiction could be a homage to the 1955 film Kiss Me Deadly by Robert Aldrich, a film that also contains the search for a glowing case of radioactive material. 

This wouldn’t exactly be surprising, particularly since Tarantino has become known for borrowing multiple ideas from the history of cinema, inspired by such filmmakers as Akira Kurosawa, Sergio Leone and John Carpenter. 

Elvis’s gold suit

Loving to contextualise his films within the history of cinema as well as popular culture, one fan theory points to the possibility that Elvis Presley’s iconic gold suit could be tucked away in the suitcase. What makes this theory all the more possible is that just one year before the release of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino collaborated with Tony Scott for True Romance, a film that featured a prominent gold suit. 

Still, the theory doesn’t go far enough to explain why so many people are after the suitcase, apart from its monetary value, as well as Wallace wishing to give the suit to his wife, a regular at the 1950s-themed diner Jack Rabbit Slim’s.

An Oscar

So, this may be the most outlandish of the theories, though it is also the most playful, suggesting that the mysterious item within the glowing case is an Oscar statuette. Having not yet won an Academy Award by the time Pulp Fiction was released, this may have been Tarantino’s way of hinting that he thought he deserved an Oscar for his efforts on the film. In addition, the theory also works its way into the story, with Wallace eager for the statuette to give to his showbiz-obsessed wife. 

No matter his intention, Tarantino would scoop himself an Academy Award for the film after all, sharing an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with his writing partner, Roger Avary.