Top image: The Everett Collection
To "MacGyver." It's a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary. Meaning: Make or repair (an object) in an improvised or inventive way, making use of whatever items are at hand.
Few television characters have become a part of our common vernacular, but Angus MacGyver dazzled us with his on-the-fly contraptions. Portrayed by Richard Dean Anderson for seven seasons, the Phoenix Foundation agent made everything from footwear to means of flight. Oh, and lots of explosives. MacGyver sure knew how to make things go bang.
In every single one of the series' 139 episodes, MacGyver whipped up some sort of gizmo or chemical solution. These are our favorite MacGyverisms — some of which you could conceivably build yourself.
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Jumper cables + generator + 50¢ in quarters = arcwelder
Season one, episode six
Some of Mac's most impressive builds show up on the show's opening credits, like this brilliant tool. Later, in season three's "Widowmaker," he makes another welding tool with a car antenna, jumper cables and a battery.
Used satellite parts + plastic shield = hang glider
"To Be a Man"
Season one, episode 17
Surrounded atop a mountain in Afghanistan, MacGyver must make his escape by quickly fashioning a glider out of a downed satellite. Admittedly, this is one of the harder ones to swallow.
Blood Pressure pump + alarm clock = Lie Detector
Season one, episode 19
Mac is stuck aboard a hijacked train in India. In order to clear up the situation, he must identify the British businessmen who sold a village poison instead of medicine.
Ball + kerosene + newspaper + cotton = hot air balloon
Season one, episode 20
After finishing up soccer practice at a North African Catholic orphanage, Mac must break a framed missionary from prison. Frankly, he would make much larger balloons (as we shall see) but this seemed like a science project any middle schooler could do.
Magnifying Lens + Watch Crystal + Newspaper = Telescope
Season two, episode one
"It took the human race three million years to invent the telescope," Mac dubiously proclaims. "I figured I had about 35 seconds." He specifically uses the Sports section, though we assume any would do.
Muffler + Gear Shift Knob + Seat Cushion Stuffing + Cigarette Lighter = Bazooka
"Three for the Road"
Season two, episode 10
In the midst of a bumpy car chase, Mac fashions a bazooka (er, as he calls it, a "homemade mortar") from car parts. He shoots the vintage gear shifter like a pool ball right into the radiator of the pursuit vehicle. Of course, he would know a way to fix that, too…
Egg Whites = Radiator Sealant
Season two, episode 19
In his memoir Warm up the Snake, executive producer John Rich revealed that the show used fan-submitted ideas. One young viewer wrote in a nifty trick of sealing a leaking radiator with a raw egg. The production tested it, found it worked, and paid the kid for his idea.
Duct tape + plastic mat = boots
Season three, episode six
Sure, it's a simple hack, but we like the way these look. They look a bit like Kanye West's Adidas Yeezy sneakers.
Shed + Bedding + Tent + Parachute + Home Made "Superglue" + Welding Equipment + Gas Tanks = Hot Air Balloon
Season three, episode six
Later that same episode, Mac and two others craft his most outrageous escape — a full-sized hot air balloon with basket for three. They also slap the thing together in about 15 minutes, it seems. The magic of television!
Bicycle = cart
Season four, episode two
When did MacGyver learn his tricks? Quite early, it seems. This episode flashes back to black & white 1963, when a young MacGyver (yes, his teenage friends also just call him "MacGyver") must transform a bike into a hauling cart.
Sunglasses + Nail Polish Remover + Lamp = spectroscope
Season six, episode nine
"That's a microscope?" the girl asks. "Actually, it's a spectroscope," MacGyver explains. "You can't make a microscope." What?! Did he just admit he can't make something? He made a telescope in 35 seconds!
Wet cloth strips + quills + silk + knife + vitriol + zinc = kite
"Good Knight MacGyver" Part 2
Season seven, episode eight
Who says MacGyver needs modern tech to make his gizmos? In one of the quirkier episodes, Mac finds himself in medieval times. (The era, not the themed restaurant.) Trapped in a tower cell, he makes a kite and some gas to propel it out the high window.