The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical fantasy film directed primarily by Victor Fleming from a script mostly by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, with uncredited contributions by others. It was based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, who died twenty years before the film was released. It features Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan, with Billie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Charles Grapewin, Clara Blandick and the Singer Midgets as the Munchkins. Notable in its use of special effects, use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling and unusual characters, The Wizard of Oz has become, over the years, one of the best known of all films. However, although it received largely positive reviews and won three Academy Awards, it was not an all-out smash hit at the time of its original release.
In the story, Dorothy Gale, a 12-year-old Kansas farmgirl, is knocked unconscious during a tornado. She, her dog Toto, and the farmhouse are apparently transported to the magical Land of Oz, where she sets out on the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz to return her to Kansas. During her journey, she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man and a Cowardly Lion, who join her, hoping to receive what they lack themselves (a brain, a heart, and courage, respectively). They are pursued by the Wicked Witch of the West, who wants her dead sister’s magic ruby slippers, now worn by Dorothy. At the end of the film, Dorothy finds herself back in her own bed at the farmhouse, but in Kansas, where her aunt tries to convince her that she dreamt her adventures in Oz.
Initially, The Wizard of Oz made only a small profit due to its enormous budget, despite largely favorable critical reviews. “Over the Rainbow” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the film itself received several Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Telecasts of the film began in 1956, and because of them the film has found a larger audience—its television screenings were once an annual tradition and have re-introduced the film to the public, making The Wizard of Oz one of the most famous films ever made. The Library of Congress named The Wizard of Oz as the most-watched film in history. It is often ranked among the top ten best movies of all-time in various critics’ and popular polls, and it has provided many memorable quotes.