Movie Review - The Wizard of Oz

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Victor Fleming
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Stop reading.

Oh, good! You didn’t do it. That must mean you have an inquiring mind, right?—Want to find out what’s really going on.—Not going to be deterred from investigation.—Aren’t so concerned about what other people say, that you’re not willing to do just the opposite.
So… analyzing The Wizard of Oz, and maybe even looking at the possibility of coming to a negative conclusion—that shouldn’t bother you. You’ve got an investigative interest in these things (I know, because you’re still reading), so a scarecrow, a yellow brick road, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and a few Munchkins—those aren’t going to interfere with your objectivity, are they? Not going to let your analysis get bogged down by nostalgia or public opinion, are you? Good. I didn’t think so.

Well, as you might have guessed, most of the questionable issues in The Wizard of Oz have more to do with worldview than, say, language or sexual content. Oh, the violence is an issue when it comes to young children—the flying monkeys, the Wicked Witch of the West, the hourglass counting down the moments until Dorothy’s death, are nightmare material for little ones. But I think, at your age, you could probably handle the intensity without too much emotional scarring. In language, there’s a bit of oath-mincing, but that’s still not really the issue.

Do you know what the issue really is? Well… now that I think of it, we’d probably better back up and give a basic idea of what the story’s about, for everyone who hasn’t already seen the movie. After all, it’s a cultural icon, and it seems like we all ought to at least know what it’s about. If you’re already familiar with the story, keep reading anyway, and stop me if I leave out something important to the plot.

The Wizard of Oz, in brief: Young Dorothy runs away from home when a neighbor threatens to have her dog Toto impounded for biting. Then she… Actually, pause for a worldview element. Dorothy’s response to the neighbor was to throw a fit, call the neighbor a wicked old witch, and threaten to bite her herself—and this is supposed to be acceptable because the neighbor is a wealthy, not-nice person. Okay, back to the story now.

Returning home suddenly, worried that her beloved Auntie Em might be sick, Dorothy is caught in a cyclone and knocked unconscious. When she comes to, she finds that the little house in Kansas has been transported to a magical land—where (it turns out) it landed on and killed the Wicked Witch of the East, making Dorothy the beneficiary of a pair of magic ruby slippers. This whole situation makes Dorothy very popular with the Munchkins (the musical dwarf people of the land), but very unpopular with the Wicked Witch of the West, who vows to kill her.

Eh, better stop again at this point, because here Dorothy also meets Glinda “the Good Witch”—who has a magic wand, power over the weather, and travels around in a pink bubble. This (Glinda, not the pink bubble) should definitely be raising red flags for Christians who are opposed to Harry Potter because of the “good witch” theme. Objectivity, remember? Munchkins and ruby slippers don’t fix the oxymoron of virtuous witchcraft, here, do they?

Back in the Munchkin City, Dorothy is told to follow the yellow brick road to the Wizard of Oz (at whose name everyone kneels solemnly), who can help her get back home. On the way, she meets a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Lion, who join her in hopes of getting a brain, a heart and courage, respectively. Upon reaching the Emerald City—the Wizard’s home—the foursome are told by the Wizard (an enormous floating head accented by fireballs and green smokes) that they must first bring him the broomstick of the Wicked Witch. Dorothy agrees to try… and is captured by the Witch. Her new friends, however, make a grand rescue attempt… and are also captured by the Witch. The Witch sets the Scarecrow on fire, and Dorothy, attempting to save him, inadvertently throws a bucket of water on the Witch, who dies on the spot (sinking into the floor, crying, “I’m melting! I’m melting!”). The friends joyfully return to the Wizard with the broomstick, only to discover that the Wizard… Well, stop here again.

During her captivity in the Witch’s castle, Dorothy is scared to death (figuratively speaking, of course), so she cries out for comfort—to an absent Auntie Em. When her friends are assaulted by the Wicked Witch they cry out for help—to another Witch. They’ve all been seeking help (on a divine scale) from the Wizard of Oz, who turns out to be just a man behind a curtain… with fireballs and green smokes. So, where is God in the land of Oz? Keep reading.

Notwithstanding his lack of magical powers, the Wizard teaches the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion that they needed to look within themselves for true happiness—that they just needed a little nudge to let their innate knowledge, love and courage show through. Then Glinda the righteous Witch comes back in and teaches Dorothy that she (Dorothy) had had the power—within herself—to return to Kansas all along, but that she (Glinda) couldn’t have shown her that before, because she (Dorothy) is her own best spiritual guide. After clicking her heels together and chanting her new insight, “There’s no place like home,” Dorothy wakes up back in Kansas, with Auntie Em sitting by her bed.

The end.

So, here’s the real issue with The Wizard of Oz: Trying to fit this movie into a Christian worldview is like hammering square pegs into round holes—you can do it if you hammer hard enough, but your peg isn’t going to be quite square when you’re done (or much like the original Wizard of Oz), and your round hole is going to have corners smashed into it… making it not quite biblical Christianity any more.
Now, if you want to try to fit The Wizard of Oz into a Gnostic worldview, I think you’ll have an easier time of it. Gnosticism is a centuries-old false religion that has a lot to do with gaining insights into qualities you had all the time, and turning them into spiritual maturity—kind of like what Dorothy and her three friends did at the end. Kind of like the moral of the story, actually.
Stop me if I’m getting too speculative, but maybe—just maybe—the reason why The Wizard of Oz fits Gnosticism better than Christianity, is because its creator (L. Frank Baum) rejected Christianity and converted to Gnosticism (known in the nineteenth century as Theosophy) before he wrote it.

Considering that, on the bad side, The Wizard of Oz has noble witchcraft, a conspicuously absent Christian worldview, and a less-than-subtly Gnostic moral of the story; and on the good side it pretty much has “There’s no place like home!” and “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead!”, I (an investigative, against-the-grain type, like you) draw this conclusion: The Wizard of Oz is overrated. It’s cute, but not good. It may be classic, but it’s Not Worth Watching.

P.S. - About Theosophy: It’s an occult society (their word, not mine) about whose beliefs it’s important that we know… eh, five or six things. 1) It is Pantheistic (everything is god). 2) Everything—physical and spiritual—is evolving. 3) Everybody undergoes multiple reincarnations, as part of evolution. 4) The Universe is eternal and self-existent. 5) God has nothing to do with Christianity. 6) Christ never came in the flesh [See 2 John 1:7]. This is the religion for which L. Frank Baum abandoned Christianity, two years before he wrote The Wizard of Oz. (Information taken from various sources available at, a modern Theosophic site).
Baum also took the position that children are their own best spiritual guides, and that they should be taught morality apart from religion until they come up with their own religious insights—apart from biblical teaching, of course.

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