The Wizard of Oz (1939)

There are few movies that exist beyond criticism, but “The Wizard of Oz” is definitely one of them. From the moment the MGM logo appears on screen, the movie washes over the audience like a warm hug from a loving family member… although, as an adult, it’s hard not to notice the rough edges. Not so much the movie itself, but more the harsh reality of rural life in its time-period: The adults aren’t particularly mindful of Judy Garland’s Dorothy, which is actually a bit heartbreaking to see. This is compounded by the now-infamous on-set poor treatment of Garland by virtually everybody (from studio heads to aher adult co-stars) so it’s hard not to feel a certain harshness there. All of that context, in the end, makes the narrative all the more impactful: The movie’s main theme (which is lifted from L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s book) is self-sufficiency, so watching Garland/Dorothy struggle and learn how to stand up for herself hammer that home for the sake of its young, influenceable intended audience. The rest of the movie itself is, of course, a magical experience: The gorgeous black-and-white cinematography is downright striking in the first quarter, and when Dorothy arrives in the Land of Oz, the movie’s sudden colorization is overwhelmingly beautiful, enforcing the connection between Dorothy and the movie’s audience as they explore this fabulous dream-like world together. Good luck getting through “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” without becoming a blubbering, tear-stricken mess.

Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)

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