Dorothy Gale (played by the young and amazingly talented Judy Garland) is a well-loved Kansas farm girl who lives with her Auntie Em, Uncle Henry and beloved dog, Toto. Early in the film, a day dreaming Dorothy sings the Academy Award winning best song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
A crabby neighbor, Ms. Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) provokes Toto into biting her. Ms. Gulch menacingly returns with the required paper work to take Toto away. She leaves with the little dog in her basket. The intelligent dog leaps from the basket as Ms. Gulch rides and escapes.
Fearing Ms. Gulch’s return, Dorothy runs away with Toto. She meets a questionable fortuneteller, played by Frank Morgan, who correctly assumes that Dorothy has run away from home. He convinces Dorothy to return home by faking a fortune reading that her Aunt is ill on the farm.
Dorothy is almost home as a tornado approaches. Her family has safely sought shelter in the storm cellar. Dorothy only makes it into the house where she is knocked unconscious by storm debris.
Dorothy sees Ms. Gulch, a cow, and other amazing sights as she soars in her house with the tornado. She finally lands in the colorful world of Oz. Her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her instantly.
Dorothy emerges from the house to be greeted by the munchkins of Munchkin land, and eventually Glinda, the Good Witch (Billie Burke). They assume that Dorothy must also be a witch. They are very welcoming to Dorothy.
The evil Wicked Witch of the West appears (Margaret Hamilton) threatening Dorothy. She is angry that her Eastern sister witch is dead, and she wants her ruby slippers. Glinda magically makes the coveted slippers appear on Dorothy’s feet. They will give Dorothy some protection.
Glinda sets Dorothy off on a journey on the Yellow Brick Road to find the wonderful Wizard of Oz. Glinda tells her that he can help her get back home.
Dorothy makes three very special friends on her journey who also seek help from the Wizard. These new friends look a lot like people Dorothy knows in Kansas. First she meets the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who desires a brain. Then they encounter the Tin Man, (Jack Haley) who desperately wishes for a heart. Their final traveling companion is a cowardly lion who desires courage (Bert Lahr).
Throughout their journey to Oz, Dorothy and her friends are constantly watched and impeded by the Wicked Witch. She enchants trees that attack them, sets the scarecrow on fire, and creates a field of poppies that cause Dorothy, Toto, and the Lion to fall asleep. Glinda helps again by making it snow, which wakes up the sleepers.
They finally make it to “the merry old land of Oz”, where they are pampered before an audience with the “great and powerful Oz”. The Wicked Witch flies above Oz on her broomstick and writes, “Surrender Dorothy”.
Things do not go as Dorothy and friends had hoped with the Wizard (played by the familiar Frank Morgan). When they finally get in to see him, he refuses to help them until they give him the Witch’s broomstick.
As the travelers hit the road again, the evil witch sends her flying monkeys after them. They pick up and fly Dorothy and Toto to the Witch’s castle. The witch tries to remove the slippers from Dorothy’s feet and finds that she is unable to as long as the girl is alive. She flips an hourglass and informs Dorothy that when the red sand runs out, she will die.
Toto escapes again and Dorothy’s friends sneak into the castle and attempt to flee with Dorothy. They are discovered and the vengeful witch sets the scarecrow on fire. Dorothy tries to save him by throwing a pail of water on him. Some of the water sprays the witch and she begins to melt.
Dorothy and company return to Oz triumphantly with the broomstick. They are again deeply disappointed by the Wizard. He is unhappy to see them return and is discovered by Toto to be an ordinary man behind a curtain with a bunch of tricks to make him appear to be a powerful wizard.
The Wizard apologizes and presents his audience with gifts. To the Scarecrow, he awards a diploma. He presents the Tin Man with a heart shaped ticking watch. He also grants the Lion a medal of Valor. He saves Dorothy for last. He plans to return her to Oz in his hot air balloon. Just as the balloon is about to leave, Toto runs after something and Dorothy must catch him. They miss their ride home.
Glinda comes to the rescue again, explaining to Dorothy that she always had the power to get home. Dorothy says a fond farewell to her dear friends and clicks her ruby slippers together. She chants, “There is no place like home.”
Dorothy happily awakes in her own bed with Toto and her family and Kansas friends surrounding her. She tells them about Oz, but they attribute it all to her head wound. Dorothy has learned a valuable lesson, whether it was a dream or not.