161 user 38 critic

The Wiz (1978)

3:31 | Trailer
An adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" that tries to capture the essence of the African-American experience.


Sidney Lumet


L. Frank Baum (novel), William F. Brown (book) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Diana Ross ... Dorothy
Michael Jackson ... Scarecrow
Nipsey Russell ... Tinman
Ted Ross ... Lion / Fleetwood Coupe de Ville
Mabel King ... Evillene
Theresa Merritt ... Aunt Em
Thelma Carpenter Thelma Carpenter ... Miss One
Lena Horne ... Glinda the Good
Richard Pryor ... The Wiz (Herman Smith)
Stanley Greene Stanley Greene ... Uncle Henry
Clyde J. Barrett Clyde J. Barrett ... Subway Peddler
Derrick Bell Derrick Bell ... The Four Crows
Roderick-Spencer Sibert Roderick-Spencer Sibert ... The Four Crows
Kashka Banjoko Kashka Banjoko ... The Four Crows
Ronald 'Smokey' Stevens Ronald 'Smokey' Stevens ... The Four Crows


24-year-old kindergarten teacher Dorothy, born, raised, and still working in Harlem, is celebrating Thanksgiving with her extended family, but she doesn't seem to be thankful for much. She lives a self-imposed sheltered life and is shy and unfulfilled. When she gets caught in a snowstorm while chasing her dog Toto, they're transported to the mysterious Land of Oz, where she's informed that the only way she can find her way home is through the assistance of the powerful wizard in Emerald City. As she searches for him, she befriends some creatures who face problems in their lives. In their quest to find the wizard, they also face Evillene, the equally-evil sister of Evermean, the wicked witch Dorothy inadvertently killed when she arrived in Oz; Evillene might be their biggest obstacle. Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Motown remake of "The Wizard of Oz"! See more »


G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The scene in which the Cowardly Lion emerges from one of the statues in front of the main research branch of the New York Public Library was shot on a set instead of the actual location because it was logistically impossible to film an entire scene devoid of people, save the main actors, without traffic and pedestrians getting in the way of the production. See more »


In the scene just after the Cowardly Lion joins the group, all four of them do a dance that begins with them walking over some taxis, and one of them clearly bounces somewhat, revealing that they're inflatables. See more »


Tinman: There is nothing amusing about the closing down of an amusement park.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Fitzstephens, Jack ... Music Editor & Guru See more »

Alternate Versions

When this movie debuted on CBS, the network trimmed several scenes to fit in a 3 hour block with commercials. Several scenes cut included: The arrival of the baby and its family at Aunt Emme's party. Some of the dancing and the Poms sequence with the Munchkins (it cut from them going down the stairs to some of them doing acrobatics). Portions of Mean Ole Lion were cut out. The chase sequence in the subway platform omitted how the Scarecrow and the Tin Man are rescued by the Lion. The Poppy Girls close-up shot was cut. Dance portions in the Emerald city during the Green and Red clothing were cut. The entire Emerald City Motel sequence was omitted plus Dorothy asking the guards of the gate how to get to Evilynn's. (It cut from RIchard Pryor peeking out to the time clock at the sweat shop). See more »


Version of Dorothy Meets Ozma of Oz (1987) See more »


What Would I Do If I Could Feel?
Written by Charlie Smalls
Performed by Nipsey Russell
See more »

User Reviews

"Wiz" Fizzles
8 October 2004 | by divaclvSee all my reviews

I'm sure the idea for "The Wiz" looked good on paper: a modern, all-black musical retelling of "The Wizard of Oz," with the boroughs of New York subbing in for the Emerald City and environs. Indeed, nothing is wrong with the concept--revisions and re-imaginings can work, and have been part of music theater for almost as long as the genre has existed. But for every "West Side Story," we get something like...well, like this.

Dorothy (Diana Ross) here is a 24-year-old Harlem schoolteacher, and as the story opens we are treated to scenes of her Aunt Em telling her to switch her kindergarten students for high schoolers, move out of the house, and basically get on with her life. But Dorothy doesn't want to, because--well, she's scared, I guess. Certainly not because she finds her current job enjoyable or fulfilling, or is better working with younger kids than with teenagers, or doesn't make enough money to afford the rents in New York City. So it's off to Oz, where she metaphorically sorts out her problems by killing witches and associating with strange men. (One of those strange men, the Scarecrow, is played by Michael Jackson--and you can write your own joke from here.)

It's always irritating when the directors of movie musicals hire actors who can't sing (as in "Paint Your Wagon"), but "The Wiz" proves that hiring singers who can't act is just as bad. Ross makes Dorothy so whiny, ineffective, and unappealing that you simply want to slap her. Jackson's not much better, delivering all his lines in the same breathy monotone--although it is nice to watch him back when he was at the threshold of a productive and memorable music career, instead of the disturbing self-caricature he has become. Everyone else hams it up accordingly, especially Richard Pryor as the title character.

Of course, neither director Sidney Lumet nor writers William F. Brown and Joel Schumacher made things any easier for the cast to begin with. Between the three of them, they leave no point unhit with a sledgehammer, and no stereotype unexploited (the worst: the crows who harass the Scarecrow, who bear a resemblance to the ones in "Dumbo" and who, I'm guessing, are all named Jim). With the exception of a celebratory dance after the Wicked Witch's demise, the choreography is rather bland and photographed in an uninvolving manner. The action frequently drags too long, leaving us looking at the time clock on the DVD player when we should be watching the characters.

There is a great book out there by Gregory Maguire called "Wicked" (which itself is now a Broadway musical). It reimagines Oz in a thoughtful and interesting manner. Read it instead.

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Release Date:

24 October 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Wiz See more »


Box Office


$24,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (uncut) | (cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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