Based on the Tony-winning musical, The Wiz places a urban twist on The Wizard of Oz. Diana Ross plays Dorothy, a shy kindergarten teacher who's "never been below 125th Street". During a large family dinner, her dog, Toto, escapes into a blizzard. She chases him, and is swept up by a whirlwind of snow to the Land of Oz--which looks a lot like many parts of 1970's New York City.

After accidentally killing Evermean, the Wicked Witch of the East, Dorothy is greeted by the Munchkins (who were victims to her latest curse) and the Good Witch Miss One. They tell her the only way she can get home is to see the powerful Wiz (Richard Pryor). They also give her Evermean's magical silver shoes. She eases on down the road with a Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) who sometimes quotes from the magazine pages he's stuffed with; a Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) who was once a carnie in an old amusement park; and a Lion (Ted Ross) who poses as a statue outside a library.

The group has a lot to contend with before finally meeting the Wiz, including running into a poppy parking lot, a subway station that comes to life, and wrath of Evilene, the Wicked Witch of the West.