The relaxation of a dewetting contact line is investigated theoretically in the so-called ‘Landau–Levich’ geometry in which a vertical solid plate is withdrawn from a bath of partially wetting liquid. The study is performed in the framework of lubrication theory, in which the hydrodynamics is resolved at all length scales (from molecular to macroscopic). We investigate the bifurcation diagram for unperturbed contact lines, which turns out to be more complex than expected from simplified ‘quasi-static’ theories based upon an apparent contact angle. Linear stability analysis reveals that below the critical capillary number of entrainment, Cac, the contact line is linearly stable at all wavenumbers. Away from the critical point, the dispersion relation has an asymptotic behaviour σ∝|q| and compares well to a quasi-static approach. Approaching Cac, however, a different mechanism takes over and the dispersion evolves from ∼|q| to the more common ∼q2. These findings imply that contact lines cannot be described using a universal relation between speed and apparent contact angle, but viscous effects have to be treated explicitly.