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We apply the phenomenological wetting theory of Cahn to fluids with van der Waals forces, and in particular to the wetting of pentane on water. Taking into account explicitly the long-range substrate–adsorbate interaction allows us to reproduce the experimentally observed critical wetting transition, which arises from the vanishing of the Hamaker constant at T ≈ 53°C. This transition is preceded by a first-order transition between a thin and a thick film at a (much) lower temperature. If long-range forces are neglected, this thin–thick transition is the only wetting transition and critical wetting is missed. Our study focuses on the development of useful theoretical tools, such as phase portraits and interface potentials adapted to systems with van der Waals forces.