Is explicitly closing files important?

In your example the file isn’t guaranteed to be closed before the interpreter exits. In current versions of CPython the file will be closed at the end of the for loop because CPython uses reference counting as its primary garbage collection mechanism but that’s an implementation detail, not a feature of the language. Other implementations of Python aren’t guaranteed to work this way. For example IronPython, PyPy, and Jython don’t use reference counting and therefore won’t close the file at the end of the loop.

It’s bad practice to rely on CPython’s garbage collection implementation because it makes your code less portable. You might not have resource leaks if you use CPython, but if you ever switch to a Python implementation which doesn’t use reference counting you’ll need to go through all your code and make sure all your files are closed properly.

For your example use:

with open("filename") as f:
     for line in f:
        # ... do stuff ...

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