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West Side Story (1961)

tomatometer

94

Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 62
Fresh: 58 | Rotten: 4

Buoyed by Robert Wise's dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein's score, and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.

88

Average Rating: 8.1/10
Critic Reviews: 8
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 1

Buoyed by Robert Wise's dazzling direction, Leonard Bernstein's score, and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics, West Side Story remains perhaps the most iconic of all the Shakespeare adaptations to visit the big screen.

audience

85

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 167,133

My Rating

Movie Info

Romeo and Juliet is updated to the tenements of New York City in this Oscar-winning musical landmark. Adapted by Ernest Lehman from the Broadway production, the movie opens with an overhead shot of Manhattan, an effect that director Robert Wise would repeat over the Alps in The Sound of Music four years later. We are introduced to two rival street gangs: the Jets, second-generation American teens, and the Sharks, Puerto Rican immigrants. When the war between the Jets and Sharks reaches a fever

Oct 20, 1998

United Artists Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (62) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (58) | Rotten (4) | DVD (32)

West Side Story is a beautifully-mounted, impressive, emotion-ridden and violent musical which, in its stark approach to a raging social problem and realism of unfoldment, may set a pattern for future musical presentations.

February 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Unhappily, the film shares a serious flaw in the essential conception of the show; both are founded on a phony literary analogy and on some potentially vicious pseudo-sociology.

February 18, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comments (10)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Decent 1961 adaptation of the Bernstein-Robbins musical, if you can handle Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in the leads.

February 9, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

How does the film -- which won ten Oscars on its 1961 release -- stand up now? Very well indeed.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is a great movie ... in parts.

April 9, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comments (8)
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The marvel is that the film still works so well.

February 4, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ten well-deserved Oscars -- plus a special award for Jerome Robbins's dynamic choreography -- adorned this electrifying and moving version of the magnificent Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim musical.

January 27, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

for all of its silliness for today, is still an epic film

August 24, 2013 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

[VIDEO ESSAY] Indisputably the greatest musical ever made, "West Side Story" (1961) has sadly proven socially timeless regarding America's eternally troubled immigrant experience.

August 4, 2012 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Even though I had to play it for my high school choir, I was never a fan of the music. Everything else - the cinematography, choreography and story are all pretty stellar.

April 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Eclipse Magazine
Eclipse Magazine

You have to admire the way every aspect of the film works toward the emotional impact.

February 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out Chicago
Time Out Chicago

West Side Story remains one of the best musicals of all-time.

December 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

An extraordinary song and dance experience laced within a quotidian dramatic tale.

December 21, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

A landmark screen musical that left its own indelible stamp on popular culture. [Blu-ray]

December 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

it is the heat of West Side Story's social and cultural conflicts that make it a pop-culture landmark unlike any other

November 19, 2011 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

It's impossible to begrudge the vertiginous energy and feeling that make this one of the great American musicals, and one radically told through dance.

September 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

This adaptation of the Broadway hit has only half the vitality of the stage show. But even that half renders it a classic.

September 16, 2011 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Not seen it? Time you did.

September 9, 2011 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

...the film's minor deficiencies [are] generally canceled out by its pervasive atmosphere of good-natured exuberance.

August 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

stands proudly alongside other musicals that retain their relevance

November 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews

Bernstein's music, Sondheim's lyrics and Robbins's choreography are great, but as a movie it falls short of the truly inspired cinematic musicals.

February 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Observer [UK] | Comments (3)
Observer [UK]

Leonard Bernstein's rich, eloquent and demanding score is still a powerful experience.

February 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

Technically stunning, with dazzling choreography matching an unforgettable score.

February 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4 | Comment (1)
Film4

Audience Reviews for West Side Story

The story is Romeo and Juliet set to music.
The film's highlights are the music and songs that give resonance to Shakespeare's classic tale and the wonderfully arresting performance by Natalie Wood.
What I don't like about the film is the choreography. Set against the rough and tumble backdrop of New York City slums, these dancers are performing balletic and graceful moves the majesty of which belie the film's themes and social and economic realities. In and of themselves, the dances are fun and enticing, but there is a true disconnect between them and the story.
Here is a thought that is as yet only a germ in my brain: I find it odd that the white characters' complaints about their environment are social and economic -- big world issues -- whereas the Latinas embrace the social and economic realities of American life. They feel honored to be here despite the racial realities with which they are faced. It is as though the film, in a strain of racism, won't permit its minority characters any reasonable revolt. As I said, I think I need to develop this thought more, but I'm still convinced there's something fishy about this film vis a vis race relations.
Overall, it's fun and good, but it's certainly not perfect.
October 19, 2013
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

It's a little weird. It's a classic, for sure, but the ballet-dancing, overacting, near-gangbangers are just a bit absurd. Vivid and frenetic choreography and music (with a few oversyncopated atonal hot messes like "Something's Coming" and "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love"), but the Puerto Rican accents sometimes slip, and the "brownface" make-up is disturbingly noticeable, especially in Rita Moreno's case. She, George Chakiris, and even Jose De Vega as Chino are fantastic, but I'm disappointed that the leads, Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood, had to be dubbed by what seemed like professional but deliberately handicapped singers.
August 21, 2013
aliceinpunderland

Super Reviewer

In 1962, the film version of the popular musical "West Side Story" won not one, not two, but ten academy awards. The American Film Institute placed it second on it's list of the greatest film Musicals of all Time, right after "Singin' In the Rain" (and above The Wizard of Oz). Obviously a film of this caliber doesn't need me or my praise, but I will share my opinion regardless. The premise of the film (and I assume of the stage version) is simple: what if Romeo and Juliet took place in modern (1961) New York, and instead of rival families separating the two lovers, it was rival gangs? The Jets vs. the Sharks, Americans vs. Puerto Ricans, white vs. hispanic, the barriers separating the two factions are distinct and seemingly uncrossable. So Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) find themselves falling in love at first sight when they meet at a dance, oblivious to the world around them. I'm sure the film version has technical advantages over the stage version, and the "first meeting" scene is a perfect example of this. It's a great piece of direction and artistry, undeniable artistry. Whatever your feelings about singing, prancing gang members, it would be impossible to ignore the artistry of the film on display. Add to this musical numbers that have entered into the cultural lexicon, and you have a near flawless film.
May 10, 2013
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

If only we could solve all our problems through interpretive dance. In this modern day adaption of Shakespeare's classic tale Romeo & Juliet, which was adapted from Ernest Lehman's broadway production, it's a singing and dancing group of gangs. There are two gangs pitted against each other in this town, first being the Jets, a group of hard-banging American-teens, and the Sharks, a group of Puerto Rican immigrants. For the time it took place/was filmed in, West Side Story looks, and sounds fantastic, and that was before the Blu-ray conversion. And I thought my trashy old DVD copy sounded great... West Side Story is a massive achievement in American cinema, so much so that it won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way!
November 29, 2011
CreedsDelight

Super Reviewer

    1. Maria: I can kill too now because I have hate!
    – Submitted by Joseph L (2 years ago)
    1. Riff: Womb to Tomb.
    2. Tony: Birth to Earth!
    – Submitted by Breanna H (2 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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