West Side Story

1961

West Side Story (1961)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: 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.

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This romantic musical update of 'Romeo and Juliet' won ten Oscars. The tale of a turf war between rival teenage gangs in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen and the two lovers who cross battle lines has captivated audiences for four decades. The Stephen Sondheim/Leonard Bernstein score is just one of the reasons.

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Critic Reviews for West Side Story

All Critics (65) | Top Critics (11)

Both Miss Wood and Miss Moreno are permitted to work up fine fervors in their acting, and they come through.

Jan 23, 2018 | Full Review…

Natalie Wood, who was made a hit in the Kazan-Inge production of Splendor In the Grass and is the most promising young star of today, gives a fine dramatic performance.

Mar 2, 2015 | Full Review…

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.

Feb 20, 2013 | Full Review…

Special mention, though, should go to Boris Leven's neo-expressionist production design and Daniel L Fapp's forceful cinematography: the crooked angles, pointed shadows and great swashes of red all heighten the mood of rabid fury.

Nov 16, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top 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.

Feb 18, 2009 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

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

Feb 9, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for West Side Story

Probably the best musical film I have seen!

Dean King
Dean King

Super Reviewer

A colorful musical version of Romeo and Juliet in the 1960s New York that should always be remembered for Bernstein's great score and its wonderful musical numbers and editing, yet it is hard to overlook the pedestrian dialogue, the corny romance and Beymer miscast as a street gang kid.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

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.

Jim Hunter
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.

Alice Shen
Alice Shen

Super Reviewer

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