West Side Story (1961)



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.
Drama , Musical & Performing Arts , Romance
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Rita Moreno
as Anita
George Chakiris
as Bernardo
Simon Oakland
as Lt. Schrank
William Bramley
as Officer Krupke
Bill Bramley
as Off. Krupke
John Astin
as Glad Hand
Penny Santon
as Mme. Lucia
Tony Mordente
as Action
Eliot Feld
as Baby John
Burt Michaels
as Snowboy
Robert Banas
as Joyboy
Scooter Teague
as Big Deal
Tommy Abbott
as Gee-Tar
Harvey Hohnecker
as Mouthpiece
David Bean
as Tiger
Sue Oakes
as Anybodys
Gina Trikonis
as Graziella
Jay Norman
as Pepe
Bert Michaels
as Snowboy
Anthony Teague
as Big Deal
Thomas Abbott
as Gee-Tar
Eddie Verso
as Juano
Andre Tayir
as Chile
Rudy Del Campo
as Del Campo
Suzie Kaye
as Rosalia
Yvonne Othon
as Consuelo
Joanna Miya
as Francisca
Jo Anne Miya
as Francisca
Jimmy Bryant
as Tony [singing]
Harvey Hobnecker
as Mouthpiece
Marni Nixon
as Maria [singing]
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Critic Reviews for West Side Story

All Critics (64) | Top Critics (10)

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.

Full Review… | March 2, 2015
New York Daily News
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | February 20, 2013
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | November 15, 2011
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.

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

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

Full Review… | February 9, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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

January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for West Side Story

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


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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