West Side Story

1961

West Side Story

Critics 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.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 67

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 168,838
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Movie Info

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 (67) | Top Critics (15)

  • For the superlative-minded, West Side Story is the most expensive musical film ever made. It's also one of the best.

    Feb 15, 2019 | Full Review…
  • 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…

    David Jenkins

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

    Sep 16, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for West Side Story

  • Oct 19, 2013
    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 H Super Reviewer
  • Aug 21, 2013
    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 S Super Reviewer
  • May 10, 2013
    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.
    Devon B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 02, 2013
    The singing and dancing make this story far from believable. It also probably is more suitable for stage than film. And yet it works. The audience gets sucked in to believe the unbelievable mainly due to Wood and Beymer.
    John B Super Reviewer

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