West Side Story is a 1961 American romantic musical tragedy film directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins. The film is an adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris, and was photographed by Daniel L. Fapp, A.S.C., in Super Panavision 70. Released on October 18, 1961, through United Artists, the film received high praise from critics and viewers, and became the second highest grossing film of the year in the United States. The film was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10, including Best Picture (as well as a special award for Robbins), becoming the record holder for the most wins for a movie musical.
The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for the National Film Registry in 1997.
In the late summer of 1957, in the West Side's Lincoln Square neighborhood in Manhattan, there is tension between a white American gang, the Jets, led by Riff Lorton, and a Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, led by Bernardo Nunez. After a brawl erupts, Lieutenant Schrank and Officer Krupke arrive and break it up. The Jets decide to challenge the Sharks to a rumble at an upcoming dance for neighborhood control.
Riff decides that his best friend Tony Wyzek, the co-founder of the Jets who left the gang, should join them for the rumble. Riff invites Tony to the dance, and Tony is uninterested, but eventually agrees to come. He tells Riff that he senses something important will happen in his life, which Riff suggests could be related to the dance.
Bernardo's younger sister, Maria, tells her best friend and Bernardo's girlfriend, Anita Palacio, with whom she works at a bridal shop, how excited she is about the dance as they work on altering Maria's dress. She also complains that she has no interest in Chino, the young Puerto Rican man Bernardo brought to the U.S. for her to marry. At the dance, the gangs and girls refuse to intermingle. Tony arrives and he and Maria fall in love at first sight. Bernardo angrily demands Tony stay away from Maria and sends her home. Riff confronts Bernardo about meeting to arrange the fight.
At home, Bernardo admonishes Maria for being naive, and he and Anita argue that he is being overprotective. They and their friends debate the advantages and disadvantages of America.
Tony quietly meets Maria on her fire escape, where they reaffirm their love. At Doc's store, both gangs agree on a one-on-one fist fight rumble the following night under a highway. When Schrank arrives, the gangs feign friendship. Schrank forces the Sharks out and unsuccessfully tries to discover information about the fight.
The next day at the bridal shop Anita accidentally tells Maria about the rumble. Tony arrives to see Maria, revealing their romance to Anita who initially objects and warns them that Bernardo would never approve, but later agrees to keep it secret. Maria has Tony promise to prevent the rumble. Tony and Maria fantasize about their wedding ceremony.
The following night, the Jets and Sharks meet under the highway and the fight begins as planned. Tony arrives to stop it, but Bernardo antagonizes him. Unwilling to watch Tony be humiliated, Riff initiates a knife fight. Tony tries to intervene, which leads to Bernardo killing Riff. Tony kills Bernardo with Riff's knife in retaliation and a melee ensues. Police sirens blare and everyone flees, leaving behind the dead bodies.
Maria waits for Tony on the rooftop of her apartment building when Chino arrives and tells her what happened. Tony arrives and explains what transpired and asks for her forgiveness before he turns himself in to the police. Maria confirms her love for him and asks Tony to stay with her.
The Jets have reassembled outside a garage with their new leader, Ice, having them focus on keeping cool no matter how emotional they feel. The tomboy Anybodys arrives and warns them that Chino is now after Tony with a gun. The Jets split up to find Tony.
Anita arrives home after learning of Bernardo's death. Maria and Tony quickly and quietly agree to meet up at Doc's and run away. Anita catches Tony leaving and tells Maria she should let him go since he is a killer, and Maria changes her mind. Anita tells her of Chino's plans and Maria tells her Tony is headed for Doc's store. Schrank arrives to question Maria about the disagreement at the dance. Maria fakes having a headache and asks Anita go to Doc's store for medicine and to tell Doc she has been detained. Knowing Maria's real meaning, she agrees.
At Doc's, the Jets harass Anita, despite her pleas that she wants to help. After Doc breaks things up, Anita proclaims that Bernardo was right to hate them and says that Chino killed Maria when he found out about her and Tony.
Doc delivers getaway money and Anita's message to Tony who then bursts into street, yelling for Chino to kill him too. Maria arrives and they run to each other in the middle of the playground. Just before they embrace, Chino shoots Tony and he dies in Maria's arms. Maria takes the gun from Chino and blames the deaths of Riff, Bernardo, and Tony on all of them and their hate for each other. Schrank, Krupke, and Doc arrive as the Jets and Sharks, together, carry Tony's body away, forming a funeral procession with Maria following. The police arrest Chino and lead him away.