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Oscars Challenge #74: West Side Story (1961) Movie Review

Here we go again with another musical winner in the 1960s. But among other winners, West Side Story is deemed by critics as one of the best musicals of all time. Maybe just a tad below Singing in the Rain, but it indeed stamped itself in film history.

But that was more than 60 years ago. Movie enthusiasts have a different taste back then than now, especially since musical films are hard to criticize because you must factor in many things.

West Side Story might have been the best music regarding choreography and the usage of vivid colors to represent individuality among its wide cast.

But, in terms of its plot, it's pretty meh.

Plot Summary

Two rival teenage gangs butt heads and compete over who has more authority on the upper west side of Manhattan. The Jets, comprised of whites led by Riff, battle with the Sharks, the Puerto Rican group led by Bernardo. The Jets challenge them to a rumble that would happen after the upcoming dance event.

RIff wants Tony, a former co-captain of the Jets, to join the rumble. He invited him to the dance first, which he accepted. At the event, the two groups collide in a show-off. When Tony arrived, he and Bernardo's sister Maria fell in love instantly. Her brother demands Tony stay away from her. Riff calls upon Bernardo to settle the rules for the rumble.

As tensions arise due to the upcoming fight between the Jets and the Sharks, Tony and his feelings for Maria get entangled in the mess.


West Side Story brings one's experience in theaters in the movie. Elaborate set designs, beautiful costumes, and magnificent choreography make it a perfect play.

West Side Story might be the most colorful of all the Best Picture musical movies. Plus, the dance moves were insane. It's like watching a 1960s version of Step-Up. The musical numbers were also out of this world.

But that's about it for this film.

Even though it's a monumental classic like Singing in the Rain or The Sound of Music, West Side Story lacks plot substance. I like the premise that two rival groups with different ethnicity collide and decide to settle it in a single skirmish. A predictable plot mixed with terrible characters becomes a recipe for disappointment.

I personally never liked the insertion of the romance between Tony and Maria. After Tony kills her brother, Bernardo, during the skirmish and goes to her place to seek shelter from the police, she immediately forgives her and makes love. It doesn't make sense a bit.

Regardless, I respect its impact on audiences and probably inspired other filmmakers in this colorful genre. It's still one of those that must not be taken away from filmmaking history because of its significance.

A solid 2 out of 5 stars.

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