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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Explores themes of social injustice and judicial corruption in mid-1950s New York and encourages viewers to question the meaning of "liberty." Although America is known as "land of the free," movie portrays how incoming immigrants struggle and are discriminated against. Revolves around love budding between two people who come from groups that hate each other. But violent, climactic ending leaves an open question as to whether love really conquers all, especially racial hatred.
Positive Role Models
Maria is an inspirational role model who doesn't believe in fighting or war. She's able to view people for who they really are, rather than focusing on race or social class. Male role models are lessons to be learned from. Riff and Bernardo are unable to let their hate for one another subside. Determined to hurt each other, they'll fight to the death, even if it's at the expense of someone else's life.
Features two gangs, one White and one Puerto Rican. While many major characters are meant to be Puerto Rican, nearly all actors except Anita (played by Puerto Rican icon Rita Moreno) are non-Hispanic White. Movie relies heavily on inaccurate Spanish accents and stereotypes of Latinos as gang members.
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Violence & Scariness
Big fight scene leads to two characters being stabbed to death. In another scene, a female character is sexually assaulted. Lastly, a character is tragically shot to death, and another character points a gun and threatens to kill others and then themselves.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief reference to sex work and some kissing.
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Words "hell" and "s--t" are used, as are derogatory names: "spic" and "Polack." Someone pokes fun at Anita for being "queer for Uncle Sam."
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Products & Purchases
Coca-Cola bottles and boxes are moved about, and classic Chevrolet cars line the streets. Bromo Seltzer and Tootsie Roll also seen.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A musical number mentions drinking and the use of specific drugs. In dialogue, brief references to alcoholism. Many characters smoke cigarettes (accurate for the era).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that West Side Story is co-directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins' retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1950s New York. It stars Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer and explores race relations and immigration in a musical format that pits a White gang against a Puerto Rican one. Despite touching on race, only one of the main actors, Rita Moreno, is Latina. The movie includes several negative stereotypes about Latinos. Street fighting and knifings are depicted, though the impact of some of the violence is lessened by the choreography. In one disturbing scene, a gang of young men physically abuse a young woman, and sexual assault takes place. A major character is shot and killed. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Co-directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, this beautiful musical is a visual masterpiece packed with talent. The music of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim is unforgettable, as are the Oscar-winning performances of George Chakiris as Bernardo and Rita Moreno as Anita, the spunky girlfriend of Bernardo and confidant of Maria.
The raging emotions of the characters are expressed through song and dance (Jerome Robbins' choreography mixes jazz, ballet, and Latin influences), resulting in a kinetic display of emotion more expressive than words. Stylish streetwise sets and cinematic technique take West Side Story to another level, rich with visual symbolism.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.