West Side Story has long been a favorite classic among movie-watchers. Drawing parallels from its predecessor, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the movie focuses on the feud between two gangs- the Sharks and the Jets as opposed to the Capulets and Montagues respectively, and the gradual yet deep relationship that grows between two individuals connected to them. The story is set against the backdrop of the Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City during the 1950s. The Jets are a gang composed of working class-Polish residents and the Sharks are Puerto-Rican gang who fights with them over their turf. The fact that these are two ethnically different groups set during this time period adds a racial charge to the conflict.
The protagonist, Tony (former co-leader of the Jets with Riff, the current one) manages to fall in love with Maria, the sister of the Sharks’ leader Bernardo, played by Natalie Wood. While he tries to navigate a forbidden relationship with her, he must also survive the growing tensions between the two gangs as they move closer to an inevitable but still shocking end.
Whether it is listening to Tony’s most beloved song “Maria” or watching the mambo and swing dancing typical to this time to rooting for one gang against the other during a showdown, West Side Story will show you exactly why it deserves to be called a classic in American cinema and lives up to the title of a worthy adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.