West Side Story film poster


Romeo and Juliet is the most filmed Shakespeare play and has often been relocated to different settings around the world. One of the most famous film adaptations is West Side Story. The musical about rival New York gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, added an injection of teenage cool to the tragedy, dispensing with Shakespeare’s words while emphasising the story’s emotion. The film won ten Oscars including Best Picture at the 1962 Academy Awards, though it was criticised for perpetuating racial stereotypes and for casting mostly white actors in the Puerto Rican roles.

West Side Story was originally a 1957 stage musical by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim. On its Broadway opening, critic Walter Kerr declared that it had ‘the most savage, restless, electrifying dance patterns we've been exposed to in a dozen seasons’. Originally conceived as the story of rival Jews and Catholics on the Upper East Side, the musical was so long in development that the gangs were changed to Puerto Rican and European immigrants to better reflect the demographics of late 1950s Manhattan.

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Film poster for West Side Story directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise
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