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Film / West Side Story (2021)

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"Tonight, tonight, it all began tonight..."

"♫ Say it loud and there's music playing,
Say it soft and it's almost like praying
Maria, I'll never stop saying Maria! ♫"
Tony Wyzek, "Maria"

West Side Story is a 2021 film adaptation of the 1957 stage show West Side Story, as well as a remake of the 1961 film adaptation. It was directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Tony Kushner and released on December 10, 2021.

Like the show and film before it, the film focuses on two rival gangs — the white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks — who vie for control of New York City's Upper West Side. Tony (Ansel Elgort), the best friend to Jets leader Riff (Mike Faist), falls in love with María (Rachel Zegler), the sister of Sharks leader Bernardo (David Alvarez), a romance that will not only challenge them, but transform the gangs entirely.

The film also stars Ariana DeBose as Anita, Rita Moreno (who played Anita in the 1961 film) as Valentina, Brian d'Arcy James as Officer Krupke, and Corey Stoll as Lieutenant Schrank.

This remake aims at being more mindful towards ethnic accuracy and representation than the original, with all of the Puerto Rican characters being played by Latine actors. David Newman reworked the Leonard Bernstein score for it. Production wrapped in September 2019, but the COVID-19 Pandemic resulted in the film being delayed to December 10, 2021 - close to 60 years after the original film's release and just two weeks after the passing of Stephen Sondheim, who was the lyricist of the musical and the 1961 film.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer.

West Side Story contains examples of:

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  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Tony and Graziella used to date before he went to prison, though they had broken up before then. In the script, it's mentioned that she still has a thing for Tony when she first sees him at the dance.
  • Adaptational Diversity: Compared to the 1961 film.
    • In contrast to the original's brownface casting of the Puerto Rican characters, they are played Latine actors of various ethnicities this time around. Anita is also explicitly black in addition to Puerto Rican in this version.
    • Anybodys is reimagined as a trans boy instead of a masculine-presenting cis girl.
    • The role of Doc (a kindly older white man) is given to a new character, his Puerto Rican widow Valentina, with Doc himself dying prior to the story.
    • The film includes a few African-American characters, most prominently Rory's associate Abe and one police officer in the neighborhood precinct, to better reflect New York City's demographics in the 1950s.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • In the 1961 film, most of the Jets were blonde, while in this version they have predominantly dark hair.
    • Graziella was a redhead in the 1961 film, and is blonde in this version.
    • Velma was blonde in the 1961 film, and is brunette in this film.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • This version adds the historical context of the slum clearance the New York City government performed on the West Side in the 1950s in order to build the Lincoln Center Performing Arts complex and luxury apartments and its effects on the various immigrant groups.
    • "La Borinqueña," the national anthem of Puerto Rico, is sung by the Sharks when they are told to leave after the opening brawl.
    • As a musical number, "America" is greatly expanded, taking place all over the neighborhood with the entire Puerto Rican community joining in at the end. Anita even performs some of the actions she sings about, like buying on credit and fawning over the high-end apartment complex that will be built.
    • Tony takes María on a date to the Cloisters in Washington Heights, which is where they sing "One Hand, One Heart." He also learns a number of Spanish phrases from Valentina beforehand to better communicate with María. In the original film, he meets her at the bridal shop where she works, and they begin playing with the outfits on display as they plan their wedding.
    • In this version, Riff buys a gun from a black market dealer to ensure the Jets have serious firepower in case the Sharks bring one too. He passes it to Tony at the rumble, and as everyone flees, it ends up in Chino's hands.
    • A new scene is added in which Anita is brought to the morgue to identify Bernardo's body.
    • After the rumble, the senior members of the Sharks hold a prayer vigil for Bernardo in the gym where he trained. Chino arrives and reveals that he has Riff's gun. Quique tries to convince Chino that it's not worth throwing away his entire life to kill Tony, but he doesn't listen, telling them not to follow him. Anybodys also sneaks in and watches this exchange from the shadows.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul:
    • Whereas Doc was considered a neutral party in the gang conflict, in this version, Riff is rude to Valentina and casually shoplifts from her store.
    • The relationship between Tony and María is given a major overhaul, with them going on a date before deciding they want to get married in "One Hand, One Heart."
    • In the same vein, there's no mention that Bernardo has already arranged for Chino to marry María. Here, he just sets up his sister with his best friend.
    • In the musical and 1961 film, even though Tony has moved on from the Jets and Riff would prefer if he were still part of the gang, it's clear that their friendship is still solid and they have each other's backs no matter what. Here, Tony going straight has strained their relationship, as Riff refuses to accept it and they have several arguments over each others' actions.
    • Much like Tony and Riff, the relationship between María and Bernardo is also much more strained. She calls him out for embarrassing her at the dance by lashing out at Tony, and is clearly frustrated that he expects her to marry a Puerto Rican boy and even dismisses her dream of going to college.
    • While Tony appears to know Chino enough to address him by name in the 1961 film, the two don't appear to know each other in this version. In fact, Tony does not know Bernardo or any of the Sharks and is familiar with the conflict only as an outsider because he was sent to prison after the Jets' previous war with the Egyptian Kings and before the Sharks rose up.
    • In previous versions, Tony is nicer to Anybodys than the other Jets are, but still discourages them from joining the gang, and expresses disbelief that a girl would want to get mixed up in the fighting. Here, it's clear the two are genuinely friends, sharing a hug at the dance and Tony being one of the few to treat Anybodys with respect. Before he got out of the gang life, Tony also thought Anybodys would make a good addition to the Jets.
    • In the original musical and 1961 film, Baby John and A-Rab are Vitriolic Best Buds with A-Rab having a Big Brother Instinct towards him. Here, A-Rab treats Baby John with contempt while the gang is being questioned by the cops and it's Diesel who reassures and advises him.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • In the original musical and 1961 film, Anybodys is a scrappy tomboy who desperately wants to join the Jets and it's mostly Played for Laughs. Here, Anybodys is a trans man who not only wants to be accepted by the group, but also wants to be recognized as his true gender and it's played entirely for drama.
    • Both gangs get this treatment thanks to this film's addition of the real life history of Lincoln Center's construction in the Upper West Side. Instead of the groups simply being intolerant of the other's presence as in the other versions, here they literally are losing their neighborhoods thanks to the ongoing construction and gentrification.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Schrank and Krupke are a lot handsomer than they are in the 1961 version.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Tony. It's hard to tell just how tough he was in the original since outside of him killing a non-resistant Bernardo we never saw him in action. Here, we're told how he was apparently so brutal a fighter he nearly beat someone to death. We also get to witness him engage in some of the Jets' famously flashy choreography when he tries to get Riff to call off the rumble. And then in the rumble, Tony actually loses his cool and starts to fight Bernardo, managing to surprise and get the drop on him before backing down.
    • Bernardo has always been portrayed as an excellent fighter, but here he's also a boxer with a very promising up and coming career.
    • María, in this version, is not afraid to tell Bernardo off for embarrassing her at the dance with his aggressive behavior towards Tony, even mentioning to Anita that she's the only person who isn't intimidated by him.
    • It's a small moment, but during "America," Bernardo throws some practice punches with Quique. Then Anita walks up, throws a punch, and Quique immediately winces in pain, which he hadn't with Bernardo. She later puts up one hell of a fight when the Jets attempt to rape her.
    • Anybodys's fighting prowess is usually an Informed Ability. Here, he manages to take on half the cops in the precinct and get away, as he's still roaming around several hours later.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change:
    • The post-war urban gentrification in New York is mentioned, giving a new layer to the gang conflict.
    • Bernardo is revealed to be a fairly accomplished local boxer.
    • Unlike other adaptations, Tony spent time in jail after a previous gang war in which he nearly killed someone.
    • Graziella and Tony were an item, before he left the gang-life behind him and she took up with Riff. This retroactively makes Grazie into the West Side Story equivalent of Rosaline from the original Romeo and Juliet.
  • Adaptational Context Change: Several of the numbers and scenes are given different contexts than in the original musical and the 1961 film:
    • "Prologue" is changed from a montage showing how the Jets ruled their turf before the Sharks began to rise up to the Jets stealing supplies to vandalize a Puerto Rican flag mural on the Sharks' block. It still ends with an all out brawl that forces Krupke and Schrank to break it up.
    • "Something's Coming" is changed from Riff telling Tony to come to the dance to Tony getting encouragement from Valentina for his hard work in turning his life around.
    • Instead of both gangs meeting at Doc's after the dance to set the terms of the rumble, Riff, Ice, and Action meet with Bernardo, Braulio, and Quique in the gym's bathroom shortly after Bernardo confronts Tony for dancing with María.
    • In this version, the "Transition to Scherzo/Scherzo" movements, which take place between "I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere" in Act 2 of the stage version, are played following "Balcony Scene (Tonight)." The transition shows the break of dawn over the Upper West Side as New York City begins its day, while the scherzo plays over María hastily changing into her pink sleepwear, taking off her lipstick, ruffling her hair, and rolling in her bed sheets after realizing she slept in her white dress.
    • "Gee Officer Krupke" takes place in the local police precinct after the police try and fail to find out the time and place of the rumble from the Jets.
    • "One Hand, One Heart" is changed from Tony meeting María at the dress shop she works at to the two of them on a date at The Cloisters museum.
    • "Cool" is changed from Riff (in the musical)/Ice (in the 1961 film) trying to get the Jets to play it cool to a number where Tony tries and fails to convince Riff and the other Jets to end their hostilities with the Sharks. The chorus of "Pow!" at the end of the song is also changed to the Jets pretending to shoot Tony.
      • In addition, the line "Got a rocket in your pocket" is clearly referring to the gun.
    • In the "Tonight (Quintet)" number, lines such as "The Puerto Ricans grumble "Fair fight."/But if they start a rumble/We'll rumble 'em right" and "We said, "O.K., no rumpus. No tricks."/But just in case they jump us/We're ready to mix" now refer to the deals made before the rumble about acceptable weapons and how both gangs plan to break those rules. Originally, they referred to how the gangs were ready to get into an all-out brawl if the intended Combat by Champion plan falls apart, a plot point that's been removed in this version.
      • Also, the line "We'll be in back of you, boy!" is sung by Ice to Riff, whereas it was reversed in the 1961 film. In the original, it was to show the Jets' support for Ice as their champion, but now shows that the Jets are unequivocally behind their leader.
    • "The Rumble" consists of two parts. The first, Tony attempts to talk to Bernardo, and the two end up coming to blows. The second has the knife fight between Bernardo and Riff.
    • "Somewhere" is sung by Canon Foreigner Valentina as she imagines a place where all the groups can coexist. This also results in María singing a Dark Reprise of "Tonight" instead of "Somewhere" as she holds on to a dying Tony.
  • Adaptational Gender Identity: Anybodys. Though the character had been portrayed by trans and non-binary actors in the past, this film's dialogue makes it explicit that Anybodys is a transgender boy.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Bernardo and the Sharks come across better here as their conflict with the Jets isn't framed as just their group moving in on the Jets' neighborhood, but the Sharks protecting their Puerto Rican neighbors from the Jets' bigotry and harassment. Additionally, Bernardo is aware here that the life of a gang is one that should be avoided, keeping his best friend Chino from joining the Sharks and encouraging him to continue with his education, knowing his smarter friend has a chance at real success he shouldn't pass up. As for the other Sharks, in this version they don't assist Chino with his attempt to hunt down Tony and kill him in revenge for Bernardo's death and actually try to talk him out of the idea.
    • Anybodys is usually depicted as being disgusted by the Jets' Attempted Rape of Anita but not actually doing anything about it. Here, he actually warns Anita to not enter Valentina's, aware that things would get bad for her if she did so. Add that to Anybodys being absent when the crime actually occurs, and this version doesn't have the same bystander issue as the original.
      • The Jet girls Graziella, Velma, and Tessa distinguish themselves in the same scene. They're just as racist as their male counterparts, and Graziella has particular reason to hate Anita, given Bernardo killed Riff, but when when the Jets' threats to Anita turn sexual, the girls desperately try to put a stop to it and have to be forced and locked out of the store to keep them from trying to get to Anita.
  • Adaptational Intelligence:
    • Diesel, Snowboy, and Baby John are vaguely aware that Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and thus the Sharks are also American citizens.
    • Glad Hand in the original might've just been putting up a confident, naive front, but he seemed to genuinely believe he could fix the gangs' feuding. Here, he still tries to do so, but he's clearly more aware that his attempt is going to fail because he's dealing with two very violent gangs.
    • Tony takes the time to learn a number of Spanish phrases before his date with María, demonstrating a much more romantic side to him.
    • In this version, María is much more aware that dating Tony is only going to cause problems between his friends and her brother. She also displays intellectual curiosity when walking around the Cloisters museum, and expresses a desire to attend classes at the City College of New York during her argument with Bernardo.
    • Schrank is more suspicious of María sending Anita out to meet Tony this time, with María having to put up a more convincing act in return. Even then, him letting Anita go feels less like he's totally bought it and more like he has no proper cause to prevent her from leaving.
    • In keeping with his status as a Nice Guy in this version, Krupke no longer tries to talk down the gangs with insulting threats. Instead, he reasons with them by noting the potential legal trouble they'd face. This approach is still unsuccessful in stopping their behavior, but he is able to calm down a few of them briefly through this method, so he's more effective than the original Krupke was.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • Bernardo's treatment of María is changed from being a Knight Templar Big Brother to full on sexism as he won't allow her to make a life for herself in America and fulfill her dreams like getting a college education (though that has more to do with his general disdain for America). Meanwhile, he doesn't respect Anita's desire to open her own dress shop in America and insists on them moving back to Puerto Rico after he earns enough money so she can be a mother to their kids. Additionally, since he and Tony had never interacted before the dance and had no knowledge of his prior association with the Jets, his initial reaction to seeing him with María is strictly due to him being American.
    • Riff's delinquency tendencies have become more apparent, as Valentina (whom Riff is very disrespectful towards) reveals he's been shoplifting from her and Doc's store since he was a kid, he's shown leading the Jets in committing several petty crimes, he's a lot less understanding of Tony's desire to move on from the past, and he buys the gun that Chino later uses to kill Tony from a black market dealer for him to use at the rumble.
    • A minor example with Glad Hand, as he tells the Sharks to "speak English at school-sponsored functions." Though he recognizes that they had just insulted him in Spanish.
    • While Lt. Schrank on the whole comes across as a better guy in this version than the original, this isn't the case when it comes to his scene opposite Anita and María. We only briefly see his questioning of María in the original, and while his rudeness does show there, it's downplayed as he tries to be professional. Here though, he doesn't even try to be respectful to the two mourning girls.
    • The Jets were already jerks to Anybodys, but now that the character is transgender, they add to the mistreatment by intentionally misgendering him. Of course, given how unaccepting people were of such matters back then, chances are the Jets of the source material would do the same if given the opportunity. Plus, the gang does come to accept him as in the other versions.
  • Adaptational Job Change: In the original film and stage version, María works in a bridal shop. Here, she's a cleaner in Gimbels, an upscale department store.
  • Adaptational Name Change:
    • Baby John's girlfriend is named Tessa in this version, rather than Minnie.
    • A number of the Sharks are given different names. For instance, Pepe, Bernardo's lieutenant, is named Braulio.
    • María and Bernardo's surname is never mentioned in the original stage and film versions, but the 1961 film's novelization (and therefore Fanon) gives it as Nunez. Here, their surname is Vasquez.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy:
    • Chino is not a member of the Sharks in this version, but a nice young man who's trying to make an honest living. He helps Tony get into the rumble at the salt shed, and isn't overtly hostile to him until after Tony kills Bernardo.
    • Officer Krupke had no problem acting like a dick to the gangs in the original. Krupke's still horribly frustrated with their antics here, but he's much more civil about it and shows a genuine desire to help keep both parties out of jail. His main problem with the Sharks is that they're being vigilantes rather than calling the cops when there's a problem like good citizens. Likely, screenwriter Tony Kushner also wrote him to be a deconstruction of the trope, showing that for all of his best intentions, he upholds the very structures that are oppressing both sides.
    • Lt. Schrank is still a huge asshole, but he doesn't try to manipulate the Jets into a deal for the rumble (that he more than likely was gonna go back on), instead being intent on stopping the whole thing before it can start. And unlike the original, here we see glimpses into him having a genuine desire for justice.
    • Given Valentina is essentially the new version of Doc, this comes into play. While Doc was a Nice Guy, he's rendered so furious by the Jets trying to rape Anita that he's unable to delicately handle telling Tony the false news that María is dead, slapping him to get the message through. Valentina is just as disgusted by the Jets' behavior, but maintains her composure and thus tells Tony of this news in a far more gentle manner.
  • Adaptational Personality Change:
    • In contrast to the stage musical and the 1961 film where they were Wide Eyed Idealists, both Tony and María are more cynical in this film. Tony is focused on trying to piece his life back together after being in jail and still feels guilty about nearly beating someone to death. Meanwhile, María's frustration with Bernardo's treatment of her is more apparent and she's more jaded by the discrimination the Puerto Rican community faces in America.
    • The same applies to Riff. In the stage version and the 1961 film, he has a general cocky attitude that comes from being young and feeling invincible. In this version, he has a far more nihilistic outlook on life, outright telling Tony that he fully expects to die young.
  • Adaptational Self-Defense: In the stage musical and the 1961 original film, the Sharks were simply encroaching on the Jets' territory, leading into the gang war. In this version, it is clear that the Sharks were formed to protect their neighbors and shops from the Jets' harassment.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The Jets focused their racial prejudice on just the Sharks in the original, but here they harass other Puerto Ricans as well, and given the talk of earlier conflict, it's implied that they've launched bigoted attacks on others before. Additionally, since Officer Krupke is more civil to them in this version and honestly tries to help them, their treatment of him comes across as more disrespectful.
    • In the original, Riff only brings a knife to the rumble. Here, he buys a gun from a black market dealer, and the other Jets support this as well.
    • The Jets are also openly transphobic to Anybodys, as they repeatedly misgender him.
    • A passive example for most of both gangs. In the original they were all present for María's massive chew out of them, and every one of them managed to come together and abandon their hatred of each other because of this. But here, only a few of them are present for this moment, so while those characters redeem themselves, the same can't be said for those in absentia.
    • In the 1961 film and stage version, Ice goes looking for Chino and thus is not present for the attempted rape of Anita. Here, he does partake in it.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The overture is not performed at the beginning of the film, while it had in the 1961 version.
    • While they don't appear in person, both the original film and stage version establish that Bernardo and María's parents live with them, and their voices are even heard calling to María from inside the apartment during the "Tonight" scene. Here, it's explicitly stated that Bernardo, Anita, and María live together on their own, and their parents are implied to be dead.
    • Tony's mother is also adapted out, as he's shown living in Valentina's shop's basement.
    • Riff's uncle is not mentioned, and it's hinted he has no living relatives.
  • Affably Evil: As always Riff and Bernardo are very charismatic and likable gang leaders. It's downplayed here though as both have negative traits exaggerated. Though Bernardo just barely averts it as despite a rougher personality this time around, he's a more heroic figure in this version, with just enough amorality to still fit this trope.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Tony and Riff refer to each other as Superman and Batman, respectively, during "Cool."
  • Age Lift: Officer Krupke is considerably older in this version, and most of his failings as a police officer stem from physical ailments after undoubtedly a long career on the streets.
  • The Alcoholic: Implied with Officer Krupke. When he's kicked by Anybodys at the police station, he cries out "My ulcers!"
  • All for Nothing: Schrank makes this clear at the very beginning. With the construction of Lincoln Center, no matter which side wins the turf war, they're just gonna lose the area shortly anyway. Neither gang listens.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's never made clear whose switchblade it is (or what gang the owner belongs to) that drops on the floor during the rumble and kickstarts the fight between Riff and Bernardo.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: When questioning María, Schrank says he heard Bernardo started a fight at the dance because María was dancing with a white boy. María replies, "I don't think so," and Schrank laughingly asks if she doesn't think the boy she was dancing with was white or if she doesn't think Bernardo started the fight because of it.
  • Anachronism Stew: Abe uses the term "mutually assured destruction"; while the concept of MAD had been around since at least the Victorian era, the specific term wouldn't be coined until 1962, five years after the movie takes place.
  • And Starring: The ending credits' main cast roll ends "with Rita Moreno as Valentina and introducing Rachel Zegler as María".
  • Arms Dealer: Riff buys a gun from a black market dealer.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • While some Puerto Ricans did live in the area which ultimately became Lincoln Center, it was actually populated predominately by African-Americans.
    • Valentina's shop has a pinball machine, which were banned in New York City until 1976. However, a handful of machines were illegally operated in the city during the ban.
    • The term "mutually assured destruction" wasn't coined until 1962, roughly five years after the film takes place. In fairness, the concept of MAD has been around since the mid-19th Century, long before the development of nuclear weapons.note 
    • The 9th Avenue elevated train tracks in the Upper West Side were removed in 1940.
    • Several Checker Marathon taxi cabs are visible on the street. These weren't actually produced until 1962 at the earliest.
    • Tony refers to his prison as 'Ossining'. The prison he's likely talking about was actually called 'Sing Sing' until 1970, though the town it's located in is Ossining, New York.
  • As You Know:
    • Lt. Schrank reminds everyone that the city government is tearing down the neighborhood to make way for Lincoln Center, something that has already been underway for months.
    • Like in the other versions, Riff begins "Jet Song" by mentioning that he and Tony started the Jets together, something that most, if not all, of the Jets should be aware of.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Anybodys gets a significant presence upgrade, along with being fleshed out as transgender. He appears in the prologue, wanting to join the Jets as they vandalize a Puerto Rican flag mural before Riff tells him to beat it. When the Sharks arrive, Anybodys whistles a warning to the Jets before getting knocked over. He is also indirectly responsible for Tony's death, as he grabs Riff's gun out of his hand and tosses it aside, where it's picked up by Chino.
    • Chino really only came into play during the last act of the original version. Here, he's set up and developed beforehand and his revenge is given extra focus.
    • Graziella has more focus in this version, as she appears alongside Riff in the prologue and is also present when the Jets assault Anita, desperately trying to get them to stop.
    • A number of the Sharks get more screen time as well, particularly when they hold a memorial after Bernardo's death and then try to talk Chino out of hunting Tony.
    • Technically the case with Doc. On one hand, a character named Doc who ran the same store as the original is dead before the actual story starts, and we only see a picture of him. However, his widow Valentina is essentially this movie's version of Doc, as she fulfills his role as Tony's boss and friend. And Valentina gets much more development and focus than Doc ever did, even getting to sing "Somewhere".
  • Bait-and-Switch:
  • Balcony Wooing Scene: Tony wanders around the streets of his love interest María's neighborhood until he sees her on her fire escape. He calls up to her from below and eventually climbs up it. The two hold hands and affirm their love, singing "Tonight".
  • Batter Up!: Though he doesn't actually get to use it, Riff takes a baseball bat as his weapon of choice for the rumble.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Bernardo is eager to fight Tony at the rumble to get back at him for dancing with María. When he finally goads Tony into fighting him, it's a complete Curb-Stomp Battle where Tony easily beats up Bernardo until he comes to his senses. And then Bernardo winds up being killed by Tony after he stabs Riff to death.
  • Berserk Button: Tony tells Bernardo that he loves María. His response is a sharp blow to the face.
    • A-Rab refers to Anybodys as a girl one too many times, resulting in him tackling him and beating him up.
  • The Big Damn Kiss:
    • Tony and María's kiss at the end of "Tonight."
    • Bernardo and Anita passionately kiss at the end of "America," showing that while there's no way in hell they're gonna agree about living in America, they still love each other.
  • Big Entrance: Bernardo is unseen during the prologue, with the rest of the Sharks running in to stop the Jets' vandalism. He makes his first appearance by climbing up into the empty lot where the gangs are fighting and heading right for Riff.
  • Big "NO!": María screams "NOOO!" when she sees Chino is about to shoot Tony.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: The film is set in the late 1950s, when the Upper West Side had a reputation of being filled with crime due to low-income communities. The city is shown to be in the process of gentrifying the area to bring in more affluent residents.
  • Bilingual Bonus: All of the Spanish is left untranslated by subtitles, leaving a number of details for Spanish-speakers to find.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Riff describes himself as a paying customer, while he's in the middle of stealing a Milky Way bar from Valentina. When she orders him to pay for it, Riff then asks Tony to spot him the five cents.
    • Balkan is completely unhelpful when the police try to get information out of him about the rumble.
      Detective: So, you gonna tell me where and when the rumble's happening! Or I'm gonna send you straight to the Tombs!
      Balkan: (flipping his coin) I don't know where the rumble is. I don't even know what a rumble is.
    • Abe asks if Riff has ever fired a gun before, to which he replies that he fired a .32 Colt. The dealer takes this as a sign that he's lying by saying Colts fire .22 rounds.note 
    • During Lt. Schrank's questioning, María claims she has a headache and Anita explains she's having her period.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with shots of fire escapes, the opening being of the remains of a fire escape from a demolished building and the ending looking through one as Chino is arrested.
  • Boring Yet Practical: Chino is studying adding machine repair, which might not sound glamorous, but as New York is the financial capital of the world, he would never be out of work.
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • After the opening brawl, Officer Krupke chides the Sharks for trying to be vigilantes, reminding them it's the police's job to take care of the Jets' law breaking and taking the law into their own hands is illegal. Bernardo retorts that, not only is there a good chance the police will arrest them if they call them, but that the police are often not around when the Jets cause trouble and, by the time they show up, the damage is done.
    • As with the 1961 film, "America" features Anita and Bernardo facing off on different aspects of America, with her singing about America's opportunities and him singing about America's racism. Neither side is wrong.
    • Tony and María's discussion about Riff and Bernardo on the subway. When María says that there's more going against Bernardo than Riff, Tony says that Riff has had a rough life and that "the whole world has been against Riff since he was born", while María counters that it's no easier for her and Bernardo, who face constant racial discrimination. Tony responds that at least her and Bernardo come from a loving home and have hope for their future, which Riff doesn't have. María says Riff could feel more hopeful if he simply left the Puerto Ricans alone, while Tony points out that at the dance, it was Bernardo who was first aggressive to Tony for dancing with her.
  • Break the Cutie: Chino is a sweet, dorky guy, but when Bernardo is killed he's absolutely hellbent on avenging him.
  • Brick Joke: Tony learns a little Spanish from Valentina, and is seen taking notes on a small sheet of paper. Later, while on a date with María, he compliments her in awkward, slightly clunky Spanish... after sneaking a quick look at his cheat sheet.
  • Brief Accent Imitation:
    • Tony imitates Valentina's accent when repeating her words about Riff and the Jets, and she does the same for him.
      Valentina: I don't tell you who to hang out with, but...
      Tony: (puts on an exaggerated Puerto Rican accent) Bu' dose boysss are yuvenile delinquen'! Dey'rrrrrre no goo' for jou and jou better wash ou'!
      Valentina: (puts on an exaggerated New York accent) Hey, you make funna da way I tawk one more time, blondie!
    • A-Rab puts on a German accent while playing the psychiatrist in "Gee, Officer Krupke."
    • María speaks in a posh gringa accent at the beginning of "I Feel Pretty."
  • Buddy Snaps First: When Tony arrives at the rumble and attempts to make peace with Bernardo, Bernardo refuses to hear him out and tries to goad him into a fight by repeatedly sucker punching him. When his last punch seemingly knocks Tony out, Riff, furious that Bernardo has treated Tony like a punching bag despite him clearly not wanting to fight, steps in to fight Bernardo himself... only to be pushed out of the way by an enraged Tony who proceeds to deliver a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Butt-Monkey: Krupke spends the movie exasperated and disgusted by the gangs' war. He also gets assaulted by Anybodys, and shortly after witnesses the tail end of a song making fun of him, while simultaneously seeing the Jets have wrecked his police station. And he's got a bad back.
  • Canon Foreigner: A number of characters are added to the story.
    • Rory and Abe, who Riff buys the gun from.
    • Valentina is an interesting example. While she takes Doc's role in the story, she is actually written to be his widow.
  • Captain Obvious: After their first dance, María remarks that Tony is not Puerto Rican, which he is amused by.
  • Casting Gag: Rita Moreno (Anita in the 1961 film) plays Canon Foreigner Valentina. Valentina is, incidentally, the character who stops the Jets' Attempted Rape of Anita in this version.
  • Category Traitor: The Puerto Rican Anita accuses Valentina (a Puerto Rican woman who married a white man) of being one for harboring Tony after he killed Bernardo.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A location-specific one. The neighborhood where the Jets live is in the process of being demolished to make way for Lincoln Center. In 2010, Lincoln Center was the venue for Sondheim! The Birthday Concert, which featured among other performers the cast of the 2009 Broadway production of West Side Story.
  • Character Tic:
    • Balkan is constantly flipping a coin throughout the film.
    • Anita has a habit of snapping her fingers before she says something.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A literal case. Riff buys a black market gun for the rumble and it winds up in Chino's hands after everyone flees from the arriving cops. Chino uses it to kill Tony at the end.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Justified with the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican, and implied with the Jets, who are all of Irish, Italian, and Polish descent. Graziella can be seen with a rosary at one point.
  • The Coats Are Off:
    • Tony takes his suit jacket off right before climbing the fire escape on María's building.
    • Riff takes his jacket off during the rumble, after Bernardo initially beats the crap out of Tony.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Used to distinguish the two rivalrous gangs. The Jets and their women are dressed in blues and grays, while the Sharks and their women are dressed in reds and yellows. The Sharks' princess María wears blue in the final act (rather than the Lady in Red getup she dons at the end of the 1961 film), signifying how she's aligned herself with Tony.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Bernardo sets up María with the soft-spoken and somewhat geeky Chino because she told him she doesn't want to be with someone who's like Bernardo. However, given María complains to Anita about Chino's personality, it seems that what María meant was that she didn't want to be with someone who tries to control her life like Bernardo does.
    • Anita chides Bernardo for thinking she'll go back to Puerto Rico to become a baby factory since their children would go to bed hungry every night. Bernardo's response is "At least our kids won't get fat like the kids in New York."
  • Compressed Adaptation: While the film takes place over the same period of time, in the 1961 film, it's implied that the prologue takes place over a few days as the Jets and Sharks fight over their territory. Here, the entire prologue is about the Jets moving to vandalize a Puerto Rican flag mural, lifting paint from a construction site and brushes from a bodega on their way.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Baby John's arc in the film. He starts off as naïve and hesitant to partake in the Jets' harassment of the Puerto Ricans, and by "Gee, Officer Krupke," he fully succumbs to the peer pressure the other Jets have been putting on him.
  • Covered in Gunge: Both gangs end up covered in paint and fruit during the prologue.
  • Creator Cameo: Victor Cruz, who plays the restaurant owner whose establishment the Jets vandalize, was one of the dialect coaches for the film.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Bernardo is a highly-skilled boxer and thus a formidable opponent. However, Tony has been fighting on the streets for a long time, and thus is used to the sort of hand-to-hand combat that isn't permitted in a standard boxing match, allowing him to overpower Bernardo despite his initial blows.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Played for Drama. Chino clearly believes this to be true in the case of the Sharks and wants to join the gang so he can stop the Jets from harassing their neighbors and be respected by the community (particularly María) instead of being seen as meek, brownnoser who just works. He fails to realize that gang life is actually very dangerous and the others constantly put themselves at risk of being arrested or killed. By the end, all he's succeeded in doing is indirectly getting Bernardo killed, directly killing Tony, causing María to hate him, and earning himself a one way ticket to prison.
  • Darker and Edgier: This film downplays the camp elements of the 1961 film in favor of a realistic, gritty aesthetic. The abolishment of The Hays Code also allows the film to use all of the original musical's lyrics that were changed for that version and be more explicit about things that were implied, such as the Jets trying to rape Anita. Back in the 50s, racism and sexism was more casual and unchecked, and the minorities were treated with more contempt by the lawkeeping authorities.
    • The tone for the film is set early on when Lt. Schrank sees Baby John after the opening brawl, and finds that he has a nail sticking out of his ear.
    • Additionally, Tony doesn't convince the gangs to settle for a Combat by Champion fight and both sides arrive ready for a full on rumble, with Riff even packing a gun just in case.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • In this version, Tony's backstory is expanded and it's revealed he served a jail sentence for nearly beating a member of a rival gang to death. His job at Doc's drugstore is part of his parole and he was warned to stay away from the Jets by the authorities.
    • While the full details of Riff's backstory are not revealed, Tony explains to María that "the world's been against Riff since he was born" and a comment by the bartender Riff buys the gun from suggests that his father engaged in similar criminal behavior.
  • Dark Reprise: When the Jets begin to assault Anita, big deal turns on the jukebox, which starts playing the "Mambo" from the dance.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Doc is dead in this version, with his widow Valentina taking his role.
    • It's also implied that Bernardo and María's parents are dead. María mentions that she took care of their father for five years while Bernardo was in New York.
  • Death by Irony: Tony is killed by the gun Riff purchased and tried to get him to use during the rumble.
  • Death Glare: Anita has one when she catches Tony climbing out of María's window following Bernardo's death.
  • Death Seeker: Riff is implied to be one, as when Rory points the gun he's trying to buy at him, he presses his forehead against the barrel and tries to goad him into shooting him. When he's later stabbed by Bernardo, he seems relieved.
    Tony: When are you gonna grow up?
    Riff: Never, probably. Born to die young, daddy-o.
  • Decomposite Character: Ice and Diesel. In the previous versions, they are the same character serving as second-in-command of the Jets, named Diesel in the original stage version and Ice in the 1961 film. Because of this, their role as The Lancer and The Big Guy are split between Ice and Diesel, respectively.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Anybodys is a trans man in this version and, since the story takes place in the 1950s, constantly has to deal with transphobia from the Jets, the police, and the public in general.
    • Anita is played by an Afro-Latina actress and there are small but significant changes that show off the racism she faces from white characters as well as lighter Puerto Ricans. During the infamous Attempted Rape scene, several of the Jets' comments to her are specifically about her being black.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • A minor example with the supporting Jets. In other versions, all of them take part in "Gee, Officer Krupke" and "Cool". Here, the group splits up during the day of the rumble with one half being questioned at the police precinct while the other accompanies Riff as he acquires a gun. The result is that Diesel, Mouthpiece, A-Rab, Big Deal, Balkan, Snowboy, and Baby John sing "Gee Officer Krupke" while Ice, Action, Tiger, and Numbers dance during "Cool".
    • Since the war council at Doc's is removed, Lt. Schrank doesn't get to deliver his famous monologue. Though he does get to make several speeches at the beginning, so it's arguably evened out. He also doesn’t appear at the ending to witness Maria’s speech , however his interrogation of Anita and Maria is longer than it usually is so that also evens out .
    • Because "Cool" is changed to an attempt by Tony to convince Riff to cancel the rumble, Graziella's big dance in the song does not take place. However, she attempts to stop the assault on Anita, so like Lt. Schrank, it balances out.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Tony completely breaks down when Valentina tells him that Chino killed María.
    • While she comes back from it, María initially lashes out at the Sharks and Jets after Chino kills Tony.
  • Did Not Think This Through: After Anybodys assaults Officer Krupke and flees the police precinct, all of the present cops chase after him and decide to lock the Jets inside so the gang can't walk free. Unsurprisingly, the Jets take advantage of being alone in the precinct by making a mess of it and fleeing once Krupke comes back.
  • Disappointed in You: Valentina puts a stop to the Jets' Attempted Rape of Anita after Bernardo's death and solemnly tells them that she's disappointed in all of them — she's watched them grow up from young boys into rapists.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: During "Cool," Riff's eyes are swelling with tears as he tries to get the gun back from Tony, making it clear that he doesn't want to fight him and that he's seeing his actions as a betrayal of their friendship.
  • Doublethink: Diesel and A-Rab give this advice to Baby John when the police question them about the rumble.
    Baby John: I can't go to jail!
    Diesel: You won't. Long as you remember two things. One, tell 'em what they wanna hear.
    A-Rab: And two, don't tell 'em nothin.
  • Downer Ending: Aside from Riff, Bernardo, and Tony dying, as well as the implication that Chino will spend the rest of his life in jail, as in the other versions, Anita has decided she is moving back to Puerto Rico after all the trauma she suffered and only a few of the Jets and Sharks are present when María makes her big speech, indicating that hostilities between most of the members are likely to continue—word spreading might mean things between the two gangs moving forward may at least improve a little though. On top of that, the neighborhood they were fighting over is still going to be torn down and made into Lincoln Center along with its affluent apartments, inevitably displacing everyone and rendering the whole conflict meaningless.
  • Dramatic Irony: Immediately after the rumble and its tragic consequences, the film cuts to Gimbel's Department Store, where María sings the light and comedic "I Feel Pretty", none the wiser to what her "pretty wonderful boy" has just done.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Even After Anybodys whistles a warning to the Jets, ensuring they're not completely caught by surprise when the Sharks arrive, they still exclude him during "Jet Song."
  • Due to the Dead: Valentina crosses herself as Tony's body is taken away.
  • Dutch Angle: Most prominently used during the prologue and in the final scene.
  • Ear Ache: Baby John gets a nail driven through his ear during the opening brawl.
  • Enemy Mine: Tony and Chino make a brief, wordless team up to help each other enter the rumble. Tony has no ill will towards Chino, and while Chino is certainly upset about Tony stealing María, he seems to handle these feelings quite well. Still, as far as both parties know, they're there to support the opposing gang, and yet their need to enter causes them to help each other regardless.
    • Just about the only thing the Jets and Sharks are united over is not cooperating with the cops.
  • Ethnic Menial Labor: In this version, María works as a cleaning lady in Gimbels, along with a number of Hispanic women.
    María: In Gimbels, there are lots of dresses that fit me.
    Anita: And you don't shop in Gimbels. You clean in Gimbels.
  • Everybody Smokes: Most of the Jets are shown smoking cigarettes early in the film. Justified as it's 1957, when smoking was much more prevalent in American culture.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Lt. Schrank tells the police that they're going to stop the rumble because he's disgusted by the idea of the morning papers talking about dead kids.
    • While he still misgenders Anybodys, Diesel at least tells A-Rab to leave him alone.
    • Chino has no resentment against Tony for María choosing him, and even tries to restrain Bernardo when he becomes determined to beat him at the rumble.
    • Riff may be angry at Tony for leaving the gang and even trying to get him to call off the rumble, but he's still horrified when Bernardo starts beating the crap out of him while refusing to even fight back. At one point, Riff even offers himself as a more worthy opponent than letting Tony continue to be a punching bag.
    • The script makes it clear that during the rumble neither Riff or Bernardo actually wants to stab the other and are largely acting on the assumption the other does.
    • The senior members of the Sharks try to talk Chino out of hunting Tony, saying that it's not worth throwing away his entire life for revenge, and that Bernardo wouldn't want him to do this.
    • Graziella and her friends are just as racist towards the Puerto Ricans as their Jet boyfriends and hate Anita for being Bernardo's girlfriend. But when the Jets begin to assault Anita, Graziella, Velma, and Tessa desperately try to stop them and only fail because the boys threw them outside and locked the door.
    • Valentina telling the Jets "you dishonor your dead" after their attempted rape of Anita implies that for all of his flaws, Riff would never have gone so low as to commit sexual assault.
  • Everything Is Racist: In this version of "America", Anita singing "Buying on credit is so nice" and Bernardo responding with "One look at us and they charge twice" occurs as Anita buys fabric from a local shop and Bernardo sees the price on the receipt. The offended look on the shopkeeper's face indicates he did no such thing and he charges that price for all of his customers.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Downplayed Trope, as Bernardo is far from evil, but he's so arrogant and bullheaded he just can't seem to get it through his head that Tony's feelings for María are genuine and that he doesn't have an ulterior motive for pursuing her.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The story, including the entire Prologue in this version, takes place over the span of two days.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Chino starts out as a sweet guy who's not part of the gang's conflict, but that all goes out the window when his best friend Bernardo is killed, causing him to hunt down and kill Tony.
  • Fetishized Abuser: Played for Laughs with Numbers, who is introduced leaving his girlfriend for the Jets' opening number...while in the middle of lighting her cigarette.
  • Foil:
    • Chino to Tony. Both are best friends of the leaders of the Jets and Sharks. Both are trying to make a better life for themselves. Both initially remain outside of the gang war. Both are in love with María. Both witness their best friends die in the rumble. Both avenge their best friends' deaths. However, Tony knows the full gravity of his actions, and even intended to turn himself into the police before being talked out of it by María, who plans that the two of them run away from New York together, where they can live in peace. In Chino's case, his anger, hatred and need for revenge is all he has left.
    • Schrank and Krupke. The latter's a Nice Guy, the former is a Jerkass. While both try to stop the growing violence between the Sharks and the Jets, they have very different methods. Krupke actually tries to help them by stressing the jail time the young men could face if they keep up their fighting. He even manages to briefly calm down a couple of them through this method. Schrank doesn't share the same interest in saving the gangsters and instead tries to get them to rat each other out for their injuries so he can lock whoever assaulted them .
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Riff playfully keeps a soup can away from Tony while he's working in the basement, which foreshadows this version of "Cool" in which they fight over control of a gun.
    • Tony tells María about the rumble with the Egyptian Kings in which he nearly beat someone to death, foreshadowing his fistfight with Bernardo.
    • Before leaving for the dance, Bernardo promises María that "the first gringo boy who smiles at [her]" will get a punch to the face. He ends up fulfilling this when he fights Tony at the rumble.
    • At the end of "Cool," the chorus of "Pow!" is directed at Tony, with the Jets pretending to shoot him. This foreshadows Tony's death at the hands of Chino, with the very same gun that Riff just purchased.
  • Forced to Watch: Graziella, Velma, and Tessa are thrown out of Doc's when the Jets begin their sexual assault on Anita, and can only helplessly watch through the locked door.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Lt. Schrank knows that the gang conflict is meaningless, as the neighborhood will be completely redeveloped in a few years and none of the delinquents will be able to live in it. So his objective is to keep things quiet until it happens and he can enjoy having to take care of a neighborhood that will be relatively crime free.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • When Tony is singing "Maria," the name "Chita" can be seen sprayed in graffiti on the tenement. Chita Rivera was the original Anita on Broadway.
    • During the end credits, graffiti can be seen sprayed on the condemned buildings saying "I lived here" and "Jets Champs Always."
  • Funny Background Event: As "Gee, Officer Krupke" begins, Balkan is sitting on a bench reading a newspaper and having no interest in participating.
  • Get Out!:
    • Valentina sternly tells Riff to leave her shop when she sees him.
      "You've been stealing from me since you were six, now get out. I mean it."
    • María tells Tony not to come into her room after he's killed Bernardo.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Under the MPAA rating system, a PG-13 movie is only allowed one use of "fuck". Since many lines are in unsubtitled Spanish, the language's counterparts to "what the fuck"note  and "motherfucker"note  are scattered throughout the Sharks' dialogue.
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: Both María and Anita do this as they're getting ready for the dance.
  • The Glasses Come Off: Chino takes off his Nerd Glasses twice. The first is when he confidently removes them as he begins dancing. The second is when he arrives at the rumble, telling Bernardo that he stands with him.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Both Tony and Riff's deaths are a Subverted Trope. Although Tony is at first smiling as María sings to him after he's been shot, since he discovered she's not dead after all, in his final seconds his smile falls and he desperately grabs María's arm, clearly afraid and sad to die. Riff is smiling as well after being stabbed by Bernardo, but again his smile falls as he cries and tells Tony it's okay to remove the knife.
  • Greaser Delinquents: Jet members Action, Diesel, and Numbers fit the stereotype with their leather jackets. Action even goes as far as to sport the typical greaser look with a white shirt jeans and converse sneakers. Word of God also states that Diesel's nickname stems from his love of cars.
  • Gun Porn: Abe and Rory lovingly describe the Smith & Wesson Model 10 that Riff wants to buy.
  • The Hecate Sisters: With the Doc role being given a Gender Flip, now the story has three female characters in these roles. Maria of course is the Maiden - The Ingenue falling in love for the first time, and coming of age. Anita is the Matron - the voice of reason to both Maria and Bernardo. Valentina is the Crone - the acid-tongued senior who's also wise and kind.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tony, when Valentina tells him the false news that Chino killed María. In the span of just three seconds, his face absolutely crumbles.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Riff knows enough Spanish words to get his point across to Bernardo when fixing the time and date of the rumble.
    • Tony's cot has a number of magazine clippings about the moon and outer space. Plus, as he and Riff affectionately call each other Superman and Batman, respectively, it's clear the two are fans of comic books.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: The Sharks frequently do this, either to insult the Jets and the authorities or to discuss things they don't want the aforementioned parties to hear. Many times it proves ineffective as the non-Latino characters either know enough Spanish to get the gist of what they're saying or can just figure out what their intent is based on other context clues.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Everyone even remotely familiar with this story knows that María won't fall in love with Chino. But after a rough start, when he loosens up María finds herself genuinely charmed by him, showing that under different circumstances, things might've worked out between these two, which would simultaneously stop all the violence that comes from the real romance. But it's not long before María sees Tony, putting and end to Chino's shot with her, and sending everyone on a path of misery.
    • The end of the film has the police initially absent, with Valentina starting to take a remorseful Chino away. It briefly looks like she'll help him get out of there and avoid the undoubtably massive punishment for his actions. The cops then arrive shortly after and the last thing we see is Chino being arrested.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Tony is one of the tallest characters in the cast, while María is very petite in comparison. In their first meeting she even playfully teases him about it as he bangs his head on the bleachers.
    María: You're tall.
    Tony: Yeah,'re not.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Bernardo takes offense to being called a "spic" by the Jets, but has no problem calling Tony a "Polack." Anita points out that using ethnic slurs makes him sound like a real American. He also refuses to let Chino join the Sharks, telling Chino that doing so could put his bright future in jeopardy. However, it's shown that Bernardo himself has a potentially successful boxing career ahead of him and he has no problem risking that by being a gang leader.
    • Anita is called on her hypocrisy in the course of "A Boy Like That". She lectures Maria on the idiocy of getting into a relationship with a gang member and murderer - even mocking "very smart, Maria" for falling for a killer. She may as well be describing her own relationship with Bernardo.
  • Hypocrisy Nod: Bernardo doesn't want Chino to throw his life away by joining the Sharks, acknowledging that the gang life is "stupid," and Chino isn't. He holds that it's Necessarily Evil to protect the community, but that doesn't mean he wants a nice boy to get mixed up in it and ruin his promising future.
  • Identifying the Body: After Riff and Bernardo are killed at the brawl, Anita is called to the morgue to identify Bernardo.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!:
    • Much like the Trope Namer, Bernardo is a promising young boxer. Combine that with his status as a strong leader and his heroic reputation amongst his community, it only makes it even more of a tragedy when he's struck down in his prime.
    • Chino is a smart, studious guy who's been blocked from joining the Sharks precisely because his hard working nature and brains could set him on a better future. He throws all that away to avenge Bernardo and the film ends with him being arrested for this.
    • Anita is enthusiastic about her future in America, and having a strong eye for fashion, she works to open up a dress shop with products of her own design. The death of the man she loves combined with the disgusting treatment she receives from the police and especially the Jets that night causes her to give up hope of finding her own way in the new country and she plans to go back to Puerto Rico.
  • I Gave My Word: Bernardo calls Riff out on this, saying that if Tony doesn't show up to the rumble, how can they expect the Jets to keep their word that they'll stay out of their way.
    • It's also subverted in the same scene. Both Riff and Bernardo agreed not to have knives as weapons for the rumble, but not only did Bernardo and another unidentified member of one of the gangs bring them, but Riff brought a gun.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Chino. Unlike the previous versions, he's not a member of the Sharks, but he wants to join out of a desire to protect their community from harassment. He also thinks that being someone who stands up to bigotry will make María respect him. However, when the rumble devolves into an all-out brawl, Chino is only clutching Bernardo's dead body, clearly terrified of the violence happening around him.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Valentina pours herself some Puerto Rican rum after being told about the rumble and Bernardo's death.
  • I Reject Your Reality: While all of the other Jets have accepted Tony is done with them, Riff still insists he'll eventually come back.
    Balkan: Tony's done with the Jets, Riff. Everybody knows it but you.
    Riff: He ain't done with the Jets. Like that's even a thing!
  • Informed Flaw: Invoked. Bernardo tells Chino that María can be very bossy, but considering how much he tries to control her, it's likely he's actually projecting his own flaws onto his sister.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • Anita, being far more content and hopeful about her life in America frequently tells Bernardo and María to speak English rather than their home tongue. When Schrank is questioning her and María after Bernardo's death, he throws this phrase back in her face.
    • Tony sings the first half of "Cool" in an attempt to placate Riff and convince him to stop fighting and "play it cool." Riff sings the second half of the song with the same lyrics but a decidedly sarcastic delivery, mocking Tony for thinking he could "be cool" when the Jets' territory is disappearing and with a rumble with the Sharks in a few hours.
  • It's All About Me: Bernardo tries to forbid María from seeing Tony again by saying she lives in his house. Anita then points out that the apartment is not his house, as both she and María pay rent as well.
  • Keep Away: In this version of "Cool", Tony takes away Riff's gun and won't give it back unless he calls off the rumble while Riff tries to take it back. After Riff continues to refuse to back down, Tony tries to get rid of it, only for Riff to snatch it back. The Jets then keep tossing it to each other to keep Tony from getting it again.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Bernardo promises María that "the first gringo boy" who smiles at her will get a punch in the face.
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • Schrank is extremely rude whilst questioning María and Anita, showing not even a shred of decency despite the two women having just lost a brother and lover respectively.
    • After Anita calls out the Jets for trying to rape her, Snowboy doubles down on the deplorable behavior and tells her to go back to Puerto Rico.
  • Latino Is Brown: Averted. While the 1961 film featured white actors in Brownface playing the Sharks, including Rita Moreno, even though she was the only cast member who was actually from Puerto Rico, this version features Latino actors from a wide range of backgrounds. Rachel Zelger (María) is of Colombian descent, David Alvarez (Bernardo) is Cuban-Canadian, Ariana DeBose (Anita) is Afro-Latina, Sebastian Serra (Braulio) is Puerto Rican, Julius Anthony Rubio (Quique) is Dominican, Andrei Chagas (Jochi) is Brazilian, and Rita Moreno (Valentina) appears with her natural skin tone.
  • Lens Flare: The film makes liberal use of lens flare to give the events a heightened vintage look. Particularly, the lights at the dance create a lot of lens flare, giving Tony and María's first meeting a dreamy vibe.
  • Lean and Mean: Riff is played by the skinny Mike Faist and is more villainous this time around.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: María is introduced with her hair neatly tied in a bun. She lets it down as she gets ready for the dance.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: "Tonight (Quintet)" features the Jets and the Sharks gathering weapons for the rumble, including bottles, chains, and more.
  • Loose Lips: Graziella lets slip that Tony wants to set a rumble while they're still at the dance. Officer Krupke overhears this, and thus the police get involved.
  • Love at First Sight: Tony watches María dancing for some time before she takes notice of him. It's downplayed with María herself. While she enjoys dancing with him and is clearly smitten, she's startled when she unexpectedly finds him outside her apartment building, momentarily thinking that he's stalking her. It isn't until the end of "Tonight" that she begins to reciprocate his unabashed love for her, and their date to The Cloisters truly cements their love.

    M - Z 
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage:
    • Associating with the Jets informs much of Bernardo's hatred of Tony, but Bernardo also dislikes that Tony is white, and wants his sister María to get with a Puerto Rican boy.
    • Valentina mentions that she and Doc faced hostility for their own interracial marriage (him being a white man, her being Puerto Rican).
  • Manly Tears:
    • Bernardo starts to bawl his eyes out after stabbing Riff.
    • Tony bursts into these upon being told the false news that María is dead.
  • Match Cut:
    • "Jet Song" ends with Riff throwing a brick offscreen, which then cuts to Tony catching a soup can while working in the basement.
    • During "Tonight (Quintet)," Tony starts walking towards the sunset, and we then cut to María walking out of the sunset on her way to work. In addition, when the police cars roll out to lockdown the West Side, a headlight shines at the camera and the scene transitions to Riff and the Jets as another car is driving along.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When Krupke separates the gangs at the dance, María can be seen in the background trying not to look at the violence by covering her eyes.
  • Mirror Character: Riff and Bernardo have always shared common traits, but it's underscored in this version by them both wearing a religious medallion through the entire film.
  • Mirroring Factions: While the Sharks were created to defend their community from the hateful, bigoted Jets, by the time the story begins, they are just as hateful and bigoted as their white counterparts. This is lampshaded by Tony and María when they talk on the subway, noting how both Riff and Bernardo feel the entire world is against them.
  • Misplaced Retribution: The Jets' treatment of the Sharks clearly stems from their frustration over their blocks being seized by the city and bulldozed to make way for Lincoln Center. But since they can't do anything about the government, they choose to take it out on the Sharks, who have moved into an area that used to be part of their neighborhood.
  • Missed Him by That Much: María had previously asked Tony to try and stop the rumble, and goes off to work assuming he succeeded. Just as she enters the subway station, the Jets round the corner. Had she been a bit slower, she would have realized it was still happening.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: María has this after sleeping with Tony.
  • Mood Whiplash: "I Feel Pretty" keeps its place as it does in the stage version, being sung after the rumble and the deaths of Riff and Bernardo.
  • Motive Decay: Bernardo established the Sharks to serve as a Vigilante Militia to protect the Puerto Rican community. However, when he agrees to a once and for all rumble with the Jets, it's clear that his motivation for doing so is not to end any of their harassment for good, but to get the opportunity to fight Tony (whom Riff had promised would be there) for getting close to María.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: A theme of the film. The film takes place in the late 1950s, when the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation was at its height. Anita asks Tony "if he wants to start World War III" and Valentina's shop has a fallout shelter sign prominently displayed over the basement entrance. It's also made clear that the only reason the violence between the gangs escalates as high as it does is because both sides assume the worst of the other and feel they need to prepare accordingly. Riff explains that the Jets need a gun because the Sharks think they're bringing a gun and so actually need one in case the Puerto Ricans bring one to the rumble. The black market dealer namedrops the trope, to which Riff says he doesn't know what that is.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • This trope has always been in play for when Bernardo kills Riff. Here, it's even more noticeable though as Bernardo is not just horrified over his actions, but weeps over them.
    • Tony is horrified that he killed Bernardo in a moment of rage, and tells María that he's going to turn himself in for it. Unlike the original film, he doesn't try to justify it by bringing up his friendship with Riff.
    • Again, this trope was present before, but it's turned up for Chino, as he similarly cries his eyes out after killing Tony. Almost certainly in play earlier as well, as he helped Tony get in to the rumble which then lead to him escalating the violence to a fatal level and killed Bernardo. Chino doesn't directly comment on it, but there's no doubt that he feels a massive level of guilt over inadvertently getting his closest friend killed.
    • As Valentina scolds the Jets for attempting to rape Anita, Mouthpiece silently cries, presumably out of guilt and shame.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Tony asks Valentina for the Spanish translation of "You look beautiful." She replies "¿De veras?", which means "Really?", as she's playfully flattered by his comment. He writes it down, thinking it's the actual translation (which is "Te ves hermosa").
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When the Jets run amok in San Juan Hill in the opening, one of the angry shop owners says, "Muchachitos como ustedes es que este mundo está lousy"note , one of Doc's lines in the 1961 film.
    • In the prologue of the 1961 film, the Sharks dump several cans of paint onto the Jets as a prank. In this film, the Jets use paint to vandalize a Puerto Rican flag mural, and it does end up on several gang members once they fight.
    • In the 1961 film, Anita claims that Bernardo is using Tony dancing with María as an excuse to start World War III. Here, Anita jokingly asks Tony if he wants to start World War III after he is caught dancing with María.
    • Riff suggests the underpass for the location of the rumble, which is where it occurs in the 1961 film.
    • During the scene of María and Tony's first meeting, after she kisses him, he sheepishly claims he's a "by the book" sort of guy, a reference to the line "You kiss by the book" in Romeo and Juliet, which West Side Story is based on.
    • Later, in the "Tonight" scene, after María calls Tony back to her, she says "I forgot why I called you" and he replies "I'll wait till you remember": this dialogue wasn't originally in the scene, but is a paraphrase of lines from Romeo and Juliet's Balcony Wooing Scene.
    • Anita mentions that she is trying to save up the money she makes sewing so she can own her own dress store. She and María work at a dress store in the musical and 1961 film.
    • Riff laughs for a few seconds after being stabbed by Bernardo. In the play, Mercutio (his counterpart) cracks a series of jokes after he's been stabbed by Tybalt (Bernardo's counterpart), making light of how badly he's hurt, and in most productions of Prokofiev's ballet version, he laughs.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Baby John is a relatively new member of the Jets in this version, as he gets nervous when the group ventures into Shark territory and panics when the group is brought to the police precinct for questioning.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Bernardo and María are given a surname in this film: Vasquez. You can see it on the boxing poster in their apartment.
  • Nice Girl: Valentina is an extremely kind, caring woman whose far ahead of her times when it comes to race and does her best to help Tony stay out of trouble. She's so nice she even finds it in herself to comfort a distraught Chino right after he killed her friend.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Officer Krupke honestly just wants to help the gangs, repeatedly trying his best to calm down their extremely violent tendencies to stop any bloodshed and keep them from entering prison at a young age.
    • Chino is very polite and well meaning, being very supportive of Bernardo, sweet to María, and accepting of Tony stealing his girl, even briefly working with him later. Unfortunately, circumstances prove unkind to poor Chino and he winds up snapping and undergoing a villainous streak, only coming to his senses when it's too late.
  • No Hero to His Valet: Bernardo is something of a local hero to the Puerto Rican community thanks to his rising boxing career as well as the Sharks protecting the locals from the Jets' harassment. But to María, he's just her Control Freak older brother who refuses to acknowledge that she's capable of taking care of herself and doesn't want to be just a housewife.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Lampshaded during the balcony scene. When Tony climbs up the fire escape, he's stopped because María's balcony is locked. He points out that this is against the law and she should report it.
  • Not His Sled:
    • After Bernardo punches Tony in the face, Riff steps in front and takes off his jacket, seemingly beginning the knife fight which ends up killing them both; this is suggested also by the fact that the iconic rumble music has started. However, Tony then pushes Riff away and starts fighting Bernardo himself. The actual knife fight doesn't take place until the second half of the scene.
    • Unlike the prior versions, only a handful of the Jets and Sharks witness Tony's death and are subject to María's dressing down of them. This leaves the implication that, while of few of them have learned their lesson and are on their way to reconciling, the majority are going to continue their senseless Cycle of Vengeance until the neighborhood is completely wiped away by the NYC Planning Commission.
    • Subverted in one case. It initially appears that Chino will not suffer any serious consequences for killing Tony as Valentina is shown leading him away from the scene, but then the cops arrive on the street at the last moment and apprehend him.
  • Not So Above It All: Señora Fausta tries to get María and the other cleaning ladies to stop singing and dancing during "I Feel Pretty," but soon gives in and happily partakes in the song. Once it's over, she bluntly tells everyone to get back to work.
  • Not What It Looks Like: María is startled when she finds Tony singing outside her apartment and asks (in Spanish) how he knew where she lives, as it looks like he's stalking her.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Baby John gets it in the opening when he's climbing a chainlink fence and finds the Sharks are on both sides of it, waiting for him to come down.
    • María has a comedic one when she wakes up the morning after the dance, and realizes that she slept in her dress.
    • Tony has one during "Cool" as he tries to keep the gun away from Riff, only to see him becoming more determined to get it back and then realizes he's also outnumbered by Ice, Action, Tiger, and Numbers, who proceed to play Keep Away with the gun.
    • Whatever bravado the Sharks have disappears when they see that Chino has a gun and plans to kill Tony with it.
    • María and Anita do their best to conceal this when Lt. Schrank mentions that Chino has a gun and is looking for Tony.
  • The Oner:
    • The film opens with one traversing over the demolition sites operating in the neighborhood, visually informing the audience of its oncoming fate, before the Jets are introduced.
    • The introduction to the dance follows Bernardo and the Sharks walking down the hallway, then into the gym, and goes all around the Jets dancing before going back to the Puerto Ricans.
    • The Scherzo, in which María wakes up the next morning and finds she slept in her white dress, is one shot. According to Rachel Zegler, it took seven takes to get right.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Chino finds María just as she is leaving work, and because of how shaken he is, she immediately realizes something terrible has happened.
  • Oral Fixation: Riff chews on a toothpick in the scene where he buys the gun.
  • Overly Long Name: Bernardo playfully teases Anita about hers during breakfast: "Anita María Teresa Josefina Et Cetera".
  • Persona Non Grata: Valentina banned Riff from Doc's because of his past shoplifting and that she doesn't want him to be a bad influence on Tony.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • While he's still very controlling, Bernardo at least recognizes that María doesn't want to date someone who's like him, and takes this into account when he sets her up with Chino.
    • Ice in this version shows a few moments of emotional intelligence. He stops Tiger from getting involved with Riff and Tony's argument about the rumble, recognizing they need to hash things out themselves. Later at Doc's, he understands and respects Tony's wish to be left alone with Valentina and keeps everyone else away from the basement despite their protests. Finally when Maria is grieving over Tony , he starts to put his arms on her to comfort her and when she tells him to get away he listens .
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Downplayed with Bernardo. David Alvarez is 6ft tall and one of the taller members of the Sharks. However, Ansel Elgort towers over him during the rumble.
  • Planet of Steves: Played for Laughs. When Tony is singing "Maria," he attracts the attention of a little girl and an older woman who are also named "María." It's a common name among Hispanic women.
  • Police Are Useless: Lamphshaded. Officer Krupke chides Bernardo and the Sharks for being vigilantes instead of just calling the cops when there's a problem like good citizens. Bernardo points out that if they call the cops, they're more likely to arrest them because they're not white and are never around when the Jets harass their community.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • After the opening brawl, Bernardo describes the Jets as "hijueputas", which roughly translates to "motherfuckers."
    • Valentina does this when she sees the Jets are attempting to rape Anita.
  • Product Placement: A number of products can be seen in Valentina's shop in vintage packaging, including Hershey's chocolate, Reese's peanut butter, Coca-Cola, Canada Dry, and Gillette shaving cream. Riff steals a Milky Way on his way out.
  • Properly Paranoid: When Riff and Bernardo ostensibly agree to no knives at the rumble, Action tries to convince Riff that the Sharks are going to bring them anyway. While this is based on a clearly racist perception of Puerto Ricans, Action turns out to be right when Bernardo whips out a switchblade after hearing one on the floor of the salt shed.
    • In addition, Riff also seems to be aware that the Sharks are going to bring knives anyway, hence why he buys a gun just in case.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: You could say the immature and violent gangsters always came across this way, but Riff is noticeably much more unhinged this time around.
  • Race Lift: Anita has been played by black actresses before, but this film has explicit dialogue references to her status as an Afro-Latina.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The Puerto Ricans often have full conversations in their native Spanish, which is left untranslated by the film. Anita even repeatedly remarks to Bernardo and María that they need to speak English because they're in America now. This was a deliberate choice by Spielberg, who felt that having subtitles would give the impression that English is the superior language.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • While Lieutenant Schrank doesn't make a speech at the war council like in other versions, instead he chides the Jets on how other men were able to climb out of the slums, get good jobs, buy nice houses, and marry beautiful women, while the Jets are the products of the men who couldn't.
      "Most of the white guys who grew up in this slum climbed their way out of it: Irish, Italian, Jews. Nowadays their descendants live in nice houses and drive nice cars and date nice girls you'd want to marry. Your dads or your granddads stayed put, drinking and knocking up some local piece who gave birth to you: the last of the Can't-Make-It Caucasians. What's a gang without its terrain, its turf? You're a month or two away from finding out, one step ahead of the wrecking ball. And in this uncertain world, the only thing you can count on is me. I'm here to keep the civil peace until the last building falls, and if you boys make more trouble on my turf, Riff, hand to heart, you're headed to an upstate prison cell for a very long time. By the time you get out, this will be a shiny new neighborhood of rich people in beautiful apartments with Puerto Rican doormen to chase trash like you away."
    • María calls out Bernardo for trying to control her life over breakfast.
      "Maybe Chino and your friends fall down at your feet and maybe you scare the Americanos when you make fists and angry faces, pero yo no estoy interesada ni en boxeo ni en peleas. ¡Y tú no eres mi jefe! note  And I'm not interested in what you have to say."
    • Shortly afterwards, Anita also tells Bernardo off for wanting her to move back to Puerto Rico and start making babies for him.
      "You want to know where my home is? It's where I pay rent. Right here, where I work my fingers raw mending pants and hemming neckties so that I can earn enough money to pay other girls to sew for me, so that someday I can rent a shop of my own in this great, big beautiful Nueva York! And if you think that I’m going back home to Puerto Rico with six kids that I put to bed hungry every night, amor de mi vidanote , you're dreaming!"
    • Chino gives one to the Sharks after the rumble, when they try to justify Bernardo's death by saying he died for Puerto Rican pride that the Jets were taking away.
      "If those nobodies can take your pride away from you, tú eres más estúpido que Bernardonote ."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Valentina is Tony's kind hearted boss who tries to keep him out of trouble and is as quick to impart her wisdom to him as she is to condemn the pointless violence of the gangs.
    • Deconstructed. Officer Krupke wants to look out for both sides, wanting them to end their feud while also trying to protect them from going to jail at a young age. He chides the Sharks for being vigilantes, telling them to call the cops next time there's a problem like good Americans instead of taking matters into their own hands. However, he does little to meaningfully engage just why the Puerto Rican neighborhood and the Jets themselves (mockingly called the "can't make it Caucasians") barely trusts law enforcement. Even Riff lampshades just how Krupke is content to let the Jets blame all of Sharks for their problems. It's evident for all his best intentions, Krupke's desire to protect what he views as a reformation of the neighborhood belies his lack of real care for the Jets and Sharks' situation.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Even after being told how easily the gun can go off by the dealers, Riff treats his gun like a toy and pretends to shoot several people.
  • Red Baron: On the boxing poster in their apartment, Bernardo has the nickname "El Orgullo del San Juan Hill," or "The Pride of San Juan Hill."
  • Remake Cameo:
    • Two of the Jets from the 1961 film, Bert Michaels (Snowboy) and David Bean (Tiger), appear as extras. Michaels plays a security guard at Gimbels and Bean is the fabric store owner in "America."
    • Andréa Burns, who played Maria in the 1992–1993 European Tour of the musical, appears as Fausta, María's boss as Gimbels.
  • Repeating So the Audience Can Hear: A number of times, the Latino characters say something in Spanish and then repeat the last part in English. Justified, as Spanish is their first language and so they're thinking in it before trying to speak English. Lt. Schrank also does this while interrogating María and Anita, repeating María's instructions to go to Doc's, though this is just him being a dick.
  • Revenge Before Reason: When Tony runs onto the street and screams for Chino to kill him, there's a shot of Chino emerging from the ruins of a building nearby. The look on his face makes it clear he's terrified that he's about to kill someone, as he hasn't done a single violent act in the entire film, but he sees no way out other than avenging Bernardo.
  • Rousing Speech: Riff's section of "Tonight (Quintet)" in which he rallies the Jets by promising they'll kill Bernardo and destroy the Sharks at the rumble. The script describes the moment as "his St. Crispin's Day speech."
    "♫ The Jets are comin' out on top, tonight!
    We're gonna watch Bernardo drop, tonight!
    That Puerto Rican punk'll go down!
    And when he's hollered "Uncle"
    We'll tear up the town! ♫
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • The Jets sing "Jet Song" on top of piles of construction rubble, symbolizing how, despite their assertions of their dominance, the gang is actually on borrowed time and will be extinct once the neighborhood is completely demolished for Lincoln Center.
    • When Tony and María dance behind the bleachers, everything is clean and the lighting makes it a dream-like state. Just as they kiss, and Luz calls for her, the scene snaps back to reality and we see that the bleachers are actually messy with all sorts of gym equipment.
    • Tony and María sing much of "Tonight" separated by the locked fire escape, symbolizing the division between their worlds.
    • The rumble takes place in a sanitation shed, as if the former is expected to "clean up" the gang problem plaguing the West Side.
    • The back exit of Gimbels is labeled as a fallout shelter. Since this comes directly after "I Feel Pretty" and before Maria is told about Bernardo's death, she is temporarily 'sheltered' from the 'fallout' of the rumble.
    • The police are shown arresting Chino as the camera pulls back through a fire escape and looks like prison bars, showing that Chino is fated to spend many years, or even the rest of his life, in jail.
  • Scars are Forever: Baby John gets a nail driven through his ear in the opening brawl. When he looks at it, Riff says it's going to leave a scar, like Frankenstein, something Baby John is pleased to hear.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: The dance at the gym is a neutral social event for both gangs.
  • Sex Signals Death: Unlike most productions, it's quite clear that Tony and María had sex before Anita found them. Tony, of course, is later killed by Chino.
  • Shown Their Work: Rita Moreno helped Spielberg capture the tone of being Puerto Rican in the 1950s, using her own experiences growing up in New York City.
  • Single Tear: Tony cries one at the end of "Cool" when he fails to get Riff to call off the rumble and fails to keep the gun away from him.
  • Splash of Color: Unlike the 1961 film, red is initially not part of María's dress, but Anita adds her red belt to it.
  • Staff of Authority: Riff picks a baseball bat as his weapon of choice for the rumble, and wields it around like a scepter as the Jets head for the salt shed.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Tony and María are enraptured by each other at the dance, but because they're from rival gangs, everyone around them hates the idea of their romance.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • When Tony goes looking for María after the dance in the Puerto Ricans' area and calls out her name, several other women who have the same name open their windows in response. María is a very common name for Hispanic women.
    • María is startled and suspicious to find Tony outside her apartment, having only met him once and not even told him where she lived.
    • María laughs when Bernardo says he doesn't want her to marry a gringo. The idea of marrying someone after only one dance is ridiculous to her.
    • Valentina mentors Tony that just because two people of different cultures love each other and stay together, it doesn't mean all is well or can end well. Her own marriage to Doc meant they both had to endure racism from both sides.
    • There's no sign that conflicts between the Jets and Sharks will end, even if the major deaths in the film can reduce strife for a brief time.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: The Jets scatter when the Sharks arrive to stop them from vandalizing a Puerto Rican flag mural.
  • Take Up My Sword: Riff gets to say a few words after getting stabbed by Bernardo, including telling Tony to take it out.
  • Tattooed Crook: Riff has a number of tattoos on his arms, as do a few of the other Jets.
  • Tears of Remorse: Bernardo after he kills Riff and Chino after he kills Tony.
  • Tempting Fate: Lampshaded by Tony. When Valentina tries to caution him against dating a Puerto Rican girl, saying it will only lead to trouble, he replies "I don't wanna jinx it, but maybe I'm done with trouble."
  • That Liar Lies: As with the other versions, when Chino tells María that Tony killed Bernardo, she accuses him of lying.
  • This Is What the Building Will Look Like: There are advertising billboards that depict Lincoln Center and its luxury apartments, which Anita fawns over during "America."
  • Thousand-Yard Stare:
    • As in the other versions, Chino has this when he goes to tell María about the rumble.
    • María herself has this expression in her final closeup.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In this version of the rumble, even after Tony proves to Bernardo that he could easily beat him to death and the only reason he is still able to stand is because of Tony showing mercy, Bernardo still tries to continue fighting him as Tony walks away and it directly leads to the knife fight that ends with Bernardo dead at Tony's hands. Justified as Bernardo is clearly so blinded by his hatred that he can't think to let Tony just leave.
  • Tragic Keepsake: When the Jets regroup at Doc's, Graziella is wearing one of Riff's shirts, which is presumably the only thing she has left of him.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom:
    • Tony arrives late to the rumble and Chino gets him in by helping him lift one of the shutter doors. This results in Tony trying to smooth things over with Bernardo, but the conflict escalates, ultimately resulting in the deaths of Riff, Bernardo, and Tony.
    • Riff acquires a gun ahead of the rumble, just in case the violence escalates. The gun does nothing to prevent his and Bernardo's deaths at the rumble, but it does kill Tony afterwards.
    • Anybodys grabs the gun out of Tony's hand and tosses it aside, where it's then picked up by Chino after everyone else has fled.
  • Vigilante Militia: This version of the Sharks street gang works to protect the rest of their neighborhood from racist toughs. Officer Krupke doesn't appreciate this, reminding them it's his and the rest of the police's job to respond to any crimes the Jets commit and what they're doing is also illegal.
  • Villainous Gentrification: While not the direct opposing force, the post-war slum clearance and gentrification of the Upper West Side hangs over the film and negatively affects the characters' lives. We see a Puerto Rican anti-eviction rally, and Valentina's store is next to a building that has been torn down.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Tony and Riff's friendship was once really solid, but Tony went straight after he was released from prison, while Riff continued to pick fights and cause trouble, resulting in them repeatedly clashing over each other's actions. Their relationship truly frays during "Cool," in which Tony actively tries to intimidate Riff into stopping the rumble, causing Riff to lash out with his fists. In spite of this, they still care about each other and Tony is driven to tears and murderous rage by Riff's death.
  • The Voiceless: Jet members Little Moly and Skink don't get any audible lines in the film.
  • Waving Signs Around: In "America," the line "Lots of doors slamming in our face!" is given to a group of Puerto Rican demonstrators who are protesting their pending evictions in favor of Robert Moses's urban renewal projects, including Lincoln Center.
  • The Worf Effect: Bernardo is a promising boxer in this version of the story, making it more impressive when Tony overpowers him during their fistfight.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Given his success as a boxer, there's little doubt that Bernardo would beat Tony in an actual match. But their fight isn't a boxing match, and there's nothing to stop Tony from using different tactics. Additionally, chances are Bernardo let his guard down on an opponent who initially wouldn't fight back.
  • You Are in Command Now: The film hints that, when the Jets were formed, Tony was the undisputed leader and Riff was his right-hand man. After Tony was sent upstate, Riff took over on the understanding that he would hand things back to him once he got out. But after "Cool" and coming to realize that Tony really is done with the Jets, Riff recognizes that it's now his gang.
  • You Are Too Late: It's implied that Braulio, Quique, Chago, and Chucho followed Chino from the boxing gym to try to stop him from killing Tony and ruining his life. When they finally catch up to him, he's already shot Tony and can only watch as María cradles Tony's body.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: To the authorities, the Sharks are just the latest in a long line of ethnic youth street gangs they have to deal with. To the Puerto Rican community, they're noble young men who defend them from the bigoted Jets.


Video Example(s):


A Boy Like That

In this song, Anita first lambasts Maria for sleeping with Tony. Maria then sings back that she wants to follow her heart. The two women then fight it out in counterpoint -- see how Anita repeats her verse from earlier.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / CounterpointDuet

Media sources: