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  • Accidental Innuendo: "When you come, use the back door."
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Questionable as to whether his motive to kill Tony is driven by the latter's relationship with Maria, Tony's murder of Chino's best friend Bernardo, or a mixture of both. Can depend on the production.
  • Author's Saving Throw: The Spielberg film specifically asked for Latino actors for the Shark auditions, after the controversy of the original film's casting. Maria's new actress, Rachel Zegler, can also do her own singing, unlike Natalie Wood, whom Marni Nixon dubbed over.
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  • Award Snub: It lost that year's Tony to The Music Man.
  • Ear Worm:
    • Many, like "Mambo" and "America".
    • "Tonight". Big time.
    • "MARIAAAAAAAAAAAAA."
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Both Anita and Anybodys, although Anybodys joining in taunting Anita during the rape scene can make her unlikable for some (although in the film when the taunting gets to the attempted rape she's seen in the back looking disgusted and it's clear she isn't on-board anymore).
  • Fair for Its Day: One of the classic examples. It's a tragic love story about the pointlessness and destructive nature of bigotry and racism, released right around the time of the Civil Rights movement...and the Latino characters are nearly all played by white actors in Brownface using embarrassingly over-the-top accents.
  • Faux Symbolism: The virginal Maria wears a white dress to her first dance (and unsuccessfully asks Anita to dye it red so she'll look more "grown up"), but a red one following the loss of her virginity to Tony. Also, in the final scenes, she's wearing a black shawl around her head. Probably representing her mourning for her brother, but it comes in handy when she has to mourn Tony as well.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: "America" has a couple:
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    • The line of "the money owing" is this because, in 2016, the government of Puerto Rico started to miss payments on its debt, requiring the government of the United States of America to step in.
    • The line "Let it sink back in the ocean" from the same song becomes this after Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, with the US government being criticized for not doing enough to help.
    • For that matter, the line "Nobody knows in America/Puerto Rico's in America" is particularly relevant to the above situations.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The movie has one Jet declare his love for Captain Marvel, to which another Jet sarcastically responds, "So marry him!" Nowadays, viewers un-versed in comic history would probably hear this exchange as the Jets inexplicably referring to Carol Danvers with masculine pronouns, since Marvel Comics rechristened her superhero alias to "Captain Marvel" in 2012; it also doesn't help that DC Comics renamed their Captain, "Shazam", in 2011.
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  • Ho Yay: Playwright Arthur Laurents (a gay man himself) supported the idea that Tony and Riff may have previously been lovers and that Riff is still in love with Tony even though the latter has moved on. Under his direction, the 2009 Broadway revival played up the subtext. Of course, they are based on Romeo and Mercutio.
  • It Was His Sled: Tony dies. Though in fairness, Maria not dying is a big case of Not His Sled from the source material.
  • Memetic Mutation: A rare case of a memetic dance—the Jets snapping their fingers and leaping in the air.
    ''When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way...!"
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: West Side Story may have stereotypical depictions of Puerto Ricans but the original film in particular is considered an important film for latino Americans nevertheless.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • The entire argument over which gang is more sympathetic. It completely spits in the face the theme that both sides are adding to the conflict.
    • Many older viewers cite Doc's "You kids make this world lousy!" monologue as a condemnation of young people, conveniently forgetting the line that follows it.
    Action: We didn't make it, Doc.
  • Moral Event Horizon: It's pretty hard to root for the Jets after they attempt to rape Anita. Granted, the entire point is to not root for either side.
  • Narm:
    • The fact that Action in the film looks like Matt Le Blanc.
    • Or the fact that "Baby John" doesn't look or sound that much younger than the other Jets.
    • A lot of the slang used by the Jets is cringe-worthy by today's standards. Ironically, it's not even real '50s slang, but was invented by the writers so as not to date the piece.
    • Anita's section of "Tonight," with her simply wanting to get laid being given the exact same dramatic weight as the rumble.
  • Nightmare Fuel: 'Cool' in the film is a little unsettling to watch, especially with the multiple shots of all the Jets coming towards the camera, and the dancing makes them seem a tad unhinged, especially with the intermittent 'POW!'s.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • In the stage version, the unnamed girl who sings the song "Somewhere".
    • John Astin as the MC at the dance in the film.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: It can seem horribly cliche nowadays — not least because it's adapting Romeo and Juliet, which itself underwhelms many readers who find it trite, shallow, and immature. There's also the fact that it's meant to be against bigotry and racism, but the Sharks have much less stage/screen time than the Jets and the film casts white performers with affected accents in major Puerto Rican roles.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Maria's closing speech where she chews out everyone over Tony's death.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • "You're a girl, Anybodys. Be a girl!" is supposed to be part of Tony objecting to the senseless gang violence, but now it just sounds sexist, as if the violence is especially bad because even a girl wants to fight. Due to the ambiguity over Anybodys' gender identity (some productions play the character as a transgender boy), there's another layer of dissonance added in that they might be misgendering Anybodys on top of the sexism.
    • In "Gee Officer Krupke", the reasons for the Jets being delinquents are pretty fair (My father is a bastard/My ma's an S.O.B./My grandpa's always plastered), until we get to "My sister wears a mustache" and "My brother wears a dress" which sounds pretty ignorant against crossdressers and trans people.
    • The story treats Puerto Ricans as immigrants. This may have been commonplace at the time of release, but it's fallen out of use due to it being incorrect. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth instead of a full-fledged state, but Puerto Ricans are American citizens. If anything, many Puerto Ricans take offense to being called immigrants thanks to their pride as Americans.
  • Values Resonance: The song "America", in which the Puerto Ricans discuss how it feels to live in America and the differences between it and their homeland, feels a lot more relevant today with regards to the treatment of immigrants and Mexicans.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • For a part of a Puerto Rican in a musical, a Russian-American was cast, who couldn't sing (okay, Natalie Wood actually could sing, but she wasn't good enough for this movie).
    • Compare white Carol Lawrence in the original Broadway cast (although she could sing).

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