West Side Story Parents Guide – Parental guidance is recommended for this untimely classic

West Side Story

West Side story is a powerful musical about gangs, jazz, and love in 1957 New York. The story is a modern remake of the age-old classic Romeo and Juliet where two stars crossed lovers – Maria, from the Puerto Rican community and Tony, from the American community – tries to deceive all odds to bring the communities together and stop the fighting.

Parental Rating

There are portrayals of violence, substance use, suggestive material, and strong language which gives this film a PG13 rating. Parents are advised to not show this film to children under 13 and are also advised to consider whether the content will upset children over 13 due to some mature themes and violence.

Things parents should watch out for in this film

—Violence and drug use

The musical shows many bouts of fights between the American gang (also known as the Jets) and the Puerto Rican gang, each more violent than the last. Characters are realistically beaten with dangerous objects while gory fights are shown in three instances. During the final scene, a protagonist is repeatedly shot at the back where he falls dead on the ground with suspense-filled music.

In another instance, a gruesome brawl breaks out between the two gangs where two members carry on fighting with their fists. After the fight intensifies, the boys stab and kill each other while off-screen characters are heard encouraging to stab more.

The film also shows many scenes of smoking both by the gangs and the police. Mild violence including stealing, destructing property, vandalism is also shown.

—Mature topics and frightening scenes

The film has many references to adult themes and sexual content. A gang attempt to rape a boy from another gang before the attempt is thwarted. In another instance, a woman is about to get raped by a gang as they ask her to dance for them and remove her clothes. Sexual references to sucking on breasts are also shown.

Although a musical, the film shows some upsetting visualisations of blood and gore. At the start, a boy is shown with a nail wedged in his ear with visible blood. Several boys not trained in gun safety is seen carrying around a loaded weapon. Multiple people die in very emotional ways making the film dark and deep at times.

—Strong language

Discriminatory language and alternatives to profanity are used throughout the film. Both gangs use derogatory terms towards the other. Words like ‘krup you’, ‘motherlovin’, ‘dickless’, ‘god darn’ are also heard. However, most of the curses are said in Spanish and is not subtitled. Some songs of this musical also use substitutes to profanities.

West Side Story is a must-watch movie as it relates to an untimely classic about love and peace. The star-studded cast with the powerful presence of Steven Spielberg as the director had earned a 95% rating on rotten tomatoes. However, we strongly advise parents to accompany children above 12 when watching this musical as it includes many phases of violence, gore, destruction and mature content.