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Is West Side Story Ok For Kids? Parent Movie Review

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Sharks and Jets and star-crossed lovers: does it get any better than this? Bringing the famed story back to the big screen is sure to introduce a new generation of musical loving kids to a classic. But is West Side Story ok for kids? This parent movie review and guide of the 2021 movie will help you decide if this is safe and kid-friendly for your family. West Side Story opens in theaters nationwide Tonight, Tonight…!

is west side story ok for kids? parent movie review

About West Side Story

Directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Tony Kushner, “West Side Story” tells the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City.

This reimagining of the beloved musical stars Ansel Elgort (Tony); Ariana DeBose (Anita); David Alvarez (Bernardo); Mike Faist (Riff); Brian d’Arcy James (Officer Krupke); Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank); Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino); with Rita Moreno (as Valentina, who owns the corner store in which Tony works); and introducing Rachel Zegler (Maria.)

You can watch the West Side Story trailer here.

dancers in a city street in colorful red and yellow dresses. is west side story safe for kids? parent guide

Is West Side Story Ok For Kids? Parent Movie Review

Let’s be honest: West Side Story isn’t what one would call kid-friendly based on the subject matter, and that counts for the play and the 1961 movie.

And the 2021 West Side Story movie doesn’t change too much of that.

The things that did improve with age (proper representation and a toning down of the outright racial slurs) make this one something rare in film: a true improvement wrapped up in a remake.

In this parent move review and guide, we’ll let you know what to expect as far as language, violence, sex, and nudity in the movie.

We’ll also give a suggested age-appropriate range for kids who want to watch West Side Story.

Teens with a love of theater may be itching to see this one, especially with In the Heights and Tick Tick BOOM making such big waves this year.

Here’s what you need to know to decide if 2021s West Side Story is ok for kids in your household.

valentina in west side story. Is it kid friendly?

Is West Side Story Ok For Kids: Language

There is quite a bit of language thrown around in this one.

One big thing to note: there is a lot of Spanish spoken as well and there are no subtitles.

The language runs the gamut of questionable offensive words: racial/ethnic slurs such as Sp!c, Pol@k, D@go, and Guine@ are used throughout the movie along with minor curse words like @ss, b@stard, and h@ll.

You’ll also hear G-d d@mmit and G-d d@amn as well in the movie.

Additional terms that are simply not kind or toe the line when it comes to acceptable language for some teens to hear include Pansy, titty, and d!ckless.

There’s also some bullying of a trans teen throughout the story that could be triggering to some kids watching.

is west side story ok for kids? Parent movie guide


It’s a story about two street gangs from a lower socioeconomic neighborhood in the 50s.

Violence was a way of life for some.

One character is a boxer, one character has just returned from prison for beating up another gang member, and everyone is itching to hit someone in this movie.

There are crimes of property as well.

There are large fight scenes (sure, some of it is dance fighting, but the clear intent to do harm is there). Characters are beaten up and bloodied.

Weapons such as bats, knives, chains, pipes, and guns are used.

One dance scene is actually built around a fight over a gun.

is west side story safe for kids? Tony and Maria dancing

And there are violent deaths that occur in this movie. Not a lot of blood is shown, but there is some.

The hardest-hitting violence, however, is an attempted rape scene toward the end of the movie. It’s raw, powerful, and tense.

Even though no nudity or act of rape is completed, it leaves a lingering impact that could be hard for some teens to digest.

Sex and Nudity In West Side Story: Is It Safe For Kids?

There are some loving and healthy relationships that do involve sex, kissing, and embracing in West Side Story.

These scenes are handled in a more kid-friendly way with a couple retreating to a bedroom and a door closing and another waking up in bed together.

While there is no actual sex or nudity happening on screen, it is implied.

Is west side story ok for teens to watch? Sharks dancing and jumping in the street

What Ages Are Appropriate To See West Side Story? What is it rated?

West Side Story is a modern(ish) day Romeo and Juliet.

If a teen has read and discussed that work of literature, they should be able to watch the 2021 version of West Side Story and come away with an appropriate understanding.

2021 West Side Story is rated PG-13 for strong language, violence, thematic content, suggestive material, and brief smoking.

A character also mentions going to get beer and weed, but this isn’t shown on screen.

This is also a long movie! Younger kids may lose interest or have a need to go, run and pee during West Side Story.

We think kids ages 14 and up are a good target audience for West Side Story. It should be safe for teens who are in high school and whose parents don’t have a huge issue with language or fight-fight type violence.

West Side Story parent guide: Is this one ok for kids? Maria in a white dress at the dance

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