Above and beyond the genius move of setting a modern Romeo and Juliet among the gangs of 1960s New York, West Side Story is a perfect storm of theatrical and cinematic talent. Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, with a screenplay by Ernest Lehman (the man who wrote North by Northwest!) and that immortal score by Sondheim and Bernstein, the movie pays tribute to Shakespeare by treating his 1590s tragedy as 20th-century melodrama — and creating a second masterpiece from the first. Some of the film’s elements haven’t aged as well as others (Natalie Wood is not Puerto Rican, and she never will be), but for sheer emotional sweep, few adaptations of the Bard can touch it. Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like this movie. Just. Don’t.
See also: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes is a visually imaginative take on the story (although far too self-consciously hip for some tastes) while Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 version will always hold a special place in the hearts of teens everywhere for its brief but quite excellent nudity.
Next Macbeth (1948)