Here’s Everyone Who Died in ‘West Side Story’ & if There Were Any New Deaths From the Original

"West Side Story"
Photo: Niko Tavernise / © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection.

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If you haven’t seen the original movie, you may want to know who dies in West Side Story and if characters like Maria, Tony and Anita live until the end of the musical.

West Side Story—created by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sonndheim—premiered on Broadway in 1957. Inspired by William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, the show is set in the mid-1950s in the Upper West Side of New York City and explores the rivalry between two teenage street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. The Jets are a white gang, while the members of the Sharks or their families are from Puerto Rico. The musical follows Tony—a former member of the Jets and the best friend of the gang’s leader, Riff—fall in love with Maria, the sister of the leader of the Sharks, Bernardo.

After its debut on Broadway, West Side Story went on to run for 732 performances and be nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, in 1958. A movie adaptation of the musical, starring Natalie Wood as Maria and Richard Beymer as Tony, was made in 1961. The film was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 10, including Best Picture. A second film adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort as Maria and Tony, premiered in December 2021.

So who dies in West Side Story? Read on to find out if Maria, Tony, Anita and other characters make it to the end and if there are any differences between the deaths in the new movie and the deaths in the original film.

Does Riff die in West Side Story?

"West Side Story"

Image: Niko Tavernise / © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Does Riff die in West Side Story? The answer is yes. Riff, the leader of the Jets and Tony’s best friend, is the first character to die in West Side Story after he’s stabbed to death by Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, Maria’s older brother and Anita’s boyfriend. Riff dies in the middle of a musical after a fight between the Jets and the Sharks. Before the rumble, Riff buys a gun, which he brings to the fight with plans to use to shoot Bernardo. However, after he loses the gun, Riff and Bernardo pull out switchblades, which Bernardo uses to fatally stab Riff in the chest. Riff also dies in the original West Side Story Broadway musical and in the 1961 movie. Riff is based on the Romeo and Juliet character, Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, who is also stabbed to death by a sword after a fight between him and Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin.

Does Bernardo die in West Side Story?

"West Side Story"

Image: Niko Tavernise / © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Does Bernardo die in West Side Story? The answer is yes. Bernardo—the leader of the Sharks, Maria’s older brother and Anita’s boyfriend—is the second character to die in West Side Story. Bernardo is killed during a fight between the Jets and the Sharks in the middle of the musical. After he stabs Riff to death with his switchblade, Bernardo is killed by Tony, who, in a rage after his best friend’s death, takes Riff’s knife to fatally stab Bernardo. After Bernardo’s death, Tony runs away. But before the Sharks can chase him, the police arrive, which leads the Jets and the Sharks to scatter as the camera shows Riff and Bernardo’s dead bodies. Bernardo also dies in the original West Side Story Broadway musical and in the 1961 movie. Bernardo is based on the Romeo and Juliet character Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, who is also stabbed to death by Romeo (the inspiration for Tony) after he kills his best friend, Mercutio.

Does Anita die in West Side Story?

"West Side Story"

Image: Niko Tavernise / © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Does Anita die in West Side Story? The answer is no. Anita—Bernardo’s girlfriend—is alive at the end of West Side Story. Anita does, however, face danger when she goes to Valentina’s store after Riff and Bernardo’s death to warn Tony, who Maria tells Anita to find after learning that Chino has Riff’s gun and plans to kill Tony for Bernardo’s murder. At Valentina’s store, however, Anita encounters the Jets who call her racist slurs and try to sexually assault her before Valentina stops them. Traumatized and feeling betrayed by Valentina, Anita lies and tells her that Chino killed Maria. Anita also lives in the original West Side Story Broadway musical and 1961 movie. Tony also dies in the original West Side Story Broadway musical and in the 1961 movie.

Does Tony die in West Side Story?

"West Side Story"

Image: Niko Tavernise / © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Does Tony die in West Side Story? The answer is yes. Tony—a former member of the Jets and Maria’s love interest—is the third character to die in West Side Story. Tony is shot by Chino, a friend of Bernardo’s who’s in love with Maria. Tony, who’s told by Valentina that Maria died, is killed at the end of the movie after he finds Maria and learns that she’s alive. As he runs toward Maria, Tony is shot in the back by Chino, who stole Riff’s gun after the Jets and the Sharks’ fight. Tony is based on Romeo from Romeo and Juliet, who drinks poison to kill himself at the end of the play after thinking that Juliet had died.

Does Maria die in West Side Story?

"West Side Story"

Image: Niko Tavernise / © 20th Century Studios / Courtesy Everett Collection.

Does Maria die in West Side Story? The answer is no. Maria—Bernardo’s younger sister and Tony’s love interest—is alive at the end of West Side Story. Anita tells Valentina that Chino killed Maria, but the story was a lie. After Chino shoots Tony to death with Riff’s fun, Maria takes the gun and threatens to kill Chino, the Jets, the Sharks and herself with the weapon but can’t bring herself to shoot it. The movie ends with Maria embracing Tony’s dead body as the police arrive to arrest Chino. Anita also lives in the original West Side Story Broadway musical and 1961 movie. Maria is based on Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, who fakes her death with a drug to escape her wedding to Paris. Thinking that Juliet is dead for real, Romeo drinks poison to kill himself. When Juliet wakes up from her faked death and sees Romeo dead, she stabs herself with his dagger and also kills herself. Chino is the inspiration for the Romeo and Juliet character Paris, who is betrothed to Juliet despite her love for Romeo. The play sees Romeo kill Paris before discovering Juliet’s dead body.

The new West Side Story is in theaters now and will be available to stream on Disney Plus in 2022. Here’s how to watch it for free.


"West Side Story" Soundtrack

Image: Courtesy of Hollywood Record.

West Side Story 2021 Soundtrack

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