On the west side of New York City, the Jets and the Sharks are white immigrant and Puerto Rican gangs respectively who hate each other and who battle each other for territory in their neighborhood. Their feud makes a small connection when at a gymnasium dance, Tony, one of the founders of the Jets but who is now inactive in the gang, and Maria, the recently arrived sister of the Sharks' leader Bernardo, spot each other across the crowded room and fall in love at first sight. For many of the male gang members, that connection is the last straw in their feud that leads to the decision to have a rumble to determine territory once and for all. Conversely, Anita, Bernardo's girlfriend, supports Maria's decision to romance whomever she wants, even a Jet. However, even Anita may be able to endure so much in her stance to support true love. As Maria and Tony try to meet each other clandestinely at any opportunity, Maria makes a request of him to foster peace between the Jets and Sharks, which inadvertently leads to a series of tragic events not only for the collective but personally for Maria and Tony.