Ice leads the Jets out of the alley and into the streets, as Ice tells them that they ought not to lay low because it will make them seem suspicious to the cops. Anybodys approaches them and they shoo her away for awhile, but she eventually gets their attention and tells them that the Sharks are looking for Tony and they have a gun. She tells them she spied on the Sharks to learn what is happening and that she heard Chino say, "If it's the last thing I do, I'm gonna get that Polack."
Ice tells the Jets that they have to look out for Tony, and they disperse to find him. Anybodys asks Ice what she can do to help, and he tells her to go in and out of the shadows to find Tony. "You done good, buddy boy," he says to her, and she says, "Thanks daddy-o." Ice runs down the middle of the street and past a shadowy corner, from which Chino emerges, brandishing a gun.
Tony and Maria sleep in her bed together, when there is a knock at the door. Anita comes into the apartment, as Tony scrambles to put on his clothes. Finding the door locked, Anita asks Maria to open the door, but Tony asks Maria not to. Anita hears whispers from inside Maria's room and grows suspicious. Before he climbs out the window, Tony tells Maria to meet him at Doc's store and they can get a bus to somewhere far away.
After Tony flees, Maria lets Anita into her bedroom. Immediately, Anita goes and looks out the window into the alley, where she sees Tony meeting up with Anybodys. Anita is furious, insisting that Tony is "one of them" and launching into an impassioned song ("A Boy Like That"). Maria sings a counter melody about how she loves Tony in spite of his misdeed ("I Have a Love"). By the end of the song, the two women are holding hands and agreeing that "Your love is your life."
Lieutenant Schrank visits the apartment and asks to speak to Maria. Anita signals for Maria to put on a nightgown and tells Schrank that Maria isn't feeling well, but he barges into the bedroom nonetheless, asking to question Maria, who wants to defer questioning with the excuse that she is mourning. Seeing an opportunity, Maria asks Anita to go to Doc's store to pick her up some aspirin, an excuse for her to send a message to Tony that she is running a little late.
Anita puts a scarf over her head and goes. Schrank asks who Maria was dancing with at the gym the previous night, and she lies that she was dancing with a Puerto Rican named Jose.
We see Baby John and some other Jets run into Doc's store. Anybodys tells them she found Tony and that he's in the cellar of Doc's store. Ice goes back out to look for Chino, as the boys talk about the fact that Doc is scrounging up some money for Tony in his mattress.
Suddenly, Anita comes into the store, and one the boys begins whistling "La Cucaracha." When she asks to see Doc, they tell her Doc isn't there, lying that he's at the bank. The Jets try to get her to leave, blocking her way as she tries to get to the cellar. They begin spewing racist jeers when Anita tells them, "I gotta give a friend of yours a message." She asks after Tony, but they insist that Tony isn't there. "Don't you understand? I want to help!" Anita yells, as they continue to tease her, suggesting that she just wants to find Tony so that Chino can kill him. They call her names and make fun of her race, grabbing her and pushing her around with her own scarf.
When they pick up Baby John and begin to put him on top of Anita, Doc runs in and interrupts to stop them. "What are you doing there?" he asks, as Anita stands up slowly and says, "Bernardo was right. If one of you was lying in the street bleeding, I'd walk by and spit on you!" As she goes to the door, she sneers, "You tell that murderer that Maria's never going to meet him! You tell him that Chino found out about them and shot her!"
"You make this world lousy!" Doc says to the Jets, but Action counters, "We didn't make it." The Jets file out one by one and go back out into the street. Doc goes to the cellar to give Tony the money, and Tony is excited about moving to the country with Maria. Suddenly, Doc hits Tony in the face and tells him that Maria is dead.
Tony is heartbroken as Doc tells him that Chino killed Maria. He runs up the stairs into the street and calls for Chino. "Come and get me too, Chino!" he yells, running through the streets. Anybodys emerges from the shadows and tries to protect Tony, but he is heartbroken and yells at her, "You're a girl! Be a girl and beat it!"
Suddenly, Tony sees Maria running towards him nearby. As she calls for him, he runs towards her, hardly able to believe he's alive, but Chino shoots him just as he lands in her arms. The gang members assemble around the couple as Maria holds the dying Tony. "They won't let us be," Tony says, as Maria says, "Then we'll get away!" She starts to sing "Somewhere" to him, but he dies in her arms.
As the gangs walk towards one another, Maria yells at them to stay back and takes Chino's gun. She points it and yells, "All of you, you all killed him, and my brother, and Riff, not with bullets and guns. With hate!" She drops the gun sobbing as Lieutenant Schrank arrives at the crime scene. Maria throws herself on Tony's body as Schrank walks towards him. Action walks over to Maria, followed by some other Jets. Maria kisses Tony and whispers, "Te adoro Anton." As the Jets carry Tony's body away, some Sharks join them. Baby John puts a mourning scarf over Maria's head and she walks out of the lot, mournfully.
The dramatic tension escalates even more when Anybodys reveals to the Jets that the Sharks have a gun and are looking for Tony. The brutality only increases after the murders of Bernardo and Riff, and Tony is in danger. Once set in motion, the cycle of violence proves unstoppable in the tense atmosphere of New York City gang culture. No one can diffuse the tremor of violence underscoring the dynamics between the gangs.
At the center of the film is the theme of romantic love. It is what binds Maria to Tony, even in the wake of the violence that should drive them apart. The depth of Maria and Tony's love is exemplified by their loyalty to one another, and their plans to make a life together, far from the difficulty of New York. Even the skeptical and fiery Anita, by the end of her duet with Maria, can see that the love between Maria and Tony is special and important.
Anita, sympathizing with Maria's plight, even agrees to visit Doc's store while Maria is getting questioned to deliver a message to Tony. Tony has killed her boyfriend, but she can see Maria's love and agrees to help her, in spite of the risk. The bond shared between the two women is strong and intense, and Rita Moreno's Academy Award-winning performance highlights the conflict that Anita feels in helping her friend find happiness when hers has been destroyed.
Even when it seems as though love will cut through the violence and bigotry of the neighborhood, in the end, the racial prejudice and the gang tension overpowers Tony and Maria's idealism. When Anita goes to deliver a message to Tony that Maria has been detained, the Jets encircle her and begin heckling and teasing her, using racist stereotypes and even physically pushing her around to intimidate her. She wants only to deliver a message to Tony, but the Jets suspect her of spying on them for the Sharks, and instead of listening to her, they intimidate her. The more they push her around, the angrier she gets; yet again, violence begets violence, as Anita delivers a devastating lie, saying that Maria was killed by Chino.
For all its vitality and ebullience, the film is a tragedy, a tale of preventable murder and thwarted love. At the end, just as Tony is running towards Maria, realizing she is still alive, Chino shoots him and he dies on the street. It is only in this tragic moment that the characters are sobered to the violence in which they are wrapped up. Tearfully, Maria suggests that the problem in the community is not simply about violence and guns, but about hate, the failure to empathize with and love one another. That magical "somewhere" remains an idyll, a fantasy, as the Jets and Sharks carry Tony's lifeless body away.