One of the acting legends of the past 60 or so years, in my opinion, is Rita Moreno. Starting off her career in Broadway very young and then moving into movies not that long after, she's been in many films and TV shows, whether that be in a supporting role or a main one.
With her appearance in the remake of West Side Story, directed by famed movie-maker Steven Spielberg, as part of the 2021 movies schedule, it only seems appropriate that we show you how to watch the best Rita Moreno movies and TV shows that are streaming or available to rent right now. Here are our picks.
West Side Story (1961)
In this Academy Award-winning musical, West Side Story tells of the forbidden love story between Tony and Maria, two people from two very different sides of New York, and different gang afflictions with the Jets and the Sharks. While their hearts say to be together, the rest of the world thinks differently.
As a young Puerto Rican who loved musicals, I would watch West Side Story all the time, and Rita Moreno was the perfect person to play Anita. Her portrayal of the character ended up winning the hearts of critics and viewers alike, leading to her winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, further cementing her talents in Hollywood. With her appearance in 2021’s West Side Story, it’s almost like her career has come full circle.
This HBO series, titled Oz, told the story of Oswald State Penitentiary (a Level 4 maximum-security prison), its prisoners and staff, covering their daily lives as well as the wars between factions within the prison.
Rita Moreno played Sister Peter Marie Reimondo, a religious figure within the prison who acts as a drug counselor and psychologist, and she plays it perfectly. What really makes Oz stand out is its willingness to dive deep into serious issues. Sometimes, watching the show almost feels claustrophobic in a way, because it takes place completely in a prison, but that’s what makes it so good. You really feel like you’re a prisoner while watching.
Popi follows a Puerto Rican widower, who is struggling to try and raise his two children in Spanish Harlem, a New York City neighborhood, and his story of perseverance.
Popi often reminds me of movies like I Like it Like That (which Rita Moreno also had a minor role in) and 2021’s In the Heights, as it’s all about the human experience of living in neighborhoods that sometimes aren’t the kindest to its inhabitants. Rita Moreno plays Lupe, the girlfriend of the main character (played by Alan Arkin), and those two have brilliant chemistry together, creating a resonating relationship that feels heartbreakingly real, paired with serious issues that create even more tension.
Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
This movie is probably one of the most well-known classic musicals of all time. Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’ Conner, and Debbie Reynolds, tells the story of silent film actors in the 1920’s, and their transition into performing in “talkies.”
Rita Moreno’s part is smaller than some of her others listed, but I feel that her character as the “Zip Girl,” and playing Lina’s friend, is memorable enough to include on here, as she’s such a fun addition to the cast and really adds that extra bit of spice that the movie needs, making me chuckle each time I see her. Singin’ in the Rain is also just a classic in general - if you haven’t seen it, what are ya doin’? You need to watch this, at the very least, once. The music alone is worth the time.
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
In this comedy-drama, Carnal Knowledge tells the story of two men who become friends in college, and follows the evolution of their sex lives over time, whether that be through girlfriends, one night flings, or other relationships.
Rita Moreno comes in near the end of the film as Louise, a prostitute that Jonathan (played by Jack Nicholson) spends time with. Even so, her time in the film is memorable, as she delivers a powerful performance that stands out amongst the rest. It’s not my personal favorite movie, but I do like it for her scenes.
The Four Seasons (1981)
In this funny romantic comedy, The Four Seasons follows three upper middle-class couples in New York City, who take vacations together, but once this pattern is established between the friends, problems begin to arise and create issues in all of the relationships.
I absolutely adore Rita Moreno’s Claudia Zimmer in The Four Seasons. Not only is her character a talented painter, but she’s outspoken as hell and will speak her mind, no matter who tells her that she’s too loud or too frank. I actually like the relationship between her and her husband in the movie. While it’s not the most romantic, it feels the realest, and something that I can appreciate as someone who has seen way too many cliche romantic comedies.
Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? (1994-1999)
If you’re looking for a great children’s television show, check out Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? This series, based on the video games of the same name, follows the titular character as she travels around the world with her gang to steal artifacts that are worth tons of money, as they're followed by the ACME Detective Agency.
I may be a tad bit biased, but '90s/'00s cartoons are the best, no competition, and this was one that really stood out among the rest. Rita Moreno was the perfect option to voice the main character. Her suave Spanish accent paired with the slickness that is Carmen Sandiego makes her a perfect fit. And, the show is genuinely just a lot of fun, showing interesting characters and valuable lessons.
The King And I (1956)
Another classic movie musical, The King and I tells the story of the relationship between the King of Siam and Anna, a British school teacher who is brought to Bangkok to teach Siam’s wives and children during the 1860s.
Rita Moreno as Tuptim was a great pick, and her acting alongside Yul Brynner, who played the King, was brilliantly done and created some truly awesome scenes of this famous movie musical. The King and I also teaches valuable lessons as well, about a leader who must come into his own to provide for the sake of his kingdom, and not let power get to his head. He must be kind and compassionate, not ruthless. It’s not my favorite movie musical, but it’s certainly one to watch if you enjoy them, considering it was nominated for (and won) several awards.
The Slums Of Beverly Hills (1998)
Moving on, we have the comedy-drama, The Slums of Beverly Hills. Starring Natasha Lyonne, this movie follows teenaged Vivian, growing up in a lower-middle-class family that relocates every few months during the '70s.
Rita Moreno plays Belle, the mother of Vivian’s cousin (played by Marisa Tomei), in the movie, and while she’s not on screen for very long, I especially love her moments talking with Vivian. She’s so funny and really brings out the personality of her character in a way that’s hard to describe. Also, her and Carl Reiner have hilarious chemistry and should have been in more movies together. This cult classic is great - give it a shot if you haven’t seen it.
One Day At A Time (2017-2020)
This Netflix original series is a remake of the 1970s series of the same name. Taking place in present day, One Day at a Time tells the story of a Latino family living in Los Angeles and trying to go about their daily lives while also dealing with real-world issues that impact them on a daily basis.
Rita Moreno plays the matriarch of the family, Lydia, and she is hilarious in her role, creating so many hysterical scenes, and I especially love her moments with her grandchildren, Elena and Alex. One Day at a Time is not only a great representation of Latinx culture in television, but is also a fantastic show that touches on many serious topics, such as racism, sexual assault, and more in a meaningful way, mixed in with some well-written characters. It’s a shame it was cancelled too soon. I could have seen this lasting a long time.
Happily Divorced (2011 - 2013)
Lastly, we have Happily Divorced. This comedy series revolves around the story of Los Angeles florist Fran finding out that her husband is gay after almost two decades of marriage, and how she learns to deal with life without him.
Rita Moreno plays Dori Newman, Fran’s mother, and it’s such a shame that this show was cancelled because they were amazing. Moreno and Fran Drescher’s chemistry was impeccable and I loved watching their comedic timing, with plenty of great one-liners and jokes that had me wiping tears from my eyes. I do think the show could have been improved upon a bit, but at the end of the day, it still had hilarious moments that made me chuckle and was worth at least a third season.
With a career spanning as many years as it has, it’s no wonder that Rita Moreno has cemented herself as a Hollywood legend. And, maybe now, you just might find a new television show to watch, or a fun movie to revisit every once and a while.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
Your Daily Blend of Entertainment News
Thank you for signing up to CinemaBlend. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.