The Karate Kid

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The Karate Kid
Karate kid.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Produced by Jerry Weintraub
Written by Robert Mark Kamen
Music by Bill Conti
Cinematography James Crabe
Edited by
Delphi II Productions
Jerry Weintraub Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 22, 1984 (1984-06-22)
Running time
127 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[2]
Box office $90.8 million[3]

The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts drama film produced by Jerry Weintraub, directed by John G. Avildsen, written by Robert Mark Kamen, and stars Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita and Elisabeth Shue.[4][5] It is an underdog story in the mold of a previous success with Rocky (1976), which Avildsen also directed. The film features the Gōjū-ryū style of karate. The Karate Kid was a commercial success upon release and garnered critical acclaim, earning Morita an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film became the first installment in an ongoing film series, spawning three sequels, a 2010 remake and an upcoming follow-up television series.


Daniel LaRusso and his mother move from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, Los Angeles, California. The maintenance man in their new apartment complex is an eccentric, kind and generous Okinawan immigrant named Mr. Miyagi.

At a beach party, Daniel meets Ali Mills, a high school cheerleader from Encino. Johnny Lawrence, Ali's ex-boyfriend, is the top student of a karate dojo called "Cobra Kai." When Johnny deliberately breaks Ali's radio, Daniel attempts to intervene, but is easily overpowered and humiliated by Johnny. Later, at a Halloween party, Daniel douses Johnny with water. Chased and eventually cornered by Johnny and his accomplices, Daniel is savagely beaten until Miyagi intervenes, rescuing Daniel and easily disabling all his attackers.

Daniel asks Miyagi to teach him to fight. Miyagi refuses, instead agreeing to accompany Daniel to the Cobra Kai dojo to resolve the conflict. They meet with sensei, John Kreese, an ex-Special Forces Vietnam veteran who teaches his students to be aggressive and merciless against their opponents. He dismisses the peace offering made by Miyagi, at which point Miyagi proposes that Daniel will enter the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament, where he will compete against the Cobra Kai students, and requests that the bullying cease while Daniel trains. Kreese agrees to the terms, and warns that if Daniel does not appear at the tournament, the harassment will resume on both Daniel and Miyagi.

Miyagi begins Daniel's training under the guise of having him complete various lengthy, menial chores that appear to have nothing to do with karate, but which are actually teaching movements of attack and defense. Through Miyagi's teaching, Daniel learns important life lessons such as the necessity of personal balance, reflected in the principle that martial arts training is not so much about disciplining the body as it is the spirit.

At the tournament, Daniel unexpectedly reaches the semi-finals. After Johnny defeats a particularly highly skilled opponent, Kreese becomes worried that Daniel might make it to the finals and defeat Johnny. Accordingly, he instructs Bobby Brown, one of his more compassionate students and the least vicious of Daniel's tormentors, to disable Daniel with an illegal attack to the knee. Bobby reluctantly does so, and is disqualified in the process. Daniel is taken to the locker room, where he convinces Miyagi to use a pain suppression technique so he can continue the tournament. Daniel wins the tournament with a crane technique that allows him to deliver a disabling blow to Johnny's head using only one leg. Johnny, having gained respect for his nemesis, gives Daniel his trophy and Daniel is carried off by the enthusiastic crowd.




The production obtained permission from DC Comics to use Karate Kid as the title of their film.[6]


According to the special-edition DVD commentary, the studio originally wanted the role of Mr. Miyagi to be played by Toshiro Mifune, but writer Robert Mark Kamen was opposed to that casting choice feeling that Mifune's interpretation of the character lacked the warmth and humor that the role needed. Mako was also considered for the role of Mr. Miyagi, but was not available due to prior commitments to film Conan the Destroyer, though he would eventually play a similar role in the film Sidekicks. According to Randee Heller, two days after she was cast, Jerry Weintraub informed her that they intended to replace her with Valerie Harper. John G. Avildsen said that after seeing Harper's audition they decided not to replace Heller after all.[7]


Filming began on October 31, 1983,[8] and wrapped on December 16, 1983.[9]


The musical score for The Karate Kid was composed by Bill Conti, a frequent collaborator of director John G. Avildsen since their initial pairing on Rocky (1976). The instrumental score was orchestrated by Jack Eskew and featured pan flute solos by Gheorge Zamfir. On March 12, 2007, Varèse Sarabande released all four Karate Kid scores in a 4-CD box set limited to 2,500 copies worldwide.[10]

A soundtrack album was released in 1984 by Casablanca Records containing many of the contemporary songs featured in the film. Of particular note is Joe Esposito's "You're the Best", featured during the tournament montage near the end of the first film. Originally written for Rocky III, "You're the Best" was rejected by Sylvester Stallone in favor of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger". Coincidentally, Survivor also performed the main theme ("The Moment of Truth" Music & Lyrics: Bill Conti, Dennis Lambert, Peter Beckett) for The Karate Kid.

Bananarama's 1984 hit song "Cruel Summer" also made its U.S. debut in The Karate Kid but was excluded from the film's soundtrack album. Other songs featured in the film but left off the album include "Please Answer Me" performed by Broken Edge and "The Ride" performed by The Matches.

Track listing for 1984 soundtrack
  1. "The Moment of Truth" (Survivor)
  2. "(Bop Bop) On the Beach" (The Flirts, Jan & Dean)
  3. "No Shelter" (Broken Edge)
  4. "Young Hearts" (Commuter)
  5. "(It Takes) Two to Tango" (Paul Davis)
  6. "Tough Love" (Shandi)
  7. "Rhythm Man" (St. Regis)
  8. "Feel the Night" (Baxter Robertson)
  9. "Desire" (Gang of Four)
  10. "You're the Best" (Joe Esposito)


Critical response[edit]

The Karate Kid ranked #40 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[11]

On its release, Roger Ebert called the film one of the year's best, gave it four stars out of four, and described it as an "exciting, sweet-tempered, heart-warming story with one of the most interesting friendships in a long time."[12] Janet Maslin of The New York Times also gave a positive review.[13]

Upon release of the 2010 remake, Dana Stevens wrote, "The 1984 original ... may have seemed like a standard-issue inspirational sports picture at the time, but (as with another box-office hit of the same year, The Terminator) a generation of remove reveals what a well-crafted movie it actually was. Rewatched today, the original Kid, directed by Rocky's John G. Avildsen, feels smart and fresh, with a wealth of small character details and a leisurely middle section that explores the boy's developing respect for his teacher."[14]


Year Award Category Result
1985 Academy Awards Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Pat Morita Nominated
1985 Golden Globes Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture - Pat Morita Nominated
1985 Young Artist Awards Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama - Elisabeth Shue Won
1985 Young Artist Awards Best Family Motion Picture - Drama Won
1985 Young Artist Awards Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Musical, Comedy, Adventure or Drama - William Zabka Nominated


The film spawned a franchise of related items and memorabilia such as action figures, head bands, posters, T-shirts, and a video game. A novelization was made by B.B. Hiller and published in 1984. The novel had a scene that was in the rehearsal when Daniel encounters Johnny during school at lunch. Also at the end, there was a battle between Miyagi and Kreese in the parking lot after the tournament which was the original ending for the film and used as the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II.

The film has been credited for popularizing Karate in the United States.[15][16]

A short-lived animated series spin-off aired on NBC in 1989.

The music video for the song "Sweep the Leg" by No More Kings stars William Zabka (who also directed the video) as a caricature of himself and features references to The Karate Kid, including cameo appearances by Zabka's former Karate Kid co-stars.[17]

In 2015, toy company Funko revived The Karate Kid action figures. Two versions of character Daniel Larusso, a version of character Johnny Lawrence and a version of Mr. Miyagi were part of the line. The toys were spotted at retailers Target and[18]

Sequels and remake[edit]

The original 1984 film had three sequels, and it launched the career of Macchio, who would turn into a teen idol featured on the covers of magazines such as Tiger Beat. It revitalized the acting career of Morita, previously known mostly for his comedic role as Arnold on Happy Days, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance as Mr. Miyagi. Morita reprised his role in three subsequent sequels.[19]

TV Series[edit]

On August 4, 2017, it was announced that a new half-hour dramedy TV series was in development to continue the Karate Kid franchise. The series, titled Cobra Kai, will reunite Ralph Macchio and William Zabka who are set to reprise their roles as Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence respectively. The show will be set 30 years after the original film, focusing on Johnny who is down on his luck and re-opens the Cobra Kai dojo on his search for redemption. This puts him at odds with Daniel, who, though successful, is trying to find balance in his life without Mr. Miyagi.

Josh Heald will write the script with Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg while the latter duo will direct most of the series, they will also executive-produce alongside Macchio and Zabka. The series received an order of 10 episodes for the first season which is set to debut on YouTube Red in 2018.[21][22]

On February 15, 2018, the first teaser trailer for Cobra Kai was released.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE KARATE KID (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. July 2, 1984. Retrieved June 8, 2015. 
  2. ^ Straight to DVD: Original "Karate Kid" on Blu-ray. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  3. ^ "The Karate Kid". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  4. ^ "The Karate Kid". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet. "The Karate Kid (1984)". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  6. ^ The Karate Kid (DVD).  (closing credits)
  7. ^ "Karate Kid Q&A W/Director John G Avildsen & Cast Part 1". YouTube. H Dellamorte. Event occurs at 11:47. Retrieved 4 March 2017. 
  8. ^ Daily Variety Magazine; November 04, 1983; Page 10
  9. ^ Daily Variety Magazine; December 19, 1983; Page 3
  10. ^ "The Karate Kid". Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  11. ^ "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. 2008-07-31. 
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "The Karate Kid". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 4/4 stars
  13. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 22, 1984). "SCREEN 'KARATE KID,' BANE OF BULLIES". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  14. ^ Stevens, Dana (June 10, 2010). "The Karate Kid". Slate. 
  15. ^ Powell, Larry; Garrett, Tom (20 December 2013). "The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid and Other Underdogs". McFarland. Retrieved 28 December 2017 – via Google Books. 
  16. ^ M.D, Lyle J. Micheli (17 November 2010). "Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine". SAGE Publications. Retrieved 28 December 2017 – via Google Books. 
  17. ^ Campbell, Christopher (June 6, 2010). "William Zabka-Directed Music Video, 'Sweep the Leg, Johnny'". Moviefone. AOL. Retrieved December 1, 2016. 
  18. ^ "The Karate Kid (1984) Action Figures have been Revived by Funko". Z.Love's Entertainment Blog. 2015-10-10. Retrieved 2015-10-10. 
  19. ^ Thurber, Jon (2005-11-26). "Pat Morita, 73; Actor Starred in 'Karate Kid' Movie Series". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  20. ^ "Jackie Chan set for 'Karate' remake - Entertainment News, Film News, Media". Variety. 2009-07-13. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  21. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (August 4, 2017). "'Karate Kid' TV Sequel, Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, a Go at YouTube Red". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 5, 2017. 
  22. ^ Romano, Nick (August 4, 2017). "Karate Kid sequel series reuniting Ralph Macchio, William Zabka". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 5, 2017. 
  23. ^ Anderton, Ethan (February 15, 2018). "'Cobra Kai' Teaser Trailer Reunites 'The Karate Kid' with His High School Bully". Slash Film. Retrieved February 15, 2018. 

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