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
Starring Ralph Macchio
Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
Elisabeth Shue
Music by Bill Conti
Cinematography James Crabe
Editing by John G. Avildsen
Walt Mulconery
Bud S. Smith
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • June 22, 1984 (1984-06-22)
Running time 126 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $90,815,558[2]

The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts romantic drama film directed by John G. Avildsen and written by Robert Mark Kamen, starring Ralph Macchio (who was 22 years old during principal photography), Noriyuki "Pat" Morita and Elisabeth Shue.[3][4] It is an underdog story in the mold of a previous success, Avildsen's 1976 film Rocky. It was a commercial success upon release, and garnered favorable critical acclaim, earning Morita an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.


Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), a high school senior, moves with his mother (Randee Heller) from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. Their apartment's handyman is an eccentric but kindly and humble Okinawan immigrant named Kesuke Miyagi (Morita).

Daniel befriends Ali Mills (Shue), an attractive high school cheerleader, at the same time angering her arrogant ex-boyfriend, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Johnny is the best student at the Cobra Kai dojo, where he is taught an unethical, vicious form of karate. Daniel knows a little karate from books and a few classes at the YMCA, but Johnny easily defeats him in their first encounter. Thereafter, Johnny and his gang of Cobra Kai students torment Daniel at every opportunity.

During a Halloween party where he pulls a prank on Johnny and his friends, Daniel is chased by the gang and is savagely beaten, when suddenly Mr. Miyagi intervenes and single-handedly defeats the five attackers with ease. Awed, Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi to be his teacher. Mr. Miyagi refuses, but agrees to go with Daniel to the Cobra Kai dojo in order to resolve the conflict. They meet with the sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), an ex-Special Forces Vietnam veteran who sneers at the concepts of mercy and restraint. Kreese and Mr. Miyagi agree to a match between Daniel and the Cobra Kai students in two months' time at the "All Valley Karate Tournament," where Johnny is the defending champion, and the Cobra Kai students can fight Daniel on equal terms. Mr. Miyagi also requests that the bullying stop while Daniel trains. Kreese orders his students to leave Daniel alone, but warns that if Daniel does not show up for the tournament, the harassment will resume and Miyagi himself will also become a target.

Mr. Miyagi becomes Daniel's teacher and, slowly, a surrogate father figure. He begins Daniel's training by having him perform menial tasks such as waxing cars, sanding a wooden walkway, and painting a fence at Mr. Miyagi's house. Each chore is accompanied with specific body movements including clockwise/counter-clockwise and up-and-down hand motions. Daniel fails to see any connection to his training and these chores; believing he has simply been Mr. Miyagi's slave. When he expresses his frustration, Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel that while doing these chores, Daniel has been learning defensive blocks through muscle memory.

As Daniel's training continues, his bond with Mr. Miyagi becomes closer. He learns that Mr. Miyagi lost his wife and son in childbirth at Manzanar internment camp while he was serving overseas with the United States Army during World War II. The loss of his family and Daniel's loss of his father further strengthen the father-son surrogacy. Daniel also discovers that the outwardly peaceful and serene Miyagi had received the Medal of Honor while serving with the 442nd Infantry Regiment against German forces in Europe. Through Mr. Miyagi's teaching, Daniel learns not only karate but also important life lessons such as the importance of personal balance, reflected in the principle that martial arts training is as much about training the spirit as the body. Daniel applies the life lessons that Mr. Miyagi has taught him to strengthen his relationship with Ali.

At the tournament, Daniel surprises everyone by reaching the semi-finals. Johnny advances to the finals, scoring three unanswered points against a highly skilled opponent. However, Kreese 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, severely injuring Daniel and getting disqualified in the process. Daniel is taken to the locker room and checked out, with the physician determining that he cannot continue, but Daniel believes that if he does not continue, his tormentors will have gotten the best of him. He gets Miyagi to use a pain suppression technique to allow him to finish the tournament. As Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Daniel hobbles into the ring. The championship final is a seesaw battle, as neither Johnny nor Daniel is able to break through the other's defenses.

Daniel successfully uses a scissor leg technique, tripping Johnny and delivering a blow to the back of the head, giving Johnny a nose bleed. The match is paused for Johnny to be looked at by Kreese. Kreese directs Johnny to sweep Daniel's injured leg, an unethical move. Johnny looks horrified at the order, but reluctantly agrees after Kreese's intimidation. Despite the pain, Daniel gets up each time. Eventually, Daniel and Johnny are tied, with the next point deciding victory. Daniel tries to kick Johnny with his injured leg but Johnny grabs it and again delivers illegal contact to Daniel's injured knee. Daniel, barely able to stand, assumes the "Crane" stance, a technique he observed Mr. Miyagi performing on the beach during his training. After the referee signals to begin, Johnny lunges in. Daniel jumps in the air and delivers a front kick to Johnny's chin, winning the tournament. Johnny, having gained newfound respect for his adversary, takes Daniel's trophy from the Master of Ceremonies and presents it to Daniel himself, sincerely proclaiming "You're all right, LaRusso! Good match!" Mr. Miyagi, Ali, and Daniel's mother look on admiringly as Daniel celebrates his victory.



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. Mako Iwamatsu 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.


The soundtrack album (containing songs from the film) was released on Casablanca Records. Of particular note is Joe Esposito's "You're the Best", featured during the tournament montage near the end of the first film. Bananarama's 1984 hit song "Cruel Summer" also made its first U.S. appearance in the movie but was excluded from the film's soundtrack album. Other songs featured in the film were left off the album, including "Please Answer Me", performed by Broken Edge, and "The Ride" performed by The Matches.

The instrumental scores for all four Karate Kid films were composed by Bill Conti, 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.[5]

Reception [edit]

The Karate Kid ranked #31 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[6] The film retains a 90% "Certified Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 41 reviews.[7]

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."[8] Janet Maslin of The New York Times also gave a positive review.[9]

Upon the 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."[10]


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 but was later cut and was picked for the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II.


The film spawned a franchise of related items and memorabilia such as action figures, head bands, posters, T-shirts and a video game. A short-lived animated series spin-off aired on NBC in 1989. The 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.[11]

Awards and honors [edit]

References [edit]

  1. ^ Straight to DVD: Original "Karate Kid" on Blu-ray. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  2. ^ "The Karate Kid". Box Office Mojo. CBS. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  3. ^ "The Karate Kid". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet. "The Karate Kid (1984)". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Karate Kid". Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  6. ^ "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. 2008-07-31. 
  7. ^ "The Karate Kid". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "The Karate Kid". Chicago Sun-Times (Chicago Sun Times). Retrieved 2009-10-07. 4/4 stars
  9. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 22, 1984). "SCREEN 'KARATE KID,' BANE OF BULLIES". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  10. ^ Stevens, Dana (June 10, 2010). "The Karate Kid". Slate. 
  11. ^ Thurber, Jon (2005-11-26). "Pat Morita, 73; Actor Starred in 'Karate Kid' Movie Series". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  12. ^ By (2009-07-13). "Jackie Chan set for 'Karate' remake - Entertainment News, Film News, Media". Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 

External links[edit]