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
Edited by John G. Avildsen
Walt Mulconery
Bud S. Smith
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • 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, a high school senior, moves with his mother Lucille from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, a neighborhood in the Los Angeles, California San Fernando Valley area. Their apartment's handyman is an eccentric but kindly and humble Okinawan immigrant named Kesuke Miyagi.

Daniel befriends Ali Mills, an attractive high school cheerleader, which draws the attentions of her arrogant ex-boyfriend, Johnny Lawrence, a skilled practitioner of "Cobra Kai" Dojo an unethical and vicious form of karate. Daniel's limited karate skills are no match when Johnny challenges him. Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang continually torment Daniel eventually savagely beating him when Mr. Miyagi intervenes and single-handedly defeats the five attackers with ease. Mr. Miyagi refuses to teach Daniel karate and instead agrees to intervene with the sensei at the Cobra Kai dojo in order to resolve the conflict with mercy and restraint.

John Kreese, an ex-Special Forces Vietnam veteran has contempt for Mr. Miyagi's suggestions. So, Miyagi suggests that at the next tournament in two months that Daniel compete with Johnny, the defending champion, and the other Cobra Kai students on equal terms. Kreese agrees to the stipulation that Daniel being tormented during the training be stopped, but warns that Miyagi and Daniel will be tormented if there is a no show at the tournament.

Daniel's training starts with menial chores that he believes only makes him Miyagi's slave but after becoming frustrated it is explained that these actions help him learn defensive blocks through muscle memory. Their bond develops and Miyagi opens up to Daniel about his life that includes the double loss of his wife and son in childbirth at Manzanar internment camp while he was serving with the 442nd Infantry Regiment during World War II in Europe and received a Medal of Honor.

Miyagi's hopes that Daniel learns that the principle of karate includes a balance of the inner spirit along with the training of the body. Daniel and Ali become closer after he applies this to his life.

People at the tournament are surprised that Daniel makes it to the semi-finals. Johnny advances to the finals, scoring three unanswered points against a highly skilled opponent. Kreese has 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 which disqualifies Bobby and sends Daniel to the locker room to be evaluated. Daniel defies the prognosis of the doctor believing that a no show will see the resuming of being tormented along with Miyagi. Miyagi has Daniel use a pain suppression technique in order to compete with Johnny. Daniel hobbles into the ring as Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default. The match is a seesaw battle as either is unable to overcome the other's defensive moves.

The match is halted when Daniel successfully uses a scissor leg technique to trip Johnny, deliver a blow to the back of the head and give Johnny a nose bleed. Johnny is horrified that Kreese intimidate Johnny into using of the unethical sweep move to further injure Daniel's leg. Despite the pain with each sweep Daniel resumes position for the match. Eventually, they are tied and the next point will decide who is the victor.

Daniel uses his injured leg to kick Johnny with his injured leg but Johnny grabs it and again delivers illegal contact to Daniel's injured knee. Daniel, standing with difficulty assumes the "Crane" stance, a technique he observed during his training Mr. Miyagi perform on the beach. The match resumes and Johnny lunges toward Daniel who jumps in the air and delivers a frontal kick to Johnny's chin, winning the tournament. Johnny, having gained newfound respect for his nemesis, 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]

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)

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]