Best of the Best

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This article is about the 1989 martial arts film. For the 1992 Hong Kong film, see Best of the Best (1992 film). For the unrelated video game, see Best of the Best: Championship Karate. For the science fiction anthology, see Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year's Best Science Fiction. For the Frank Sinatra compilation album, see Sinatra: Best of the Best.
Best of the Best
Best of the Best Poster.jpg
Original theatrical poster
Directed by Bob Radler
Produced by Phillip Rhee
Peter Strauss
Written by Paul Levine
Story by Paul Levine
Phillip Rhee
Starring Eric Roberts
James Earl Jones
Phillip Rhee
Christopher Penn
Music by Paul Gilman
Cinematography Douglas Ryan
Edited by William Hoy
The Movie Group
SVS Company, Inc.
Kuys Entertainment
Distributed by Taurus Entertainment
Release dates
  • November 10, 1989 (1989-11-10)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Best of the Best is a 1989 American martial arts film directed by Bob Radler, and produced by Phillip Rhee, who also co-stars in the film. The film also starred Eric Roberts, James Earl Jones and Christopher Penn.

The plot revolves around a team of American martial artists facing a team of Korean martial artists in a taekwondo tournament.[1] Several subplots pop up in the story - moral conflicts, the power of the human spirit triumphing over adversity and the meaning of life are some themes.


Alexander Grady, a widower and father of a five-year-old son, Walter, is chosen to represent the United States of America in an international martial arts tournament against Team Korea, despite a shoulder injury that once forced him into retirement. Also chosen for the team is Tommy Lee, a man seeking revenge against a member of Team Korea for the death of his brother during a previous tournament. The rest of Team USA consists of Travis Brickley, an extremely brash fighter with a short fuse; Virgil Keller, a devout Buddhist; and Sonny Grasso, a streetwise fighter from Detroit.

Coached by veteran trainer Frank Couzo, the team prepares to meet an unstoppable group of true martial arts experts. Their chances of winning are virtually non-existent, as the Koreans train all year long and are known as the best the sport has to offer. Along their journey, the Americans have to deal with their personal conflicts and tragedies, before they become a team.

When the tournament starts, Virgil and Sonny are out classed by their Korean opponents. Travis does his best to psyche up the team with his brash attitude leading to a sudden death breaking duel with his opponent. Couzo invites Alex's family to motivate him to win; however, his shoulder is severely re-injured during his bout. Instead of giving up, he implores Tommy to "pop" the shoulder back into place and resumes the fight with one arm, ultimately defeating his opponent.

Finally, Tommy faces the captain of the Korean team, Dae Han, the man responsible for the death of his brother. After a slow start, Tommy gets the upper hand and delivers a series of moves that forces Dae Han solely on the defensive. As the match nears its end, Tommy has brought the American team within a single point of victory. Consumed with vengeance, Tommy prepares to end the fight, but realizing that the battered Dae Han would likely not survive the attack, Couzo orders Tommy to stand down, saving the man's life but forfeiting the victory as time expires. Couzo consoles Tommy afterwards, telling him, "You won that match, don't ever forget that".

At the medal ceremony, Dae Han approaches Tommy and praises him for his honorable act. He then apologizes for the death of Tommy's brother, and in return offers himself as a brother to Tommy. Tommy accepts, and Dae Han hands over his medal before the two men embrace. The other members of Team Korea then follow suit, awarding their medals to their respective American opponents.



It is set and filmed in Los Angeles, California and Seoul, South Korea between February 13 and April 6, 1989.


Best of the Best
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released 1989
Genre Rock, Pop
Length 35:40
Label Relativity Records

Originally released as a vinyl record album, cassette and CD, re-released on CD in 2004.[2]

  1. Tales of Power - Jim Capaldi (3:32)
  2. Best of the Best- Stubblefield & Hall (4:12)
  3. American Hotel - Kirsten Nash (4:14)
  4. Something so Strong - Jim Capaldi (4:34)
  5. The Devil Made Me Do It - Golden Earring (3:18)
  6. Radar Love (live) - Golden Earring (4:00)
  7. Backroads - Charlie Major (4:03)
  8. Original Score Medley - Paul Gilman (4:11)
  9. Someday I'm Gonna Ride in a Cadillac - Charlie Major (3:36)


Critics were universally negative about the film.[3][4][5][6][7] In his book Iceman: My Fighting Life, UFC champion Chuck Liddell cites Best of the Best as his personal favorite martial arts film.[8]


Rhee revealed in a interview with The Action Elite that he's planning on rebooting the franchise with a new cast and Rhee will produce the new film.[9][10]


  1. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1989-11-10). "MOVIE REVIEW Plot Defeats `Best' Karate Sequences". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  2. ^ "Best Of The Best- Soundtrack details". 2007-05-13. Retrieved 2013-05-10. 
  3. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1989-11-10). "MOVIE REVIEW Plot Defeats `Best' Karate Sequences". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  4. ^ Holden, Stephen (1989-11-11). "Best of Best". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  5. ^ "Best of Best". Pop Matters. Retrieved 2011-01-13. 
  6. ^ "Best of Best". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  7. ^ "MOVIE REVIEW High-kicking Martial Arts Film Isn't Best". Sun Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 
  8. ^ Liddell, Chuck; Chad Millman (2008). Iceman: My Fighting Life. New York: Penguin. p. 24. ISBN 0525950567. 
  9. ^ Moore, David J. (June 22, 2015). "Interview With Phillip Rhee". The Action Elite. 
  10. ^ Golden, Lee (June 23, 2015). "BEST OF THE BEST Star Phillip Rhee: 'We're Going To Reboot The Whole Franchise'". Film Combat Syndicate. 

External links[edit]

Best of the Best at the Internet Movie Database