The Next Karate Kid

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The Next Karate Kid
The next karate kid.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Christopher Cain
Produced by Jerry Weintraub
Susan Ekins (associate producer)
R.J. Louis (executive producer)
Written by Mark Lee (using the "Mr. Miyagi" character created by Robert Mark Kamen)
Starring Pat Morita
Hilary Swank
Michael Ironside
Music by Bill Conti
Cinematography László Kovács
Edited by Ronald Roose
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
August 12, 1994 (1994-08-12)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $15.8 million

The Next Karate Kid (aka The Karate Kid Part IV) is a 1994 American martial arts drama film starring Pat Morita and Hilary Swank. It is the fourth and final film in the original The Karate Kid series. It was directed by Christopher Cain, written by Mark Lee with music by Bill Conti. This is the only film in the original series that does not feature Ralph Macchio in the lead role and that was not directed by John G. Avildsen. The film's two taglines are: An ancient tradition is about to collide with a new generation and Who says the good guy has to be a guy?


Mr. Miyagi leaves Los Angeles and travels to the city of Boston to attend a commendation for Japanese-American soldiers who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. There, he meets Louisa Pierce, the elderly widow of his commanding officer, Lieutenant Jack Pierce. At Pierce's home, they catch up on old times and talk about war stories.

Miyagi is then introduced to Pierce's granddaughter, Julie, an angry teenage girl who is full of pain, sorrow, and resentment because of the death of her parents in a car accident. Her anger and violent behavior have led to friction between Julie and her grandmother and her fellow students. She also sneaks into the school at night to care for an injured hawk, named Angel, which she keeps in a pigeon coop on the roof.

Hoping to help, Miyagi invites Louisa to stay at his house in L.A to spend time enjoying peace and quiet tending his garden while he stays in Boston and appoints himself as Julie's caretaker. At school, Julie meets and befriends Eric McGowen, a kindhearted security guard in training and a pledge for a shady school security fraternity known as the Alpha Elite. The members of this organization are taught to strictly enforce the school rules, even using physical force if necessary, by a vicious mentor, a self-styled "colonel" named Dugan. In this group is Colonel Dugan's strongest and most aggressive student Ned, who makes repeated, indiscreet, and unsuccessful sexual advances on Julie. Eric learns of Angel and promises to feed her while Julie is with Miyagi.

When Julie survives almost being hit by a car by jumping into a tiger position, she reveals to Miyagi that she was taught karate by her father, who learned from her grandfather, Miyagi's student. The next time she sneaks into the school to feed her bird, she is detected by the Alpha Elite, and chased through the school. Julie hides in the cafeteria until Ned finds her, at which point she hits a fire alarm with her backpack, causing Ned to let go of her. Escaping the school, she is arrested by the police and gets suspended from school for two weeks. Miyagi uses this time to take Julie to a Buddhist monastery in order to teach her the true ways of karate.

At the monastery, Julie learns through direct lessons about balance, co-ordination, awareness, and respect for all life. She befriends several monks including the Grand Abbot. Eventually, the monks hold a birthday party for her, giving her a cake and an arrow that Miyagi had caught while it was in flight in a demonstration of Zen archery.

Upon Julie's return to school, she finds that Angel is now able to fly and Miyagi assists Julie in releasing the bird back to the wild. In preparation for the upcoming school prom, Miyagi teaches Julie how to dance and also buys her a prom dress. While Julie goes to the dance with Eric, Miyagi and the Buddhist monks go bowling. A boastful and undisciplined local player challenges them, loses the match, and accepts their tutelage. Meanwhile at the prom, under the orders of Colonel Dugan, the Alpha Elite bungee jump into the dance. When one of the members breaks his arm, Ned angrily tells Eric to mind his own business.

Eric drives Julie home and kisses her. Ned follows them and smashes Eric's car windows with a baseball bat. Ned then challenges Eric to a fight at the docks, a favored Elite hangout. At the fight, Ned is joined by Colonel Dugan and the rest of the Alpha Elite. They set fire to Eric's car and severely beat him. Dugan disturbingly tells them to "finish it." Before they can, Eric is saved by Julie and Miyagi.

As they prepare to leave, Ned tries to grab Julie, but she challenges him to a fight. She holds her own, using the karate she has learned, until Ned cheats by throwing sand in her face. Despite her disadvantage, Julie defeats Ned and turns her back on him. This prompts Colonel Dugan, in desperation, to bully the rest of his group, urging them to continue the fight but they refuse. Miyagi then challenges Colonel Dugan to fight. Miyagi wins the fight and then departs accompanied by Julie and Eric. He then reveals to Julie a tenet of his practice, at which he had hinted en route to the monastery: "Fighting is not good. But if you must fight, win." The film concludes with a scene of Angel flying freely above sunlit waters.



All the interior and exterior high school scenes were filmed on the Brookline High School campus, except for the scene in the gymnasium.[citation needed] The exterior shot is the Brookline High School gym, but the interior was Cousens Gymnasium at Tufts University. Other scenes from the movie were shot in the Boston area. For example, the scenes at Julie's house were filmed in nearby Newton.

The first three movies in the series, which featured Ralph Macchio as Daniel, were set in Los Angeles. In this movie, the setting is changed to Boston.

Mr. Miyagi's approach to karate-training is different as well, although he still has Julie wash cars ("Wax on, wax off") in order to teach her how to block punches and kicks. In the original 1984 film, Daniel used to think karate came from Buddhist temples; "You watch too much TV," Miyagi tells him. In Next Karate Kid, Miyagi actually trains Julie at a Japanese monastery.

Because Hilary Swank could learn the advanced "flashy" moves and had trouble with the beginner moves, Pat E. Johnson, the martial arts choreographer, awarded her with a "Pink" belt, a mix of the white (beginner) and red (the one just under black in that particular style).[citation needed]

In all the four movies, the reunion scene is the only time Miyagi actually wears his Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor is worn on a silk ribbon around the neck, not pinned through a jacket. The only other neck order issued by the United States is the Legion of Merit.

Conforming to the title changes of the first, second and third Karate Kid films for their releases in Japan, The Next Karate Kid was renamed Best Kid 4 (ベスト・キッド4/Besuto kiddo 4); the major and obvious change is that this movie's translated title now explicitly identifies it as the fourth in the series.

John G. Avildsen, the director of the first three films in the series, dropped out of this one in favor for 8 Seconds.[citation needed] As a result, Christopher Cain took over in the director's chair.

The Next Karate Kid is the only film in the series where screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who had written all three of the others for the screen, did not have a writing credit.

Reception [edit]

The Next Karate Kid has been critically panned.[1] However, many critics praised Swank, and it is still considered to be her break-out performance. Based on 27 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes; the film has an approval rating of just 7%.[2] Stephen Holden said it "may be the silliest episode yet in the popular Karate Kid series", a film that "doesn't even try to achieve surface credibility"; about the only thing positive Holden says about the film is that Swank makes an "appealing debut."[3]

In February 2005, upon the release of the three-DVD "Karate Kid Collection", Variety magazine called The Next Karate Kid a "boilerplate coming-of-age sequel" but notes that Swank's "plucky determination and athletic drive shines through" that film as it would later do in Million Dollar Baby.[4]

The Next Karate Kid was by some margin the least successful movie of the series at the domestic box office. Indeed, the film's performance ensured that the franchise disappeared from cinemas for sixteen years, only reappearing in 2010 as a remake of the original movie. The total box office gross for The Next Karate Kid was $8.9 million, compared to $90.8 million for the original, $115.1 million for Part II, $38.9 million for Part III and $171.8 million for the 2010 Karate Kid.[5]


  1. ^ "'Last': A Clear Remembrance of 'Karate Kid' Past". Los Angeles Times. 1994-09-12. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  2. ^ The Next Karate Kid at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen (September 10, 1994). "Wise Karate Master Gives Cram Course in Lovableness". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  4. ^ Garrett, Diane (February 6, 2005). "The Karate Kid Collection (3 Discs $36.95)". Variety. Retrieved 2011-03-27. 
  5. ^ Gray, Brandon (2010). "Franchises: The Karate Kid". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-07-31. 

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