The Karate Kid (1984 film)

The Karate Kid (1984 film)
The Karate Kid

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 date(s) June 22, 1984 (1984-06-22)
Running time 126 Minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $90,815,558[1]

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, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita and Elisabeth Shue.[2][3] 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 Pat Morita an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.



Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) 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 Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita).

Daniel befriends Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), a pretty 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 martial arts. 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.

When Miyagi witnesses the gang giving Daniel a savage beating, he intervenes and single-handedly defeats all five boys with ease. Awed, Daniel asks Miyagi to be his teacher. Miyagi refuses, but agrees to go with Daniel to the Cobra Kai dojo in order to resolve the conflict. They confront the sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), an ex-Special Forces Vietnam Veteran who sneers at the concepts of mercy and restraint. Kreese and Miyagi agree to a match between Johnny and Daniel in two months' time at the "All Valley Karate Tournament," where the Cobra Kai students can fight Daniel on equal terms. Miyagi also requests that the bullying stop while Daniel trains. Kreese orders his students to leave Daniel alone, but under the condition that if Daniel does not show up for the tournament, the harassment will resume and Miyagi himself will also become a target.

Miyagi becomes Daniel's teacher and, slowly, a surrogate father figure. He begins Daniel's training by having him perform laborious chores such as waxing cars, sanding a wooden floor, refinishing a fence, and painting Miyagi's house. Each chore is accompanied with a specific movement, such as clockwise/counter-clockwise hand motions. Daniel fails to see any connection to his training from these hard chores and eventually feels frustrated, believing he has learned nothing of karate. When he expresses his frustration, Miyagi reveals that Daniel has been learning defensive blocks through muscle memory learned by performing the chores.

As Daniel's training continues more overtly, his bond with Miyagi becomes closer. He learns that 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 strengthens the father-son surrogacy. Daniel also discovers that the outwardly peaceful and serene Miyagi was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for heroism against German forces in Europe. Through the teaching, Daniel learns not only karate but also important life lessons such as the importance of balance, reflected by the belief that martial arts training is as much about training the spirit as the body. Daniel applies the life lessons that 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. 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. As Daniel writhes in pain on the ground, Bobby profusely apologizes before he is pulled away. Daniel is taken to the locker room and checked out, with the physician determining that he cannot continue. Although Miyagi assures him he has already proven himself, Daniel believes that if he does not continue, his tormentors will have gotten the best of him. He persuades 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 match is a seesaw battle, as neither Johnny nor Daniel is able to break through either's defenses. At one point Daniel is knocked to the ground but takes Johnny down with him and delivers 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 as for it is an unethical move. Johnny looks horrified at the order but reluctantly agrees after Kreese's intimidation. Despite the moves, Daniel gets up each time. At last, Daniel and Johnny are tied, with the next point deciding victory. Daniel, barely able to stand, assumes the "Crane" stance, a technique he observed Miyagi performing on the beach during his training. The referee signals to begin, and Johnny lunges in. Daniel jumps 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!" Miyagi looks on proudly as Daniel celebrates his victory.



Chuck Norris allegedly turned down the role of John Kreese, because he did not want to portray a character that reinforced a negative stereotype of martial arts. Norris disputed this story during a February 9, 2006 appearance on The Adam Carolla Show, Norris insisted that he was not offered the role, and that he was already acting in leading roles at that time anyway.[4] Additionally, according to the special edition DVD commentary, the studio originally wanted the role of Mr. Miyagi to be played by Toshirō Mifune, but writer Robert Mark Kamen was opposed to that casting choice. 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. Kyle Eastwood was considered for the role of Daniel LaRusso. Eastwood turned down the role and was replaced by Ralph Macchio.


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 Ride" has never been released on any album, but was made available on iTunes, and Rhapsody in April 2009 for the film's 25th anniversary.[citation needed]

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)
Track listing for 2007 Varèse Sarabande score
  1. "Main Title" - 3:30
  2. "Fight Nite" - 2:01
  3. "A Bumpy Ride" - 1:37
  4. "Dan Ducks Out" - 0:55
  5. "Bonsai Tree" - 0:43
  6. "Decorate the Gym" - 0:39
  7. "Miyagi Rattles Bones" - 2:21
  8. "Miyagi Intercedes" - 1:28
  9. "On to Miyagi's" - 1:33
  10. "The Pact" - 2:12
  11. "Feel the Night" - 1:56
  12. "Troubled Lovers" - 0:33
  13. "Japanese Sander" - 1:26
  14. "Daniel Sees the Bird" - 2:38
  15. "Fish and Train'" - 2:28
  16. "Training Hard" - 2:29
  17. "The Kiss" - 1:02
  18. "Japanese Hand Clap" - 0:40
  19. "No Mercy" - 0:23
  20. "Daniel's Moment of Truth" - 1:52


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]

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]


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.[10]

Awards and honors


  1. ^ "The Karate Kid". Box Office Mojo. CBS. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  2. ^ "The Karate Kid". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  3. ^ "The Karate Kid (1984)". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Chuck Norris". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  5. ^ "The Karate Kid". Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  6. ^ "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly.,,1532588,00.html. 
  7. ^ "The Karate Kid". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 
  8. ^ Roger Ebert. "Karate Kid". 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. ^ "Pat Morita, 73; Actor Starred in 'Karate Kid' Movie Series". The Los Angeles Times. 2005-11-26. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  11. ^ By (2009-07-13). "Jackie Chan set for 'Karate' remake - Entertainment News, Film News, Media". Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 

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