Every Karate Kid movie and series (in chronological order)

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The Karate Kid The franchise began in 1984 with the directly titled film, The Karate Kid. It starred Ralph Macchio as the titular character, Daniel LaRusso, and Pat Morita as his mentor and father figure, Mr. Miyagi. It was a simple underdog story, but it achieved significant financial success and became an 80s classic over time.


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The film’s critical and financial success led to three sequels (and a cartoon spin-off) over the next decade, a 2010 reboot, and a YouTube Red follow-up that became a Netflix TV series. There have been many ups and downs throughout the franchise, but many are worth remembering.

seven The Karate Kid (1984) excelled thanks to the performances of the actors

The Karate Kid (1984) follows Daniel LaRusso incurring the wrath of a pack of bullies led by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and ultimately, their Cobra Kai karate sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove), after maintenance man and martial artist hidden Mr. Miyagi saves Daniel from a beating. So, the parties decide to settle their feud by participating in a karate tournament at the local high school.

The younger cast brings simple yet effective sympathetic performances. Kove is pleasingly theatrical as the Kreese, while Morita brings a never-before-seen range of emotions to his role, with a passionate student-teacher relationship between him and Daniel. The fight choreographies and training montages remain timeless. While the film isn’t without its cheesiness, it fits the times.

6 The Karate Kid Part II continued the story and upped the ante

The Karate Kid Part II has Daniel and Miyagi travel to the latter’s village in Okinawa to visit his dying father and make amends with his old friend Sato Toguchi (Danny Kamekona) and former lover Yukie (Nobu McCarthy). There, Daniel falls in love with Yukie’s niece, Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita), while developing a rivalry with Sato’s nephew, Chozen (Yuji Okumoto).

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The opening felt out of place with the rest of the film, and Daniel’s bitter off-screen breakup with the first film’s girlfriend, Ali Mills, was somewhat weak. The film also treats Daniel’s story as a b-plot. However, the new settings and characters are entertaining, and Miyagi’s character is given more depth. The film further ups the stakes with a battle to the death.

5 The Karate Kid Part III was a shoddy retread of the original

The Karate Kid Part III showed Kreese destitute and broken after losing all of his students due to Johnny being strangled at the start of the previous film. He considers giving up, but his longtime war friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) takes it upon himself to help Kreese get revenge by manipulating Daniel for the next tournament.

The film repeats too many beats from the first film, such as setting and characterizations, without the charm or stakes. Plus, most of the characters make notoriously bad decisions. Its only upside was Griffith’s performance as Terry Silver, which turned out to be pleasantly funny in an otherwise uninteresting movie. Years later, the follow-up series would even occasionally override the madness of the film.

4 Most Fans Forgot The Karate Kid Cartoon

In 1989, NBC released a Karate Kid cartoon loosely based on the earlier films. It followed Daniel and Mr. Miyagi attempting to recover a small, stolen Okinawan shrine with supernatural powers. Each episode brings them closer to getting it back, only to lose it again.

Despite decent animation, a catchy theme song, and Morita reprising his role as Miyagi, its lack of association with virtually anything film-related has prevented it from attracting an equal fanbase. Additionally, NBC changed the show’s syndication, resulting in its cancellation after only 13 episodes. While the show doesn’t represent the franchise’s worst by any means, the choices regarding its creation are somewhat bizarre.

3 The next Karate Kid backfired by attempting a new story

The Next Karate Kid decided to take a different route from the previous three films by not having Ralph Macchio return as Daniel or anything to do with them other than having Miyagi. Instead, it followed Miyagi helping his commanding officer’s bitter teenage granddaughter, Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank) during World War II.

Despite the best efforts of both leads, several issues within the film bogged it down. First, most of the dialogue lacks substance. Second, the villains are too cartoonish without the theatrics that made previous antagonists like Kreese and Silver enjoyable. On top of that, the karate elements and several other scenes serve no purpose, nor are there any stakes until the quick and disappointing climax.

2 The Karate Kid (2010) had potential

2010 saw a remake of The Karate Kid (1984). It followed Dr. Parker (Jaden Smith) and her mother moving from Detroit to Beijing and facing the wrath of city bully Cheng (Zhenwei Wang). He meets a maintenance man named Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), who helps teach him kung fu to defend himself against Cheng and his buddies in a tournament.

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The biggest problem is that the movie teaches kung fu despite its title.Chan is an engaging mentor and even manages to pull off dramatic moments. Wang gives a strong performance as a bully and the action is well choreographed. However, Smith’s performance left something to be desired, and the original had more fun and memorability with every aspect.

1 Cobra Kai has cemented itself as a solid continuity of the original films and its characters

2018 saw a sequel TV series to the original Karate Kid movies titled Cobra Kai. This followed unlucky Johnny Lawrence reopening the Cobra Kai dojo to make ends meet and relive its glory days. His decision comes to the chagrin of a now prosperous Daniel, causing old feuds and alliances to return and new ones to form.

Zabka’s performance and Johnny’s redemption story are central to the show, leading to the show’s best comedy and sincerity. The show made the most of the original characters and introduced new ones, many of whom have become just as meaningful and engaging as the originals. Plus, it worked with the movies’ shortcomings rather than ignoring them.

NEXT: Every Cobra Kai Main Character Ranked By Sympathy

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