Karate Kid (1984)

Karate Kid (1984)

“We make sacred pact. I promise teach karate to you, you promise learn. I say, you do, no questions.”

A New Jersey teenager (Ralph Maccio) moves to California and falls in love with a beautiful blonde (Elizabeth Shue) whose thuggish ex-boyfriend (William Zabka) bullies him mercilessly. To prepare for fighting back, Danny (Macchio) is given karate lessons by an elderly handyman (Pat Morita) in his building, who teaches him that strength comes from within.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bullies
  • Coming-of-Age
  • Cross-Class Romance
  • Martial Arts
  • Mentors
  • Underdogs

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately describes this popular cult film as a “likable fairytale” about a “very likable teenager” who encounters “a few obstacles along the way before [he and his girlfriend] can live happily ever after.” He notes that, like Rocky (also directed by John Avildsen), this “extremely pleasing” film “has wit and sentimentality”, and makes you want to “cheer the underdog”, who will “do the impossible because he has a lot of heart and character”. The elements of the film that don’t work so well (i.e., Zabka’s one-dimensional “Aryan” baddie) are overshadowed by those that do — including fine central performances by Macchio and Morita (who was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actor), nice supporting work by Shue and Randee Heller (as Macchio’s mom, who Peary wishes “had a more significant part” — me, too), and countless memorable scenes (“Wax on… Wax off.”).

Note: Interestingly, Peary notes near the end of his review that he wishes “Morita would dump Zabka’s sadistic coach in the garbage” — which is exactly how The Karate Kid, Part II (1986) (not listed in Peary’s book) begins…

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi
  • Ralph Maccio as Daniel
  • Elizabeth Shue as Ali
  • Randee Heller as Danny’s mom

Must See?
Yes, as a pleasing cult film.


  • Cult Movie


One thought on “Karate Kid (1984)

  1. First viewing. A once-must, for older ffs to watch with younger ffs (who are likely to learn a thing or two about discipline).

    This isn’t really my kind of movie but I found it to be better than I’d anticipated, all things considered. Macchio does a nice-enough job but Morita is particularly adorable – he has some nice layers to play – and Shue, surprisingly, is allowed to be a lot more than just ‘the girlfriend’.

Leave a Reply