Ralph Macchio played Italian kid Daniel Larusso, a weakling adolescent who was forced to leave his friends and school in Newark and move to California when his mother took a new job there in a rocket computer company.
Daniel was bullied by a local gang called the Cobras, who worked out in a karate school, and so became determined to learn self-defence.
Aiding him in this goal were his two new friends: a pretty girl named Ali (Elisabeth Shue) – who was not only the most popular girl in the new high school, but also the ex-steady of the karate team’s aggressive head honcho – and Mr. Myagi, a kindly old Japanese handyman (Noriyuki Morita ) who dispensed philosophy between instructions in spiritual enlightenment.
Through expert coaching, Daniel learned balance, touch, control, and spiritual as well as physical maturity, while the other boys in the karate school only learned kicks and punches as a way of pulverising their opponents.
The script was woefully formulaic and yet managed to press all the right emotional buttons with audiences.
The Karate Kid was a teenage Rocky (John G Avildsen directed both films) with the same flaws and the same uplifting underdog hero values.
A 1986 sequel followed, imaginatively named The Karate Kid: Part II.
A 2010 remake mostly had audiences wondering, “Who asked for this?” Directed by Harald Zwart, the new version is full of strange choices. The casting of Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith is the least controversial, but a film named Karate Kid should focus on said discipline – so the choice of Chinese Kung Fu is one of many oddities. As is the unlikely pairing and lack of chemistry between the two leads and the depression arc of the teacher, Mr Han.
Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita
Larry B. Scott
John G Avildsen