I Finally Watched All The Karate Kid Movies, And I Have Thoughts

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid
(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

I love karate. 

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a singular statement. I grew up watching a lot of fighting movies, specifically all those fun Bruce Lee films with my dad. But, you want to know what I never watched growing up? The Karate Kid movies. Granted, I have seen the first two, a long time ago, but I hadn’t seen the others, so I decided to do a whole movie-watching marathon, from Ralph Macchio to Hilary Swank and Jaden Smith taking on the lead roles. 

And, let me just say that I have a lot of thoughts. Too many, but we’re going to get into some here. In honor of Cobra Kai and how much I have loved it for years, here is what I thought of the Karate Kid movies. 

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

The First One Is Certainly The Best

I mean, this surely can’t be that much of a surprise. The original The Karate Kid is most certainly the best out of every single one of these films, by a mile. There’s just something about watching Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in those iconic scenes. There really is nothing like it. 

I always forget how big of a star Macchio was back in the eighties, since he was in so many big films at the time, from The Outsiders to Crossroads, and then later on when he was in other big films like My Cousin Vinny. But, there’s just something about his time in the first film that feels so raw.

He really is just a kid trying to get by and stand up to his bullies in a more powerful way. I do appreciate how later on, the film series tries to expand the world a little more, but I always love a good underdog story and this movie is the epitome of that. You can’t get better than The Karate Kid. 

Mr. Miyagi and Sato in The Karate Kid Part II

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

But I Actually Really Like The Second One, Too

While I do think the first film is the best in the franchise, I have to admit — The Karate Kid Part II is also a lot of fun, more than I thought it was going to be. 

The fight scenes felt a little generic and repetitive of the first film, which isn't unusual, but I did like the change in scenery, even more so now. Granted, I’m a huge fan of Japanese culture, from the food and the best anime, to its movies and everything else, so it’s not that surprising that I just happened to enjoy the one Karate Kid movie that traveled to Japan and showed off its beautiful countryside. 

Even so, it’s something I wanted to address. I also really liked Macchio in this movie as well. Daniel LaRusso still felt like that kid who was just trying to prove himself, and it was something that I didn’t realize I was going to miss in later installments of the series. 

Terry and Daniel in The Karate Kid Part III.

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Part 3 Is Pretty Bad – But I Enjoy The Bonsai Store

Yeah, The Karate Kid Part III is pretty bad. I won’t lie. 

There isn’t much that saves this film. I do think that Terry Silver is an excellent villain, and now that I watched the third movie, I understand the significance of why he was brought back in the Netflix series, Cobra Kai, years later as a huge antagonist. At the same time, he also feels a little too animated and sadistic in the third film. 

Cobra Kai gave him more room to grow and show the many layers behind the way his mind works, and I just don’t think this film gave him the justice nor the time that he truly deserved.

And, honestly, Daniel doesn’t even feel like Daniel LaRusso in this film, at all. It upsets me. It feels like he’s grown cocky and isn’t that same kid that we all grew up liking and relating to becaue he was the underdog. He just sort of feels like any normal protagonist now with a bit of an attitude. It also doesn't help that he ends up getting swayed by the enemy half-way through the film. 

The one upside about this movie is that I do like Mr. Miyagi’s bonsai shop – so much so that my boyfriend and I went out and picked up our own bonsais to take care of. They’ve been going strong for several months now. We named them Mr. Miyagi and LaRusso. 

Other than that, there’s nothing really fun about this film. I’m glad Cobra Kai learned some lessons about how to be a decent sequel after so many years.

Hilary Swank as Julie Pierce in The Next Karate Kid

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Next Karate Kid Is Nice To Change Up The Gender – But It’s Just Not Good

Ugh, the fourth film. Kill me. 

Okay, time to be a normal critic here – the fourth film didn’t do it for me. Trust me, I really appreciate the change in gender for the main kid. As a young girl who loved fighting movies, it was interesting to see someone of my gender take on the role, especially one as talented as Hilary Swank. It was also enjoyable to see Pat Morita back in the role as Mr. Miyagi. 

But, for the love of God, this movie felt so boring. 

It wasn’t even just the fact that the film didn’t have Ralph Macchio in it. Besides Swank’s performance, there’s nothing I like. The story is average at best, the fight scenes extremely minimal, and the acting is abysmal besides Swank and Morita. Just an overall bad experience. I would much rather recommend the third part of the original Karate Kid franchise over this one. 

Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in The Karate Kid.

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Surprisingly, Jaden Smith And Jackie Chan Were A Decent Pair To Reboot The Franchise

You know what? I’m going to say it – the 2010 reboot of The Karate Kid was not bad. Yes, I know, it’s not the same without Morita, who passed away in 2005, or without Macchio, but it was a worthy installment, even if what they're using in the movie is Kung Fu and not Karate.

You have another fighting legend – Jackie Chan – at the helm as the new master, and Jaden Smith honestly gave a decent performance when he was young. They had some excellent fight scenes and I actually really liked that the movie took place in a completely different country other than America – it reminded me of the second film, which I already spoke my praises for here. 

I genuinely think that the 2010 version is a great movie – and one that, if kids don’t want to watch an '80s film for whatever reason, would be a great way to introduce them to the franchise.

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in red and white karate uniforms respectively

(Image credit: Netflix)

However, I’m Still Glad That Cobra Kai Is The Official Sequel Years Later

Even so, despite the fact that I do like the 2010 version, I am happy that Cobra Kai is considered the official sequel and actual reboot of the franchise years later. 

It still astounds me that the popular Netflix television series was able to bring back multiple original cast members from the films, and make them deeper characters while creating a whole new cast of original characters that I truly do care deeply about. With five seasons, the show is a clear winner. 

What really makes the show the best sequel in years is that it keeps the heart of the original movie, but also expands on that with excellent storylines, well-crafted villains, and most importantly,  awesome competitive fights. Kreese has honestly become one of my favorite TV antagonists over the last few years, and it’s because this show is just that good.

While there’s apparently going to be a new Karate Kid movie, it’s not going to have any connection to this franchise, which is a shame. It was truly a joy to check out all these films in order for the first time – and I would do it all over. (Except The Next Karate Kid. Never touching that again.) 

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.