Staff Picks: The Karate Kid

The first installment of a series showcasing our staff’s favorite movies and why they love them


Photo courtesy of Helgi Halldórsson/Wikimedia commons.

My favorite movie of all time is “The Karate Kid,” released in 1984, directed by John G. Avildson.
I think the first time I watched was around my sophomore year of high school. I don’t remember whether I declared this movie as my favorite of all time from my first time watching it. I think it was only until after I watched it a few more times that I realized it became a comfort film for me. Then, it became the ultimate comfort film, topping movies like “Mamma Mia!,” “The Cat in the Hat” and “Grease.”

I could watch films that I consider to be cinematic masterpieces like “Parasite” or “The Truman Show,” but no matter how beautiful the cinematography or how good the story is, I don’t know if there can be something that ever tops “The Karate Kid.”

There are numerous reasons why I love “The Karate Kid,” from the characters, to the humor, to the set designs, its cultural impact, and most important of all, the story. What I love about it is Daniel LaRusso’s character growth.

Daniel, the main character, moves to Reseda, California from New Jersey. Quickly, he gets beaten by the karate team, Cobra Kai. This dojo is known for their vicious style.
Daniel is the stereotypical new kid at school. He gets picked on and doesn’t have many friends, leading him to spend time with his apartment complex’s handyman, Mr. Miyagi.

I really like how they establish the story and the actors really bring it to life. I feel so bad sometimes when I see Daniel getting hit numerous times.

At his second encounter with Cobra Kai, Daniel has a breakdown, pleading with his mom to go back home to New Jersey. There are some really good acting moments in this film and I can’t imagine other actors playing the characters of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi.

Going back to Daniel’s character growth, he learns karate from Mr. Miyagi, and ends up becoming the champion at a tournament, beating the antagonist and a member of the Cobra Kai dojo, Johnny Lawrence. It’s really satisfying to see him win like that because throughout the movie, he has numerous hardships and setbacks, even up to the last minute of when he wins.

I think my favorite part of the movie is when Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel karate. As a viewer for the first time, you’re right there along with Daniel in questioning Mr. Miyagi’s teaching style. Despite that, we get the iconic “wax on, wax off” scene. Along with this line, there are other things that Mr. Miyagi says throughout the movie that I quote sometimes in real life, attempting his accent as well.

Also, Mr. Miyagi’s house is very aesthetically and visually pleasing. There are well kept plants, a wooden deck, a pond with fish in his backyard, various decor pieces alluding to his home of Okinawa.

Daniel eventually applies what he’s learning to actual karate and is no longer frustrated with Mr. Miyagi. I think most importantly what I love about Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel about karate is that he shouldn’t use it for violence. It should only be used as defense, which is a complete contrast to Cobra Kai and how their sensei teaches.

Overall, I love everything about this movie and I could go on forever talking about it. I don’t think my love is tied to a single aspect of the movie. Even small things in small scenes make me love this movie. For example, when Daniel has his first encounter moving into his apartment complex. That scene sets the tone for the movie so well. You see how run down the complex is, his neighbors, and mixed in there is Daniel’s already unenthusiastic feelings of the big move.

Like I mentioned before, I love the characters and the relationships they have, even the side characters. You get feelings of extreme lows and astronomical highs from this movie and how it develops. I can’t imagine “The Karate Kid” being topped ever. I think my love for Ralph Macchio is enough to let it coast at the top for a long time.