A series of five films beginning in 1984. Following a similar pattern to the first Rocky movie (and featuring the same director) it focused on a student-master relationship between Daniel Larusso and Mr. Miyagi, whose name came to be slang for a type of Retired Badass. The first three films starred Ralph Macchio as Daniel and Pat Morita as Miyagi. Hilary Swank played a new "Karate Kid" in the fourth movie.The Karate Kid: (1984) The first film introduced Daniel Larusso, a teenager whose father had passed away (although the viewers wouldn't learn this until the second movie) and he just moved with his Mom from New Jersey to Reseda, California. Daniel has a little bit of a temper, but is overall a good kid. He doesn't fare well making new friends, upon trying to get close to a girl he likes, Ali, he gets into a fight with her ex-boyfriend Johnny. Johnny happens to be the prize student of the Cobra-Kai Karate Dojo, whose sensei John Kreese encourages such behavior. After they fight, which ends with Daniel losing badly, Johnny leads his gang into tormenting Daniel whenever possible.It finally leads into a serious fight with the gang chasing Daniel down and beating him up just outside his apartment complex. Coming to his rescue is the elderly Japanese handyman, Mr. Miyagi. Despite his age, Miyagi protects Daniel and defeats the Cobra-Kai gang with ease. Upon seeing Miyagi's skill, Daniel requests to be trained. After seeing that appealing to Kreese won't work, Miyagi agrees to train him but arranges a deal that the Cobra-Kai will stop bothering Daniel if he enters an upcoming tournament.Daniel is hesitant about the tournament, but willing to learn karate at the least to defend himself. The first few days Miyagi had Daniel do several chores: paint the fence, sand the decks and wax the car. Daniel endures it patiently, but eventually blows up at Miyagi for using him as a slave instead as a student. Miyagi then demonstrates what Wax On, Wax Off really means. Daniel is stunned, then begins to understand that Miyagi wasn't trying to teach him how to fight, but how to apply martial arts to his life.*
And get some needed housework done as payment for training Daniel.
The first movie is the most loved of the film series, and Pat Morita earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Mr. Miyagi. The Nostalgia Filter helps a lot, as the film is not ashamed to be set in the 80's. Though given that it was also filmed in the 80s, this probably explains why. The main theme of this film is balance and self-respect, that martial arts should be used in discipline and not for aggression.The Karate Kid, Part Two: (1986) Six months after the first film, Daniel has broken up with Ali and is being set up to move in with Mr. Miyagi as his mom moves up north. Miyagi receives a notice that his father is gravelly ill and he decides to return to his home village in Okinawa. Daniel wants to support his friend and father-figure and goes with him, also hoping to learn more about Miyagi's history.At the village many things have changed, and Daniel learns of an old feud between Miyagi and his old friend Sato that has not passed with time. (Miyagi left Okinawa so he would not have to fight to the death) Daniel also begins a troublesome relationship with Sato's nephew Chozen, who is even more aggressive. Miyagi's father dies but that did not subside Sato's anger. Along the way, Daniel also begins a new romance with a local girl, Kumiko.The second movie was a well respected sequel, much of it having to do with the change of scenery and culture. A major theme of this film is about mercy and pacifism. Daniel learns about what 'life or death' combat is about and also trades blows with Chozen progressively throughout the film.The Karate Kid, Part Three: (1989) One year since the first film, John Kreese is running into financial trouble after his humiliation in the first film and the beginning of the second. He orchestrates a plan with an old war buddy of his to bring the Cobra-Kai Dojo back by targeting both Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. They blackmail Daniel into returning to the same tournament so he could be humiliated by a new unstoppable student.The third film was felt by many to be a severe case of sequelitis, as the themes of fighting for self-respect and for your life in the previous films were dropped for a more standard underdog story and villain's plot. Also, Daniel doesn't seem to get any better, even after his "fight to the death" from the previous movie; he is just as inexperienced as in the first film.The Next Karate Kid: (1994) Five years after the last movie, Mr. Miyagi and Daniel have parted ways and the venerable old man found a new student to help, Julie Pierce. She is struggling with a para-military group that almost runs her high school, with the leader Dugan (played by Michael Ironside) just as ruthless as Kreese from the earlier films. This time he takes her to a local monastery to learn about peace of mind.This film was poorly received and made even less then the last film, which essentially killed the franchise.*
Though it did get a shout-out when Hilary Swank won the first of her several Oscars.
The Karate Kid: A Continuity Reboot of the series that premiered in June 2010, borrowing elements of the first one but set in Beijing, China. Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son) plays the lead role of Andre "Dre" Parker and Jackie Chan is the old mentor, Mr. Han. There is almost no karate in this film; the lead character trains in kung fu instead.Many people have noticed that DC Comics is credited in the films, but contrary to popular belief, the films are not directly based on a comic book. Columbia Pictures needed permission from DC to use the title "the Karate Kid" because the name was already in use for a character in DC's Legion of Super-Heroes comic; the films draw no inspiration from the character.The movies also inspired a somewhat forgettable Animated Series involving Daniel and Mr. Miyagi traveling the world in pursuit of a magical healing shrine.Now has a character sheet.
The actual crane kick is an almost physically impossible move that few people alive can successfully perform. (It's a twirling kick in which you jump, kick, and land all on the same leg.) As no one working on the film could do it—even the martial arts expert who helped choreograph the fight scenes—they just had Ralph Maccio do a weird, inexplicable flamingo pose into a more standard sort of front kick. (Why couldn't they have used a special effect? Cost, probably) No bother, because in Real Life there is no move in any martial art for which there is no defense when it is performed well. (See below.)
The move might also be illegal. While controlled hits to the head are permitted in some tournaments (including the one in the movie), the crane kick was clearly uncontrolled. And for good reason: a full-on kick to the face like that risks death or serious injury. (This after Johnny scores a punch to the face that is perfectly legal and would have won him the trophy... but was ignored.
In a real martial arts tournament, someone with a fractured leg would not be allowed to continue even if they insisted — the risk of becoming permanently disabled (not to mention a lawsuit) is too high. Also, Johnny's behavior (and his fellow students' taunts) in the final fight makes it blatantly obvious that his teacher is instructing them to deliberately injure other participants. In Real Life the referee would stop the fight and not only disqualify Johnny, but probably have the entire dojo permanently barred from future competitions.
There are some Real Life examples where the above is not the case. Some martial arts schools are incredibly popular that banning them from future competitions would hurt the associations sponsoring the competition - especially if the association receives upwards of fifty or so new members every year from said schools. And many times, referees can be paid to look the other way...
Heck, if you pause the movie right before the Crane Kick, you can see that Johnny has a clear shot to the chin lined up...
In the sequel, Chozen allows him to follow through, but simply catches his foot and gives him an elbow to the back (a move reminiscent of Johnny's elbow to Daniel's knee in the first movie).
Awesomeness by Analysis: After time, Daniel was able to point out the flaws in others techniques and able to improve upon them.
Barbaric Bully: The first movie is a rather iconic example. It gives us High School bullies who dress up in skeleton costumes before beating down their victims (just so there's no doubt that they're the bad guys), and it ends with Daniel permanently solving his bullying problems by besting his tormenters in a karate tournament.
Beware the Nice Ones: Mr. Miyagi is calm and peaceful, but that doesn't mean he's lacking in fighting skill.
Big Damn Heroes: Mr. Miyagi gets to do this at least Once per Movie. Daniel gets his own moment in Karate Kid 2, when he rescues the stranded village bellringer during the height of a typhoon.
Breakout Villain: John Kreese appeared in only three scenes in the original film but was so memorably over-the-top that he was present in the next two sequels. Granted, his scene in part II was initially filmed for the first movie.
Brick Break: The second film takes most advantage of this trope with Mr. Miyagi coaching Daniel how to break through six sheets of ice, while Miyagi tops everyone by chopping a thick ceiling beam in two with one chop to rescue Sato pinned under it in a storm.
Chekhov's Skill: Used as a finishing move for each of the films, standing on one leg, using a child's drum, doing katas and the praying mantis jump kick.
The second film opens with Miyagi teaching Daniel about a breathing technique to focus the mind and body to pound in nails in one hit. Mid-way through the movie Daniel is challenged to break the sheets of ice and Miyagi reminds him of the technique.
So Last Season: The reason why he needs the drum technique is illustrated when Chozen easily defeats the Crane.
In the third film, Daniel must rappel down a cliff to retrieve a valuable bonsai tree. Good thing his new girlfriend's hobby is mountain climbing.
Classy Cravat: Lord knows why, but Terry wears a cravat during the tournament at the end of the third movie.
Continuity Nod: Miyagi makes several passing references to "Daniel-san" in The Next Karate Kid, to the point of muttering that it was rather "easier to live with boys" when he inadvertently takes a peek of Julie in her underwear when he walks into her room.
Combat Pragmatist: Kreese's philosophy reads like this on paper; in actual effect, it's... rather different. He's effectively teaching the kids to be thugs.
Miyagi as well, in a way. He's never fought for points, only for his life.
Five-Bad Band: The five Cobra Kai who play major roles in the first movie and the beginning of the second. Kreese is the Big Bad, Johnny is The Dragon, Tommy is a smartass version of the Evil Genius, Dutch is The Brute, and Bobby, the non-conformist and least vicious in the group, is the Dark Chick.
The poster of Sato breaking a log. Miyagi breaks a wooden beam of similar size in one blow to save Sato from being pinned under it during the typhoon.
For the Evulz: It may not be why Terry first harasses Daniel, but it's certainly why he enjoys it.
The whole series features some of the most nonsensical villains you'll ever see. Good luck coming up with any motivation by the time you get to Dugan from Next.
The Freelance Shame Squad: A ballroom filled with refined, upper-crust partygoers all stop dancing and put down their canapes just to laugh at Daniel-San after he bumps into a waiter and gets bolognese sauce all over his outfit. They're probably mocking the poor waiter too, but it doesn't come across as strongly.
Graceful Loser: Johnny, after Daniel wins the tournament. Kreese... Not so much.
Groin Attack: Mr. Miyagi, believe it or not. It was a five on one battle...that soon became a four on one.
Daniel delivers one to Chozen at the sock hop dance.
Hardwork Hardly Works: To get to the level of competition that the Cobra Kai students are at requires years of training and physical conditioning. Daniel goes through a Training Montage of a few weeks and wins the tournament. It makes sense when you consider that Kreese is either a bad karate instructor and/or Miyagi is that much better.
Somewhat handwaved by stating that Daniel had studied karate in the past, but only at a lower level.
MST: The commentary for the DVD collection invokes this, with the writer, the director, and even Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita themselves snarking over the film.
Motive Decay: Terry in Part III does what he does out of friendship and loyalty to his friend, John. The opening scenes of the movie really do a good job of driving this home. And yet, he's the one who comes up with the idea of completely destroying Danny and Miyagi, and his motivation ends up devolving completely into this.
Neutral Female: Kumiko attempts to subvert it by trying to pull Chozen away from Daniel during their last fight. It doesn't work, but the effort is appreciated.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Daniel's initial fight with Johnny, and even more the Cobra Kai gang-beating he receives in the school dance scene.
Not My Driver: In the second movie, a car is waiting for Mr. Miyagi and Daniel when they arrive in Okinawa. When Miyagi asks the driver why they're heading away from the village where he wants to go, the driver and his friend reply "Some things have changed since you were last here, Miyagi-san..." "...and some things have not, eh?" Mr. Miyagi and Daniel soon learn what this means when they reach their real destination: a warehouse where Mr. Sato and his nephew Chozen confront them.
Obviously Evil: Terry in the third movie. They have multiple scenes entirely dedicated to piling on gratuitous For the Evulz moments for the guy. He's an obnoxious rich guy who dumps toxic waste wherever he can get away with it, bribes judges, makes sure to hire, not the best karate champion but specifically "Karate's Bad Boy" and is in touch with local "bad boys" to hook him up with his mooks. Oh, and he wants to destroy the lives of a kid and an elderly man because they inadvertently humiliated his friend Kreese when Kreese tried to destroy their lives.
The Only Way They Will Learn: Daniel's being made to perform menial tasks for Mr. Miyagi to build the strength and muscle memory necessary for effective blocks. For Julie, he sets up his teaching of the waltz as a typical karate instruction.
Quality Over Quantity: The novelization had Daniel complain to Mr. Miyagi before the tournament that he didn't know very many moves. Miyagi replied that he was better than the Cobra-Kais at the ones he did know.
Some Truth in Television and Fridge Brilliance there, given Miyagi is apparently a Japanese national. Those Japanese who signed up to fight with the US armed forces during World War II were put together in one unit. That unit earned more medals and Medals of Honor per head than any other in any branch of service.
Even more of both in a sad way, as Miyagi's pregnant wife was taken to a Japanese interment camp and died there in childbirth, as did the son she gave birth to. Miyagi's drunken re-reading of the telegram informing him of this leads to a small Heroic BSOD in the first movie.
Running Gag: Reminding people that it's pronounced Mi-ya-gi, not Mi-ya-ji.
The So-Called Coward: The main plot of Part 2 when Sato, who dismissed Miyagi as a coward for years, finally sees him and Daniel in action during a typhoon and realizes to his astonishment at how powerful and fearless they really are when necessary. As a result, he insists on helping them and makes amends the next morning.
Serial Escalation: The first film had Daniel dealing with a gang of bullies who at worst would rough him up repeatedly. His big showdown with them takes place at a tournament with rules, regulations, and time outs if things get too rough. The sequel has Daniel in a real fight at the end, with the very real possibility that he could lose his life.
Taught By Experience: Miyagi was formally trained by his father, but had little knowledge on how tournaments work. He didn't even know much about the belt system.
Daniel: I thought you said you've been in plenty of fights?
Training Montage: "You're the Best (Around)" (not by Survivor, of "Eye of the Tiger" fame, but by Joe "Bean" Esposito) played during the tournament montage. Not exactly a training montage, but Daniel learned how good he had gotten from Miyagi's training. It makes sense, given that the first three movies were directed by John G. Avildsen, who also directed Rocky.
Not to mention that, while performed by Esposito, the song is written by Bill Conti, who composed "Gonna Fly Now" for Rocky.
Thug Dojo: The Cobra Kai is probably the most famous example to Western audiences.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Er, where did that Freddy kid go in the first film? He seemed set up to become a good friend of Daniel's but he just...disappeared.
His other friends peer pressure him into ditching Daniel in the football practice scene after the beach fight. He can however briefly be seen watching the tournament right at the end and is presumably part of the crowd that lifts Daniel onto their shoulders after he wins.
"World of Cardboard" Speech: Daniel's plea to Miyagi to perform the pressure point healing technique on his leg, letting his master know that he fully understands the meaning of balance.
World War II: Miyagi served in one of the US Army's nisei regiments in Europe during WWII, and received the Medal of Honor. On the other side of the coin, his wife and son died in childbirth in one of the internment camps.
Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Cheng is a sadistic little creep. The rest of the Fighting Dragons too, especially the teacher, Li.
Artifact Title: Being set in China, the film uses Kung Fu rather than Karate.
Backed by Beijing: The remake has gratuitous shots of notable landmarks in China which have probably needed to be directly authorized by some high Chinese officials. In return, China is depicted as a really nice land, mix of ancient civilization, modernity, and natural beauty. Not to forget a puppet play.
Bilingual Bonus: Viewers who knew mandarin would have pegged Meiying's father as a potential source of conflict early on once they heard Cheng and Meiying's first conversation (which didn't show up in the subs).
Brick Joke: On Dre's first day of his new school, he's wearing the school uniform. The principal told both him and his mother that they only wear on uniform day. Later on, it's the school field trip and it's also uniform day. Guess who's not wearing the uniform...
Also later he meets up with Meiying "look uniform on uniform day."
Defeat Means Friendship: Cheng is the one who gives Dre the winning trophy. Then, him and the other boys who had bullied and fought with Dre also pay their respects to Mr. Han. Master Li is also forced to suck it up and applaud Mr. Han's victory.
Averted in the the alternate ending/deleted ending. Master Li didn't suck it up. Mr. Han has to stop him from beating his students, to which Li starts a fight and Mr. Han humiliates him in front of an entire spectator crowd as a Continuity Nod to the original films. These scenes were taken out because the producers believed it took too much focus away from Dre's character winning.
Determinator: Dre first has his leg ruined, and gets some magic Kung-Fu healing. After that it's broken and he finishes the match on one leg. We even see him hopping around after the post-win crowd pan.
Dolled-Up Installment: The movie was originally called "The Kung-Fu Kid", but Jackie Chan refused to do the movie unless it was renamed Karate Kid to increase its marketing appeal.
Disappeared Dad: The fact that Dre's father had died was made known at the beginning of the movie.
Dragons Up the Yin Yang: As part of Dre's training, Mr. Han takes him up a tall mountain to the Dragon Well, where drinking from it purportedly make one invincible. The well is a shallow fountain with a yin-yang symbol in the center.
Even Evil Has Standards: One of Cheng's cronies tells him to stop hurting Dre, after he has beaten him up significantly.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Subtly done with Li in two scenes. First, when an injured Dre returns to the tournament, the tournament's spectators are impressed, but Li only mockingly applauds, suggesting that he considers Dre's slim chances of winning rather than his courage and fighting spirit. Later, when his own students show their respect to Mr. Han by bowing, he is shocked rather than angry. Which means that he fails to understand why young students would respect a successful, yet kind teacher.
Heartwarming Moment: When Dre tells Han he is his best friend and Han gives him a shirt as a present.
Kick the Dog: Master Li is already known to be a jerkass, with the way he teaches his students to show no mercy to their enemies. But he steps into this territory when he slaps one of his students who didn't finish his opponent completely.
Kick Them While They Are Down: Master Li puts heavy emphasis that his students should never show mercy to their enemies, even encouraging his students to attack them while they are defeated.
Love Triangle: A bit of a case with Dre and Cheng who both have a crush on Mei Ying, who chooses Dre.
Magic Feather: They don't say it, but the Dragon Well that gives awesome kung-fu powers was just for a confidence boost. Possibly downplaed as the characters knew full well it was simply folklore and never actually believed that the well would grant any powers.
Meaningful Name: Mr. Han. "Han" （汉）, while an actual (but very rare) last name, is also the ethnicity that makes up the majority of China, so it's sort of like calling him "Mr. Chinese Man".
Mighty Whitey: Downplayed example. Dre goes to China and and quicks becomes as competent at kung fu as the locals. Downplayed because there is nothing in real life to prevent one of any nationality becoming a talented martial artist and Dre doesn't become that much better than then them. He simply learns a truer form of the art from Han than the perversion Li teaches Dre's adversaries. It's also explained by Underdogs Never Lose.
The trailer that featured this scene had "You're The Best Around" playing in the background.
Also, The Flying Dragons use a variation of "No Mercy" for their motto.
Mr. Han waxing his car.
Nonindicative Name: The movie is called "The Karate Kid," even though no karate appears in the movie.
They threw in a line about Dre knowing "a little Karate" to justify the Artifact Title, and the term is used as a derisive nickname a few times.
There are a couple of scenes of Dre trying in earnest to use Karate (albeit trying to learn from an infomercial or some such thing.) The results are less than indicative of the title.
And Dre's mother mistakes Kung Fu for Karate.
Some have claimed that the original title was "The Kung-Fu Kid" (with many of the film crew using that name during production), but the name was changed due to its name recognition and nostalgia factor.
Ordered To Cheat: Master Li orders two of the Flying Dragons to break Dre's leg.
Overprotective Dad: Mei Ying's father disapproved of his daughter's friendship with Dre because he saw him as a bad influence to his daughter, causing her to be late for her recital and forbade her from spending time with him. However, he turns out to be much more reasonable than the stereotypical version. When Dre respectfully approaches him and apologizes (in phonetic Chinese), he reconsiders and is later seen actively cheering for Dre.
Parental Substitute: Mr Han acts like one of these and a friend to Dre. In return, Dre reminds Mr Han of his deceased son.
Pet the Dog: a non-villainous example with Mr. Han (who acts like a bit of a jerk when he is first introduced). During the tournament, when Dre knocks one of the Dragons down, it is Mr. Han who helps him up. This little gesture is in sharp contrast with Li's behaviour, who considers showing the opponent kindness a sign of weakness, and even mistreats his students.
Ironically, In China, it's called "功夫梦" ("The Kung Fu Dream"); in Japan, and South Korea, it's called "Best Kid" (the same title that was used for the original movie in those countries), and "The Karate Kid" everywhere else.
Running Gag: Possibly Dre's expression when he hangs up his coat for his mom. Mr. Han makes a point of making sure that "attitude" is there during Dre's "jacket-on, jacket-off" training and it has a spotlight shone on it when it shows up in the tournament.
People touching the Parker's hair. At one point, Dre's mother is surrounded by little kids who are happily playing with her hair. Absolutely Truth in Television. Foreigners with either important or distinctive hair in China have been mobbed by children wanting to touch it.
Sarcastic Clapping: This is Master Li's reaction when Dre decides to stay in the tournament with a leg injury.
Values Dissonance: The Chinese tend to stay silent out of respect after a performance of any sort. So after Mei Ying's recital, they were opt to remain silent. However, Dre, who came from United States, cheered and clapped. This invoked anger from his crush's father.
Wax On, Wax Off: Jacket on, jacket off, drop the jacket, pick up the jacket, jacket on... it also has the nice side effect of disciplining Dre for his attitude.
We Will Meet Again: Dre gets beaten up a few times. A truce is called, pending a tournament.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The blond kid, and first English speaking peer that Dre meets in China. He seems to be set up as a friend, a translator and a general supporter and help to Dre. But nope, after about a third of the way in we only see him in passing at the tournament. This is a Shout Out to Freddy from the original film, who fades into the background after Daniel starts having run-ins with the bullies, but finally does re-appear in his cheering section.
A weird case of Truth in Television. When in a new/unfamiliar location, people of similar backgrounds (national, cultural, and occasionally even ethnic) tend to stick together, if only initially. This is what happened with Dre and the blonde kid - having seen that Dre is an American, the kid offers to help show Dre around the place, but quickly vanishes into the background as Dre figures things out and makes his own friends (and enemies). The blonde kid is sitting there watching the tournament with Dre's mom and Mei Ying, further mirroring Freddy from the original. He just doesn't really say anything or do anything noteworthy.
There's also the subplot of Mei Ying practicing for an audition to be accepted to the Beijing Academy of Music. We see the audition, but never find out if she was accepted or not nor just what her instructor meant by "you know what this would mean for your family". We can only assume it was a matter of honor. Like when Dre qualified for the tournament finals (even if just because his opponent was disqualified) and was told he honored his family.