The Karate Kid is a 1984 American martial arts drama film written by Robert Mark Kamen and directed by John G. Avildsen. It is the first installment in the Karate Kid franchise and stars Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Elisabeth Shue, and William Zabka. The Karate Kid follows Daniel LaRusso (Macchio), a teenager taught karate by Mr. Miyagi (Morita) to help defend himself and compete in a tournament against his bullies, one of which is the ex-boyfriend of his love interest Ali Mills (Shue).
Kamen was approached by Columbia Pictures to compose a film similar to Avildsen’s previous success Rocky (1976), after signing the director. Kamen drew inspiration from his own life when writing the film. As a result, he maintained strong opinions regarding cast and petitioned heavily for Morita’s inclusion. Preparations for the film began immediately after the final edit of the script was complete, and casting took place between April and June 1983. Principal photography began on October 31, 1983, in Los Angeles, and filming was complete by December 16, 1983.
The Karate Kid was theatrically released in the United States on June 22, 1984. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics, many of whom praised the action sequences, writing, storyline, acting performances, and music. The film was also a commercial success, grossing over $130 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing films of 1984 and Hollywood’s biggest sleeper hit of the year.
The film is also notable for kickstarting the career of Macchio, as well as revitalizing the acting career of Morita, who was previously known mostly for comedic roles and earned Morita a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The Karate Kid subsequently launched a media franchise and is credited for popularizing karate in the United States.
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