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Parents' Guide to

Best of the Best

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Dated, racist fighting movie has violence, language.

Movie PG-13 1989 97 minutes
Best of the Best Poster Image

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What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Perhaps in attempts to capitalize on the success of the original Karate Kid movie series (1984-89), this unfortunate movie was green lit. But nothing about Best of the Best is accurate or good. Everything about the way this film depicts South Koreans, martial arts, and organized competition is wrong. The film's premise is dubious and racist, because for one, South Korea's national martial art is tae kwon do, while Japan's national martial art is karate. Especially given that the two nations have a very complicated history with one another, it might be particularly offensive to Japanese and Koreans both, as, for one, South Korea would never host a World Karate Championship. In other words, South Korea (amongst over 70 nations that have ever competed) hasn't won one medal during the entire history of World Karate Championship competitions.

The depiction of the South Koreans' karate team (which, again, itself doesn't make sense) is hilariously primal (they are often shown training in ridiculous ways: standing, flexing under a small waterfall, running through snow shirtless, getting whacked by large sticks over and over, being drilled relentlessly) and inaccurate (the "Korean" they speak is gibberish, and their "South Korean" names are inauthentic). And while the fighting is stylized and flashy, with lots of hits, trading back and forth, and brutality, none of it's remotely accurate (lots of moves aren't karate or tae kwon do, organized competition rules are completely nonexistent, tons of illegal strikes are allowed). On top of these issues, the film's treatment of women isn't admirable, the writing isn't great, and the acting produces many cringe-y moments. But also, for many of the above reasons, for some, this movie will be hilarious.

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