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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Even though one character says that "fighting doesn't solve anything," the script seems to indicate otherwise. The movie also deals with remembrance of U.S. wartime injustices. But hard work, dedication, and discipline are all valued. Respect for your elders is important.
Positive Role Models
There's a very clear line between the good guys and the bad guys. Daniel is inspiring in his tenacity to learn, and Mr. Miyagi is a worthy teacher. Characters demonstrate self-control, perseverance, and courage. It's worth noting that a Vietnam veteran is depicted as a psychopathic scoundrel.
Violence & Scariness
Several fights -- mostly outside of the martial arts competition. Fistfights, which are usually five-on-one, end in black eyes and bruised ribs for Daniel and his rivals. During the karate competition, the sparring is "sanctioned," but people still end up hurt.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Daniel and Ali flirt, go on dates, and kiss/embrace. Johnny kisses Ally without her consent, and she pushes and slaps him.
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Language includes "s--t" and its derivative "bulls--t," "jerk," "sucks," "stupid," and other mild insults like "old man," "weakling," and "coward."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The antagonist, a high-schooler, rolls a marijuana joint. Mr. Miyagi, grief-stricken, gets obviously drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Karate Kids is a classic '80s martial arts movie that's still a fine pick for families with older tweens. The Karate Kid was re-made in 2010 with a younger perspective starring Jaden Smith. It has a fair number of swear words (including "s--t"), insults, and fights -- as well as a scene of marijuana use. This is a standard new-kid-in-town flick, but it's also got soul thanks to the teacher-student relationship between wise Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and lonely teen Daniel (Ralph Macchio). Issues of class, race, (teen) romance, and even war are explored in this coming-of-age tale, where karate is a metaphor for life. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This movie isn't a slick, angsty coming-of-age drama, but there's so much to just enjoy about it. Shue's Ali is sweet -- especially because she doesn't mind Daniel's working-class background -- but the teens' romance is filler for the central relationship in the movie: that of Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. Not many movies can make multi-generational friendships seem authentic, but Macchio and the late Morita managed to achieve a closeness that was believably touching. When Daniel tells Mr. Miyagi "You're my best friend," it's not awkward -- it's true. Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are a more relatable Luke and Obi Wan or Harry and Dumbledore, and it's that archetypal teacher-hero dynamic that ultimately makes The Karate Kid a winner.
If you say "wax on!" to anyone born in the late '60s or the '70s, they'll immediately answer "wax off!" -- that's how big a cultural phenomenon The Karate Kid was in the '80s. Like Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Dirty Dancing, this is just one of those special, mid-'80s classics from which fans can quote countless scenes. And despite some dated details (the big hair, the track suits, the funny-looking cars and wardrobe), the story holds up remarkably well, because Daniel is a high-school Everyman. He's not Gossip Girl rich or Zac Efron handsome or extraordinarily gifted in any way; he's just a new kid in town who's willing to train hard, actually get to know an older Japanese man most teenage guys would have made fun of, and better himself in the process. Oh, and he does a killer job at winning the girl, the championship, and the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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