×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

What The Karate Kid cast looks like today

Underdog stories are one of the cornerstones of cinema, and few are more celebrated than The Karate Kid. Director John G. Avildsen (who also helmed Rocky, arguably the ultimate underdog movie) assembled a talented ensemble cast to tell the story of a boy named Daniel (Ralph Macchio) learning karate to ward off local bullies courtesy of his wise mentor, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) — who taught him that karate is about much, much more than fighting.

The Karate Kid remains one of the most beloved films of the 1980s — so much so that it's now inspired the YouTube series Cobra Kai — thanks to its mix of action and humor, its inspirational message, and of course, its instantly memorable characters. Whether they were Cobra Kai bullies or Daniel's inner circle, each member of the Karate Kid cast gave something to the production that helped make it a classic. Here's a look at what the stars of the film have been up to over the years, and what they look like today.

Ralph Macchio - Daniel LaRusso

Ralph Macchio got steady work as a young actor before The Karate Kid, including a prominent recurring role on Eight Is Enough, but 1983 and 1984 brought a powerful one-two punch that would cement him as an icon of 1980s pop culture. In '83 he joined the fraternity of young actors — nearly all of them stars already or future stars — in The Outsiders, and then in '84 he was cast as Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid. The massive success of the film led to three sequels, two of them starring Macchio as Daniel.

Macchio continued to pick up regular acting work in the 1990s and 2000s, including roles in My Cousin Vinny and The Secret of NIMH 2, before landing another prominent TV gig in 2008 with a recurring role on Ugly Betty. Before Cobra Kai brought the Karate Kid franchise back into his life, he also appeared on Psych, Happily Divorced, and Kevin Can Wait. He's also made time to poke fun at himself, playing versions of "Ralph Macchio" on everything from Entourage to How I Met Your Mother.

William Zabka - Johnny Lawrence

William Zabka's first major screen acting work was an episode of The Greatest American Hero in 1983. His second was the role of Johnny Lawrence in The Karate Kid, a role which cemented him as one of the best (and perhaps most misunderstood) villains of 1980s cinema. The Karate Kid led to more roles in major '80s films for Zabka — including National Lampoon's European Vacation, Just One of the Guys, and Back to School — as well as a role in the 1985 TV series The Equalizer. He also returned briefly as Johnny for The Karate Kid Part II.

Zabka continued to work regularly throughout the 1990s and 2000s, particularly in action films like Shootfighter: Fight to the Death and Descent Into Darkness, and co-wrote and produced the Oscar-nominated short film "Most" in 2003. In 2013 he re-entered pop culture mythology in a major way by playing a version of himself in the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, and in 2018 he returned as a down-on-his-luck Johnny Lawrence for the YouTube original series Cobra Kai, which reframes the entire narrative of the Karate Kid saga.

Elisabeth Shue - Ali Mills

Of all the young actors in The Karate Kid, Elisabeth Shue is the one who arguably came away from the film with the highest-profile career. With only a handful of credits to her name when the film was made, its success granted her numerous opportunities in each subsequent decade.

Unlike the other leads in the franchise, Shue did not return for any of The Karate Kid sequels, but she did go on to other major roles in 1980s classics including Adventures in Babysitting, Cocktail, and the recast role of Jennifer in Back to the Future Part II and Part III. In the 1990s she gained acclaim as a major dramatic talent, earning an Oscar nomination for Leaving Las Vegas and co-starring in Deconstructing Harry, The Saint, and Hollow Man.

These days, Shue continues to work regularly, most prominently in television. In 2012 she became one of the stars of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and helped close out that show's massive 15-season run on CBS, and she'll next be seen in Amazon's original superhero series The Boys.

Randee Heller - Lucille LaRusso

Randee Heller had nearly a decade of steady work in television to her name — with roles on Husbands, Wives, & Lovers and Soap, among others — when she landed the role of Daniel's mother Lucille in The Karate Kid, and became one of pop culture's most beloved and supportive movie moms. She returned as Lucille LaRusso for The Karate Part II and Part III, and in between she filled the 1980s with major roles in the TV series Mama Malone, Better Days, and Boys Will Be Boys.

Since The Karate Kid, Heller has continued an essentially unbroken streak of roles of major TV series, sometimes as a one-off guest star and sometimes recurring. Her many credits include Murder, She Wrote, Family Matters, Coach, Chicago Hope, Judging Amy, Mad Men, Grey's Anatomy, In Plain Sight, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, Wilfred, and Major Crimes. In 2018, she reprised her role as Lucille LaRusso on Cobra Kai.

Martin Kove - John Kreese

Martin Kove had already been screen acting for more than a decade by the time The Karate Kid came along, and his career went well enough that he'd already become a part of cult cinema history along the way. One of Kove's most important breakout roles came in 1975, when he was cast as Nero the Hero in Roger Corman's Death Race 2000, which he followed with a role in White Line Fever and TV series including Code R and We've Got Each Other. In The Karate Kid, he was flawless as the ruthless sensei of the Cobra Kai dojo, John Kreese.

After The Karate Kid, Kove returned as Kreese for both Part II and Part III, and continued to act regularly in film and television. He has dozens of credits to his name ranging from action films to TV guest appearances, including a long-running recurring role as Victor Isbecki on Cagney & Lacey, the series Hard Time on Planet Earth, and a role as Captain Newman in Diagnosis Murder. More recently, he appeared as "Master John" on a Karate Kid tribute episode of the '80s-set sitcom The Goldbergs, and reprised his role as John Kreese in Cobra Kai.

Ron Thomas - Bobby

One of the things that makes The Karate Kid such an enduring classic is the film's willingness to add color to supporting characters, particularly Johnny's friends at Cobra Kai. They're never just one-dimensional goons, and that's particularly true in the case of Ron Thomas as Bobby. Though he went along with what Johnny and Kreese asked him, there was an always an element of reluctance to Bobby's role in bullying Daniel.

Thomas' acting career is relatively sparse, though it does include The Karate Kid Part II in 1986 and a role in The Extendables in 2014. Outside of the acting world, Thomas continued to pour his passion into martial arts, and today is a champion martial artist, martial arts instructor, author, and motivational speaker, who continues to offer seminars and coaching. He holds a sixth-degree black belt, is a two-time World Champion, and is a National Rank Examiner for the United States Judo Association, among many other accolades. He's also a ten-year veteran of Universal Studios Hollywood stunt shows, including the Conan Sword and Sorcery Spectacular and the Miami Vice Action Spectacular.

Chad McQueen - Dutch

The son of legendary action star Steve McQueen and his wife Neile Adams, Chad McQueen is Hollywood royalty. As Dutch in The Karate Kid, he's easily the most brutal of the Cobra Kai students, who seems to take pleasure not just in winning, but in pain. It adds yet another dimension to the ensemble.

McQueen returned for The Karate Kid Part II and continued to act throughout the 1990s in films including Firepower and The Other Man. Like his father before him, his passions ultimately turned to racing, and he raced competitively in the Grand America Road Race Series until a mechanical failure caused his car to a hit a wall during a practice run in 2006. He suffered severe injuries and faced significant recovery time, and so decided to pour his passion and expertise into other aspects of the racing and custom car world.

Today McQueen runs McQueen Racing, a company devoted to carrying on his father's legacy through custom cars and motorcycles.

Rob Garrison - Tommy

Rob Garrison had already been appearing in films and television for nearly a decade by the time The Karate Kid came around, which put him in perfect position to play Tommy, the mouthy Cobra Kai member whose cry of "Put him a in a body bag, Johnny!" remains among the film's most quotable lines.

After The Karate Kid, Garrison continued acting regularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He appeared in The Karate Kid Part II as well as episodes of MacGyver, Columbo, Coach and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. Though he no longer seems to be acting full time, he still does take on new roles (most recently in the film The Pledge), and continues to communicate with fans via Twitter. Though he hasn't yet appeared on Cobra Kai, Garrison has noted that he's a fan of the series, and that he would love to make an appearance as one of the original Cobras if the show gets a third season.

Pat Morita - Mr. Miyagi

By the time The Karate Kid arrived in 1984, Noriyuki "Pat" Morita had already been screen acting for nearly two decades. After working as a nightclub comedian, Morita transitioned into life as an actor and started appearing regularly on television, with roles on MASH, Sanford and Son, Mr. T and Tina, and of course Happy Days, in which he played Arnold. The role of the wise handyman-turned-karate instructor Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid brought him a new level of success, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Morita played Miyagi in two more Karate Kid films alongside Macchio, then returned to do live-action introductions for The Karate Kid animated TV series in 1989, and again played Miyagi with a new student in 1994's The Next Karate Kid. He continued to work regularly outside the franchise as well, landing the title role in the 1987 TV series Ohara, playing the Toymaster in the 1986 version of Babes In Toyland, Grandpa Woo in The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, and voicing the Emperor in Disney's Mulan franchise among many other roles. He died in 2005 at the age of 73.