The "original" Karate Kid was one of the biggest blockbuster films of the 1980s, and for good reason. It serves as more than just an inspirational tale of the new kid standing up to the local bully, and it is far from your typical martial arts movie. The Karate Kid truly has something for everyone, combining elements of action and drama with a touch of comedy to collectively form the perfect recipe for cinematic gold. It even includes a love story to entice the female demographic. It is also a film that transcended the big screen into popular culture, ultimately withstanding the test of time. One of the biggest reasons for The Karate Kid's longevity and success are the film's many memorable characters and the actors who played them. Which begs the questions, what exactly have they been up to over the years and where are they now? We decided to find out.
Ralph Macchio - Daniel LaRusso
Macchio landed his first major acting job playing Jeremy Andretti on the hit television show Eight is Enough. But it was his first big screen appearance as greaser Johnny Cade in the The Outsiders where Macchio would start to make a name for himself. Soon after, Macchio would land the lead role of Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid. The career-defining role of "Daniel-San" brought with it tremendous celebrity and helped put Macchio on the cover of every popular teen magazine of the era, despite the fact that the baby-faced actor was actually 23 years old when The Karate Kid was released.
While Macchio has never been able to match the tremendous success of The Karate Kid series, outstanding performances in films such as Crossroads and My Cousin Vinny helped keep his career afloat. In recent years, he has turned more to television and stage. He appeared in a recurring role on the successful ABC series Ugly Betty and also made appearances on popular programs such as Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Psych. Macchio can also be seen reprising the role of Daniel LaRusso in episodes of How I Met Your Mother, Robot Chicken and in an online parody video for Funny or Die titled Wax on, F*ck Off. He even managed a fourth place finish on Season 12 of Dancing With the Stars.
You would never know it by looking at him, but Macchio is now 56 years old. He still lives in his native area of Long Island, NY, with his wife Phyllis Fierro, by which he has two children. He continues to work in various avenues of acting and has once again struck gold playing the role of Daniel LaRusso in the YouTube Red series Cobra Kai. Macchio stars and co-produces alongside William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence) in this popular modern day adaptation of the "original" The Karate Kid.
Martin Kove - Sinsei John Kreese
Kove has well over 200 acting credits to his name in a celebrated career that has spanned almost 50 years now. The Brooklyn, NY, native has appeared in guest roles on countless hit television programs and served as a regular cast member on the successful CBS police drama Cagney and Lacey from 1982 to 1986. Kove also has appeared in numerous films over the years, including hits such as 1985's Rambo: First Blood Part II and 1994's Wyatt Earp. But you probably know him best for his bad guy antagonist role in The Karate Kid trilogy as ethically-challenged Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese.
While you wouldn’t know it by looking at him, Kove is now 72 years of age. He currently resides in the Los Angeles area where he continues to work regularly as an actor, producer and director. In fact, Kove’s IMDb page lists numerous projects scheduled for upcoming release. But it is Kove's return as Sinsei John Kreese in the hit YouTube Red series Cobra Kai that has fans of the "original" The Karate Kid film most excited.
Pat Morita - Mr. Miyagi
Prior to becoming everyone’s favorite wise karate teacher and handy man in The Karate Kid series as Mr. Miyagi, Pat Morita was making guest appearances on practically every popular TV program of the 1960s and 1970s. He also had minor roles in several popular films of the era including 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1968’s Shakiest Gun in the West and 1976’s Midway. Morita regularly played characters based on his Asian ethnicity, and often times, the stereotypes that came along with that. Despite his lengthy resume, Morita did not become particularly well known until landing the recurring role of happy-go-lucky restaurant owner, Arnold, on the hit television show Happy Days from 1975-1983.
Needless to say, The Karate Kid would be Morita’s biggest claim to fame, and his role as the beloved Mr. Miyagi even earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Following the success of The Karate Kid series, Morita continued a semi-successful career as a television and film actor. He would also lend his famous voice to several animated series. Morita continued to act up until his death (kidney failure) in 2005 at the age of 73. The bottom picture was taken shortly before his passing.
Elisabeth Shue - Ali Mills
Shue’s role as Daniel LaRusso’s love interest, Ali Mills, in The Karate Kid helped launch a very successful television and film career. In fact, it’s safe to say that Shue is the most accomplished actor among the entire cast of The Karate Kid. The award-winning actress has appeared in such hit films as Adventures in Babysitting, Cocktail, Back to the Future I and II, Leaving Las Vegas and The Saint. Shue also starred in the hit CBS police drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation from 2012-2015, playing the role of Julie Finlay. Additionally, she is a Harvard graduate and the sister of famed actor Andrew Shue.
Today, the 54-year-old actress resides in the Los Angeles area with her husband, film director Davis Guggenheim, by which she has 3 children. Shue's acting career continues to thrive. She is currently in the process of filming the Tom Hanks' World War II epic Greyhound, which is set for release in 2019. Shue also stars alongside Bruce Willis in the upcoming reboot of the Charles Bronson classic Death Wish.
Randee Heller - Lucille LaRusso
Heller first came into the public eye as Alice on the successful ABC comedy Soap. However, it was her role as over-protective single mother, Lucille LaRusso, in parts 1 and 3 of The Karate Kid that would truly put her on the map. Heller would go on to make guest appearances on numerous hit television programs over the years, in addition to enjoying a successful stage career on Broadway. She also continued to work in film, appearing in feature movies such as Bulworth and Monster in Law. You may also know Heller from the highly successful television series, Mad Men, where she played Don Draper’s secretary, Ida Blankenship. A role in which she received an Emmy nomination in 2011. The 70-year-old Los Angeles actress (originally from Brooklyn, NY) recently made a return to the big screen in the 2017 film A Crooked Somebody. Heller also can be seen reprising her role as Daniel LaRusso's mother in a season 1 episode of the popular YouTube Red series Cobra Kai.
Rob Garrison - Tommy
Garrison began his acting career in 1977 with somewhat limited success before landing his breakout role as Cobra Kai bad boy Tommy in The Karate Kid. He is probably best remembered for the line, “Get him a body bag!” Garrison followed The Karate Kid with a role in the hit 1986 film Iron Eagle. The journeyman character actor also made appearances in several hit television shows over the years, such as St. Elsewhere, MacGyver, Columbo and Coach.
Although Garrison opted to leave the bright lights of Hollywood sometime in the early 2000s to return to his native home of Wheeling, W. Va., he did make an appearance in the 2011 film The Pledge. Now 57 years old, Garrison continues to reside in West Virginia where he works as a manager for a food hospitality company. He also continues to seek opportunity as a freelance actor/director, while serving as an active participant in Community Theater.
Ron Thomas - Bobby Brown
Thomas launched his acting career in 1979, but his first big break came with The Karate Kid, playing the role of Cobra Kai villain Bobby Brown. He would go on to appear in just three more films, including The Karate Kid, Part II, before leaving the world of acting in 1987. A little known fact about Thomas is that he is actually a high-ranking black belt and two-time martial arts World Champion in real life. Thomas, who is now 56 years old, currently lives in Los Angeles where he works as a successful motivational speaker, mindset expert and author.
Tony O'Dell - Jimmy
O’Dell first broke into acting by appearing on the hit television show CHiPs in 1978. His first big break on the big screen came in 1984 with The Karate Kid, playing the role of Jimmy. This helped open the door to O’Dell’s biggest success to date, and the role for which he is best known, playing ultra-conservative preppy Alan Pinkard in the hit ABC sitcom Head of the Class from 1986 to 1991.
O’Dell has since taken on various acting roles over the years, making appearances on shows such as Suddenly Susan, George Lopez and K.C. Undercover. Now age 58, O’Dell lives in the Los Angeles area where he has worked primarily as an acting and dialogue coach over the last few years. That said, he is set to make his return to acting, starring as Dr. Al Middleton in the upcoming medical drama Gods of Medicine.
Chad McQueen - Dutch
The son of legendary action star Steve McQueen, Chad McQueen is probably best known for his role as bleach blonde hot-head Dutch in The Karate Kid. Over the years, McQueen has appeared in a number of films. The majority of which met with little fanfare. That said, McQueen most recently served as executive producer on two successful documentaries regarding his father. Much like his famous father, his true passions are cars, motorcycles and pretty much any form of racing. In fact, before retiring from auto racing in 2006, McQueen had already earned a solid reputation in various avenues of competitive motorsport. He also shares a real life passion with most of his Cobra Kai brethren for the martial arts. Now age 57, the Los Angeles resident still dabbles in the film industry, but his primary focus appears to be on his high-performance motorcycle and automobile products and accessories company, McQueen Racing LLC.
William Zabka - Johnny Lawrence
Zabka actually made his big screen acting debut in The Karate Kid playing the role of Johnny Lawrence. The notorious leader of Cobra Kai, the primary antagonist to the film’s hero Daniel LaRusso, and one of the 1980’s most hated bad guys. While Zabka’s most famous role would earn him numerous opportunities in television and film moving forward, he was so convincing in the role of “villainous bully” that he was often type-cast as virtually the same character in the majority of his projects that followed. That said, Zabka was eventually able to shake that image to some degree and broaden his horizons in different types of roles, primarily working in the independent film industry in the 1990s and 2000s. Of course, that doesn't mean that Zabka has completely abandoned his most iconic role over the years. He's made guest appearances as Johnny on popular programs such as How I Met Your Mother, Jimmy Kimmel and Robot Chicken.
The 52-year old Los Angeles resident has once again embraced the role of Johnny Lawrence in his latest project entitled Cobra Kai. Zabka stars and co-produces alongside Ralph Macchio in the popular YouTube Red revival that picks up on the lives of Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso some 34 years after the "original" The Karate Kid.