The Karate Kid (1984)

If there’s one movie that everyone seems to have seen at east once, it’s “The Karate Kid.” It’s not hard to see why: Its overcoming-your-fears thematic narrative is universally relatable, from natural-born champions to hard-working underdogs with clear ideas of their personal best. Here, screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen taps into the psychology of the indefatigable, preternatural overachiever archetype by surrounding protagonist Daniel with precarious circumstances (new neighborhood, limited single-parent income, etc) that have increasing consequences (resulting in a serious bully problem that’s far beyond high school taunting and full-on into criminal harassments and assault territory), letting the audience experience the increasing severity and the climactic release of the guaranteed positive outcome along with him. But what makes the movie so special and so timeless is undoubtedly the natural screen charisma that Ralph Macchio brings with him to the role. The dude was born to a be a movie star, and he’s just absolutely perfect here: He’s handsome without being unapproachable, reflexively smart-mouthed without being insolent, resilient but warm-hearted nevertheless, and he breezes through each scene with the natural confidence of a born leader and the aching sincerity of a bleeding heart. It’s co-star Pat Morita who went on to earn an Oscar nomination for his crowd-pleasing role as Miyagi, but this is Macchio’s movie through and through, and he was robbed of a Best Actor nomination of his own.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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