The Cast of 1984’s ‘The Karate Kid’ Then & Now 2024

Karate Kid
Columbia/Everett Collection

Many ’80s and ’90s kids likely recall the words “Wax on… Wax off” from the beloved movie The Karate Kid. It premiered in 1984 (40 years ago!) and made almost $100 million at the box office. People loved the film so much that it spawned several sequels in the 1980s and ’90s and was revived with a series called Cobra Kai in 2018. We can’t forget to mention the movie was remade in 2010 with Jackie Chan in Jaden Smith. But we are here for the nostalgia of the original ’80s classic! While many of the stars have reprised their role in Cobra Kai, some have sadly passed away. First, let’s honor those stars we have lost.

Noriyuki “Pat” Morita (Mr. Miyagi)

d. 2005

Pat Morita

Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection and Wildcat Releasing/Everett Collection

Prior to getting his most well-known role in The Karate Kid, Morita appeared as Matsuo “Arnold” Takahashi on Happy Days. Morita also appeared on M*A*S*H, Sanford and Son, Columbo and The Odd Couple. He was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1985 for his performance in The Karate Kid and went on to reprise his role in several of the sequels. After, he starred in The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo as Shelby’s grandpa. It was the first show on Nickelodeon to feature an Asian lead. He made history himself as one of the first shows with an Asian-American lead in Mr. T and Tina and Ohara in the ’70s and ’80s. In the ’90s he voiced The Emperor of China in Disney’s Mulan. Sadly, he passed away in 2005 at the age of 73. Cobra Kai paid tribute to his legacy and credited the franchise’s ongoing success to him.

Rob Garrison (Tommy)

d. 2019

Garrison played a Cobra Kai student who was a friend of Johnny (who can forget his classic line “Get him a body bag!”). He appeared in the sequel plus Iron Eagle and shows Coach, St. Elsewhere, MacGyver, and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. In the ’90s, he retired from acting and went on to become a restaurant manager. Unfortunately, he died in 2019 at the age of 59. Before his death, he guest starred in one episode of Cobra Kai and the rest of the cast shared their sentiments about how happy they were that he was able to be a part of it before he died.

Ralph Macchio (Daniel LaRusso)


Ralph Macchio

Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection and Netflix/Everett Collection

Macchio is best known for The Karate Kid franchise and has reprised his role in Cobra Kai. The series will end with the sixth season in 2025. It is being released in three parts so the next new episodes are coming July 18, 2024.

Macchio went on to star in My Cousin Vinny, Ugly Betty and The Deuce plus appeared as himself in sitcoms such as How I Met Your Mother, Entourage, Head Case and Whose Line is it Anyway? He has been married to Phyllis Fierro since 1987 after meeting her when he was just 15 years old. They share two children. His daughter Julia appeared in season four of Cobra Kai as Daniel LaRusso’s cousin.

William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence)


William Zabka

Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection and Netflix/Everett Collection

Of course, every movie needs an antagonist (unless you are Barney Stinson and think he’s a hero… anyone else remember this from How I Met Your Mother?) and Zabka was it. After The Karate Kid, he appeared in National Lampoon’s European Vacation and Back to School. In the 2000s, he starred in several Syfy TV movies including Python, Python 2 and Antibody as well as studied to be a filmmaker. Zabka put his schooling to good use with the short Most, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. He also appears in the Cobra Kai series and said that he is very grateful for the show and how his character has changed so much over the years. He has been married to his wife Stacie since 2008 and they have two children.

Elisabeth Shue (Ali Mills)


Elisabeth Shue

Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection and Elizabeth Morris/Showtime/Everett Collection

Ah, the quintessential love triangle in ’80s movies. Shue played Ali Mills, Daniel’s crush and Johnny’s ex-girlfriend. In the ’80s, she also starred in Adventures in Babysitting, Cocktail, Back to the Future Part II and III plus Leaving Las Vegas. She took a break from acting to go back to Harvard to complete a degree in political science around the same time that Natalie Portman studied there. She began acting again in the 2010s, appearing in Piranha 3D, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Boys and made a cameo in Cobra Kai. For those who had a crush on her in the ’80s, sorry, she’s married to filmmaker Davis Guggenheim and has three children.

Martin Kove (John Kreese)


Martin Kove

Columbia/Everett Collection and Digital Caviar/Hallmark Channel/Everett Collection

He was the other bad guy in the movie, Johnny’s karate mentor who encouraged his students to play dirty. He reprised his role in the ’80s sequels and joined the main cast of Cobra Kai. In between he starred in Cagney & Lacey, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and even competed on Dancing with the Stars. He is set to appear in a new film called Fight Another Day plus several other projects, proving he is not even close to retirement.

Randee Heller (Lucille LaRusso)


Randee Heller

Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection and Guy D’Alema/YouTube/Everett Collection

Heller played Daniel’s single mom and was already a big star when she joined the cast for her role in 1979’s Soap. She portrayed the first openly lesbian character on broadcast television. She went on to have recurring roles in Who’s the Boss, Mad Men, Wilfred and returned for Cobra Kai. Heller’s most recent role was in the film Destroy All Neighbors.

Ron Thomas (Bobby Brown)


Ron Thomas

Instagram Screenshot and Bob Mahoney/YouTube/Everett Collection

Thomas played the student who was told to injure Daniel but eventually got kicked out of the competition, rightfully so. He returned for the sequel and appeared in The Big Bet. While he has mostly retired from acting, he did appear in one episode of Cobra Kai. His role in The Karate Kid inspired him so much that he is now a martial artist and delivers motivational speeches and online classes on mindfulness.

Who’s your favorite character in The Karate Kid? Or tell us your favorite scene!

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