'Karate Kid' Star Ralph Macchio Addresses Film's Controversial Ending

The '80s classic, The Karate Kid has one of the most memorable final scenes in all of sports films.

Daniel LaRusso, played by Ralph Macchio, has spent the movie studying the art of karate from his mysterious teacher Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki Morita) so he can defend himself against some of his bully classmates. The climactic scene takes place at the Under-18 All-Valley Karate Tournament, with LaRusso taking on Johnny Lawrence (Billy Zabka) in the finals.

Despite Lawrence badly injuring his leg, LaRusso manages to knock him out and win the tournament with a swift crane kick to the face, one of the techniques Miyagi taught him. The scene puts the film over the top as a great underdog story, but fans have noticed an inconsistency in recent years that calls the final scene into question.

Before the match starts, the referee informs both fighters that strikes to the head are illegal. Yet LaRusso's crane kick nails Lawrence right on the chin, which theoretically means he should have been disqualified.

It turns out the fans aren't the only one who noticed the problem, as Macchio himself addressed the ending in a recent interview with The Wrap.

"No hits to the face was clearly something when the referee made the list of things what not to do," Macchio said. "If that didn't happen, I don't know if we'd be talking about that movie 34 years later."

Macchio said he's noticed the fan theories about the film over the years, how LaRusso is the real villain of the story and that he cheated to win the finals of the tournament.

"My theory on all of it — and I've seen the little documentary footage of the 'Justice for Johnny' and the concept that Daniel was the real bully and came to town and sucker-punched him and stole his girlfriend — I'm not so sure that case would hold water," Macchio said. "It seems a little shady in some parts. But I love the fact that we made this movie in 1983, it came out in '84, and in 2018 people are still debating it. I think that makes it topical, relevant, a piece of Americana. 'Wax on, wax off' is probably in the dictionary by now. It's sort of wonderful to have all of that and people still battle that out."


Macchio and Zabka will star in the sequel series to The Karate Kid franchise, Cobra Kai, which debuts on YouTube Red on May 2. According to Macchio, that kick will be directly referenced early on in the series.

"There's a reference in the first episodes... there's a scene where [Johnny] says, 'That illegal kick?' And I say, 'What about that elbow to my knee?' Which was equally illegal!" Macchio emphasized. "You're not allowed to grab someone's leg and jam your elbow into their wounded knee."