Sure, it's nowhere near as awesome as the first two, but The Karate Kid Part III isn't without its strengths, even if one critic said its creators must've taken too many kicks to the head and the late Roger Ebert declaring the series had worn out its welcome. We will happily confess that we've still watched it dozens of times. In this video we'll take a look at 10 things you never knew about The Karate Kid Part III.
The flying-people movie we didn't get.
The Karate Kid Part III boasts the same writer, director, and composer as the first two films, as well as fight coordinator Pat E. Johnson, but the finished product is vastly different from what its creators initially intended. Writer Robert Mark Kamen, who went on to make the Transporter and Taken movies, wanted the third installment to be a "Hong Kong flying-people movie." He envisioned it taking place in 16th-century China. As he described it to Sports Illustrated, a girl in a fever dream would wake up in a boat in the South China Sea. "She's with Mr. Miyagi and they come to this village and they get into a flying kung-fu battle."
The time travel we didn't get.
Director John G. Avildsen shared Kamen's ambitions for The Karate Kid Part III, telling the LA Weekly in a densely researched 2016 article that the story would spin off from a line in the second movie, when Miyagi says his ancestor was a fisherman who woke up from too much sake and too much sun on a beach in China and came back with the secret to Miyagi karate. He wanted Daniel and Miyagi to travel back in time and peer through the foliage to see the adventures of this ancestor. "Pat Morita would play the original Mr. Miyagi, and we'd have Kreese be a pirate or whatever."
Ralph Macchio hated it.
In a detailed oral history of the original Karate Kid published by Sports Illustrated in the 2018 run-up to the release of the Cobra Kai YouTube series, franchise star and title character Ralph Macchio said flatly that, "Part three is not my favorite movie. All they did was make the first one over again, without any of the good stuff." He went into even further detail in an interview with Vanity Fair around the same time, admitting that making Part III "was not the most pleasant experience. It mostly came down to the fact that the script never got to the place it should have been. It felt like a poorly done repeat, and I wasn't the only one that felt it."
The director hated it, too.
Ralph is right! During an audience Q&A, Avildsen called The Karate Kid Part III "a horrible movie" and "a poor imitation of the first one." He elaborated further in that LA Weekly article. "Some people liked it and I'm glad they did," he said. "But I was very disappointed that we didn't go to China and keep notching up the story."
The director's son is in the movie.
Avildsen's displeasure with the movie didn't prevent him from casting one of his sons. Jonathan Alvidsen screen tested for the part of one of the villains, Mike Barnes. His father ended up having a role created just for him, Terry Silver's son, "Snake." (Ash Avildsen, another of John's kids, wrote and directed 2017's American Satan.)
Age is just a number.
Daniel LaRusso is in high school in The Karate Kid. Part II picks up immediately afterward before jumping ahead six months. Part III begins with Daniel and Miyagi getting back from Okinawa, which means, Daniel was still a teenager in Part III. Cobra Kai cofounder Terry Silver was written as an old war buddy of original Karate Kid villain John Kreese, but Thomas Ian Griffith, who made his film debut in the role, was only 13 when the Vietnam War ended. He's also four months younger than Ralph Macchio, who was actually 22 in The Karate Kid and 27 when he made Part III.
Sean Kanan was critically injured during filming.
The actor who played Mike Barnes beat out more than 2,000 hopefuls at an open call. During a Christmas break from shooting, Sean Kanan passed out in a hotel lobby. Two quarts of blood had pooled in his abdomen from heavy internal bleeding, the result of an injury he'd sustained simulating being thrown through a door for 20 takes. He begged Avildsen not to recast the role and even did his own karate in the movie once he'd healed. Kanan had been a student since the age of 13 and told People Magazine he'd seen the first two films ten times each.
No matter what the critics said, The Karate Kid Part III is canon. The creators of the kickass Cobra Kai YouTube series are on record as saying that each of the original movie's sequels took place within the universe of the show, which includes Part III. There's an Easter egg reference to Terry Silver, when Johnny Lawrence makes a passionate appeal to have the tournament ban on Cobra Kai lifted. Silver's name is mentioned as one of the owners of the original dojo. (There's even a fan theory floating around the Internet contending that Silver could be Miguel's deadbeat dad.)
Ralph skipped part IV.
Neither the writer nor director of the first three returned for the fourth installment, which starred Pat Morita alongside newcomer Hilary Swank. In a 2018 interview with Uproxx, Macchio said he was never approached for The Next Karate Kid. Miyagi does mention Daniel in the movie and the Cobra Kai showrunners have said The Next Karate Kid is canon, noting that Daniel and Julie likely met at Miyagi's funeral.
The animated series.
The Karate Kid Part III arrived in theaters during the summer of 1989. That fall, NBC added a Karate Kid animated series to their Saturday morning lineup. The time travel ideas for Part III are nothing compared to the premise of the cartoon show. The MacGuffin of the series was a miniature shrine with magical powers that had been stolen from Okinawa. Each episode, Daniel, Mister Miyagi, and new friend Taki would journey to a different part of the world in search of it, battling different villains who hoped to use the shrine's magic for evil deeds. Naturally, they'd just barely miss recovering the artifact each week. The show lasted for only 13 episodes.