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The Karate Kid Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

'80s classic is still fun for families with older tweens.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this classic '80s martial arts movie is still a fine pick for families with older tweens. The Karate Kid was re-made in 2010 with a younger perspective starring Jaden Smith. The PG rating of the original seems a little mild considering the number of swear words (including "s--t"), insults, and fights -- not to mention one scene of marijuana use. This is a standard new-kid-in-town flick, but it's also got soul thanks to the teacher-student relationship between wise Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and lonely teen Daniel (Ralph Macchio). Issues of class, race, (teen) romance, and even war are explored in this coming-of-age tale, where karate is a metaphor for life.

  • Families can talk about whether Daniel is the stereotypical "new boy in town." How does he feel about starting over in a completely new place? How does Daniel's relationship with Mr. Miyagi change both of their lives?
  • This is at its root, an underdog story. What other movies fit into this genre? What are some similarities between the main characters' journeys? Who helps them? Who are their rivals?
  • How do class and financial status affect Daniel's place in the high-school hierarchy? Ali's country-club parents treat Daniel shabbily. Why? Kids: How do you treat people from different backgrounds or those who are new in town?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Even though one character says that "fighting doesn't solve anything," the script seems to indicate otherwise. The movie also deals with remembrance of U.S. wartime injustices.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: There's a very clear line between the good guys and the bad guys. Daniel is inspiring in his tenacity to learn, and Mr. Miyagi is a worthy teacher. It's worth noting that a Vietnam veteran is depicted as a psychopathic scoundrel.

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Several fights -- mostly outside of the martial arts competition. Fistfights, which are usually five-on-one, end in black eyes and bruised ribs for Daniel and his rivals. During the karate competition, the sparring is "sanctioned," but people still end up hurt.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Daniel and Ali flirt, go on dates, and kiss/embrace. Johnny kisses Ally without her consent, and she pushes and slaps him.

  • language false3

    Language: Language includes "s--t" and its derivative "bulls--t," "jerk," "sucks," "stupid," and other mild insults like "old man," "weakling," and "coward."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: The antagonist, a high-schooler, rolls a marijuana joint. Mr. Miyagi, grief-stricken, gets obviously drunk.