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Throwback to 1984: The Karate Kid Turns Thirty

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Ralph Macchio learns physical and emotional discipline from his mentor, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, in “The Karate Kid”, 1984.Columbia Pictures via AP

The Karate Kid made its debut in June of 1984. Among the film's most memorable moments ("Sweep the leg, Johnny!") was a moving scene in which an inebriated Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) reveals to his pupil, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) that his wife and child had died at a Japanese-American internment camp while he fought in Europe during World War II.

To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the film's release, Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, shares the story behind that scene, noting that studio executives wanted to cut it for time. Morita, later nominated for an Oscar for this role, had to beg to keep it in the film.

"Not only did the movie teach audiences that karate — despite the dismissive way it was portrayed in television and other films — was a serious discipline," Aoki writes, "but it taught a criminally overlooked history lesson about what this country did to its own citizens."

At the time of its release, The Karate Kid was hailed by critic Roger Ebert as "one of 1984's best movies." It inspired several sequels in 1986, 1989, 1994, and 2010.

Read Aoki's full essay here.


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