Newly arrived in California from New Jersey, teenager Daniel (Ralph Macchio) almost immediately runs afoul of karate-trained high school bullies. He is rescued by Japanese janitor Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita), who agrees to teach Daniel how to harness karate for good instead of brutality. The film culminates in a championship karate bout, pitting Daniel against his sworn enemy Johnny (William Zabka) -- the cruel and thuggish boyfriend of Ali (Elisabeth Shue), with whom Daniel has fallen in love (and vice versa). Real-life karate champ Chuck Norris was offered the role of Kreese, the sadistic coach who goads Johnny into fighting dirty, but Norris turned down the role, refusing to be shown utilizing his skills negatively onscreen. Vastly popular, The Karate Kid spawned three sequels of rapidly descending merit, as well as a Saturday-morning cartoon series.
by Hal Erickson synopsis