The Karate Kid is a coming of age underdog story about a teenage boy learning to face his fears and push himself to greatness. It takes the best aspects of a teen movie – the search for identity, attempting to fit in, the desire for independence, romance – and combines them with the determination and will to succeed in a sports movie. Released 40 years ago in June 1984, The Karate Kid was a major hit, launching a franchise that continues to thrive today.

The movie begins when karate enthusiast Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and his mother (Randee Heller) move from Newark, New Jersey to Reseda, California. Desperate to make friends, he joins a soccer game on the beach where he meets new crush Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue). It doesn’t take long before her jealous ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), the standout student at the Cobra Kai karate dojo, and his buddies notice. Daniel’s attempt to stand up to Johnny does not go well, leaving him beaten up and embarrassed in front of his new friends and crush.

Now the target of the Cobra Kai gang’s bullying, Daniel turns to Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita) to train him to defend himself. Not only does Mr. Miyagi teach Daniel the physical skills the teenager craves, the wise old man also imparts wisdom and spiritual knowledge to better understand karate. With the support of now-girlfriend Ali and his nervous mother, Daniel faces Johnny and his friends in the local karate tournament hoping to end the rivalry once and for all. Injured and nearly beaten, Daniel musters his determination and new skills to defeat Johnny, the former champion, and finally gain his respect.

The Karate Kid is a semi-autobiographical story written by Robert Mark Kamen. When he was a teenager, Kamen sought to learn karate to defend himself after he had been beaten up by a gang. His first instructor was like the movie’s John Kreese (Martin Kove), teaching karate for the violence, so Kamen switched to a Japanese teacher who taught the Gōjū-ryū style of karate. Kamen also heard a story about a boy who was the son of a single mom that became a black belt in karate to defend himself from local bullies.

It was a sleeper hit in the summer of ’84 and would become one of the highest grossing films of the year. Since it brought in over $100 million on an $8 million budget, Delphi Productions and Columbia Pictures’ decision to greenlight a sequel was a no brainer.

The Karate Kid Part II debuted in 1986, taking Daniel and Mr. Miyagi back to the teacher’s home of Okinawa in Japan. There, Mr. Miyagi is confronted by his former friend Sato (Danny Kamekona) who hates him because Yukie (Nobu McCarthy), the woman he was supposed to marry, loved Miyagi instead. Daniel finds a new crush in Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita), and his own trouble in Sato’s nephew Chozen (Yuji Okumoto) who challenges Daniel in a fight to the death after Daniel exposes his dishonorable ways.

Macchio and Morita starred in The Karate Kid Part III, their final franchise outing together, in 1989. Back in Reseda, John Kreese wants revenge for how Mr. Miyagi and Daniel embarrassed him, so he turns to his friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). Terry hires karate bad boy Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) to terrorize Daniel and new friend Jessica (Robyn Lively). Terry then inserts himself into Daniel’s life, manipulating him by bringing out his anger, before Mr. Miyagi must step in to help his student once again.

The franchise attempted a return in 1994’s The Next Karate Kid with Morita as the only returning star. Mr. Miyagi’s new student is Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank), a teenager who recently lost her parents and is dealing with a group of sexist bullies at school. The Next Karate Kid was critically panned and a disappointment at the box office, effectively ending the series for years.

The next revival came in 2010 in The Karate Kid, starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith playing new characters with the familiar story. Preteen Dre Parker (Smith) moves to China with his mom and is soon tormented by the local bully, so martial arts master Mr. Han (Chan) teaches him kung fu to defend himself.

The franchise has had its biggest hit since the original movie with the streaming TV series Cobra Kai from showrunners Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg. Debuting in 2018, the show catches up with Daniel and former nemesis Johnny, now in their early 50s. Daniel has become a successful car dealership franchise owner, husband to Amanda (Courteny Henggeler), and father, while Johnny struggles to pay his bills as a handyman, drinks too much beer, and his estranged from his son.

Angry about his present, and missing the glory days of his past, Johnny decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo – much to the chagrin of Daniel who tries and fails to shut it down. Soon Johnny is training Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), a boy who is bullied at school, while Daniel starts training his daughter, Sam (Mary Mouser), and Johnny’s son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), for the same tournament they competed in 30-plus years ago.

Its TV show format has allowed Cobra Kai to build on the spirit of The Karate Kid and venture into more complicated territory. Johnny is given a redemption arc, while keeping his bad boy edge, and Daniel tries to teach like Mr. Miyagi would and confronts some of his own flaws. The series appeals to the adults who grew up with the film series and wisely introduced a group of new karate kids to pull in younger viewers.

The teen cast has included several standouts like Jacob Bertrand as Eli “Hawk” Moskowitz, Gianni DeCenzo as Demetri Alexopoulos, Peyton List as Tory Nichols, and Dallas Dupree Young as Kenny Payne. Several Karate Kid movie alums have returned for cameos and guest arcs, including Kove, Griffith, Shue, Heller, Okumoto, Tomita, Lively, Kanan, and others. Cobra Kai is set to return for its sixth and final season sometime in 2024, though Netflix has not given a specific date yet.

Sony’s Columbia Pictures has announced that a new Karate Kid movie will arrive in theaters in May 2025. Very little is known about the production aside from the description, “The return of the original Karate Kid franchise.” Macchio will star as Daniel and Chan is back as Mr. Han. The cast also includes Ben Wang, Sadie Stanley, Joshua Jackson, Wyatt Oleff, and Ming-Na Wen.