The success of Cobra Kai has made the Karate Kid franchise popular again. There are a lot of movies in the franchise and now we have two TV shows from the same universe. With all those movies and TV shows, it can be hard to know the best way to watch all Karate Kid movies in order, including Cobra Kai and The Karate Kid TV shows, and that is where this article will come in handy.
Let us see how many Karate Kid movies and TV shows are there, what is the best way to watch them in order, do you really need to watch them all in order and can we expect more movies and/or TV shows from the Karate Kid franchise.
How Many Karate Kid Movies and TV Shows Are There?
The Karate Kid franchise started in 1984 and was envisioned to be a tetralogy, consisting of The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II (1986), The Karate Kid Part III (1989), and The Next Karate Kid (1994). But, then in 2010, a remake with a similar storyline but with a different set of characters, was released.
Other than these five movies, there was an animated The Karate Kid TV show from 1989, and now, we have a live-action Cobra Kai TV show, currently showing on Netflix.
Now let see what the best way to watch Karate Kid movies and TV shows in order is.
Karate Kid Movies and TV Shows in Chronological Order
According to creators of Cobra Kai, Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg, only the characters from the original four films The Karate Kid (1984), The Karate Kid Part II (1986), The Karate Kid Part III (1989), The Next Karate Kid (1994) comprise the Miyagi-verse that shapes Cobra Kai.
This is also how we will be setting up this Karate Kid chronological watch order.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moves with his mother from New Jersey to California. She has a great new job, but Daniel discovers that the dark-haired Italian from Jersey finds it hard to fit in among the blue surfers, especially when he tries to date one of their girlfriends.
Daniel manages to get out of several fights, but he is caught by several boys going to the same karate club on one occasion. Daniel faints from the blows and then sees old Miyagi (Pat Morita) jumping among the boys and defeating them. Miyagi and Daniel learn that the boys are motivated by their karate teacher.
Miyagi promises Daniel that he will teach him karate skills, and that he will go to the competition in a few months. But when the training starts, Daniel doesn’t understand what the teacher is showing him. It seems more important to Miyagi that Daniel paints fences than learns karate.
The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and Daniel (Ralph Macchio) go to Okinawa to visit Miyagi’s dying father. Mr. Miyagi reveals that he is still in love with his old love. But this discovery renews the old enmity that led him to leave Okinawa a long time ago. Meanwhile, Daniel discovers new love and also acquires some enemies. They have no choice but to fight.
The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
After Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Miyagi (Pat Morita) defeated the karatekas and embarrassed their teacher Kreese, all the students left him. Kreese (Martin Kove) decides to go to his friend Terry (Thomas Ian Griffith) to return his keys and tell him he is leaving town. Terry decides to send him on vacation and before leaving he promises to take care of Daniel and Miyagi.
Terry intends to bring Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan) to fight Daniel in the competition. He then goes to see Daniel and Miyagi, and introduces himself as Kreese’s friend who wants to apologize for Kreese’s shameful behavior. He then invites Daniel to a competition he won last year.
Miyagi believes that should not be his priority now. Terry offers to coach Daniel, but actually devises a grueling regime for him, and manages to quarrel him with Miyagi.
The Next Karate Kid (1994)
At a commemoration for Japanese soldiers killed in World War II, Miyagi (Pat Morita) meets the widow of his former commander. She introduces him to her granddaughter Julie (Hilary Swank), an angry teenager full of pain over the unfortunate death of her parents. The two of them don’t get along at all, and Julie is antisocial anyway. Miyagi decides to teach her karate and get her back on track.
Cobra Kai (2018–)
The plot of Netflix’s unexpected hit is set 30 years after the events of the franchise’s first film. The protagonists Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence spend their days in California and as before, they have nothing in common. One enjoys luxury on all levels, the other barely survives. Due to a combination of circumstances, their paths merge again and a completely new story and new characters begin, with whom the protagonists become mentors.
The Karate Kid (1989)
While Daniel LaRusso (voiced by Joey Dedio) and his mentor Mr. Miyagi (voiced by Robert Ito) remain in the show, the karate tournament motif is replaced by a quest-based adventure. Miyagi and Daniel are charged with recovering a miniature shrine that possesses magical powers that have been taken from its resting place on Okinawa.
Taki Tamurai (voiced by Janice Kawaye) joins the karatekas as they journey around the globe and, naturally, encounter several opportunities to fight their way out of trouble.
In a narration before the opening, Pat Morita reprised his role as Mr. Miyagi by explaining the episode’s plot from his character’s perspective. With the exception of episode 8, Morita narrated every episode.
Still, we are placing this TV show outside the main continuity, because executive producer and co-creator of Cobra Kai, Jon Hurwitz, stated that “The Karate Kid cartoon is not canon. But there is an Easter Egg from it in Season 3.”
The Karate Kid (2010)
Due to business commitments, a single mother and her son Dre move to China. He is disappointed with Beijing because of cultural differences and the abuse of local thugs. He quickly becomes desperate because he does not know the language and does not fit into society. But Dre meets Mr. Han who becomes his mentor in martial and linguistic skills.
In a 2021 interview with Slashfilm, the writers of Cobra Kai stated that they will not be using characters from the 2010 remake, as they are not a part of the “Miyagi-verse”:
“We’ve ruled that out completely. Jackie Chan is mentioned in season 1 of the show as a human, so I think in our world, Jackie Chan is an actor and a performer. If the characters on our show have seen a movie called The Karate Kid, they’ve seen that one.”
Do You Need to Watch Karate Kid Movies in Order?
You should watch the first four Karate Kid movies in order and then start with Cobra Kai. The Animated Karate Kid TV show and The Karate Kid movie from 2010 are not a part of the same continuity. Still, there are some small easter eggs in Cobra Kai that reference them.
Will There Be More Karate Kid Movies?
There are currently no confirmed Karate Kid movies in development. Still, there were some talks about The Karate Kid 2 movie with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, especially because the reboot movie was well received and became the highest-grossing installment of the franchise to date.