'Cobra Kai': How the Netflix Series Links to 'The Karate Kid'

Cobra Kai has shot to the top of the Netflix TV charts, two years after the show debuted on what was then called YouTube Red (and is now YouTube Premium). The TV series, which stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, is the latest reboot of the 1984 movie The Karate Kid (which is also streaming on Netflix), following the 2010 Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith movie version.

While that 2010 movie was a remake of the original film, which saw Macchio's Daniel LaRusso trained by Pat Morita's Mr. Miyagi, Cobra Kai is a sequel to the Oscar-nominated 1984 movie.

Set 35 years after the events of The Karate Kid (aka present day), the Netflix show reunites LaRusso with his one-time rival Johnny Lawrence (played by William Zabka, reprising his role).

In the original film, Johnny is the ex-boyfriend of Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue) and is a black belt in karate who trains at the Cobra Kai dojo. After Johnny beats up Daniel at Halloween, Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi to train him in order to be able to fight back. Johnny and Daniel face off at the All-Valley Karate Championships, with the latter eventually winning.

cobra kai karate kid sequel
Ralph Macchio and William Zabke in 'The Karate Kid' sequel 'Cobra Kai' Netflix

Though Macchio would go on to make two more Karate Kid movies, Zabka only appeared in the first of these, making Cobra Kai a direct sequel to that 1984 movie.

In the TV series, Johnny is down on his luck and working as a handyman, while Daniel is now the wealthier of the two due to owning a car dealership. Johnny gets rid of the bullies of Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) using karate, a mirror to Miyagi's use of karate against Johnny when he beat up Daniel in the film.

After this, he decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo and teach a whole new generation karate. This, however, brings up a lot of old wounds for both the middle-aged Johnny and Daniel. The former has never got over the breaking up of his relationship with Ali, while the latter is still grieving the death of Miyagi. Pat Morita died in 2005 at the age of 73, so this is a way of paying tribute to the actor who was nominated for an Oscar for playing the karate master.

Morita, however, is not the only lead from The Karate Kid who does not appear in Cobra Kai. So far, Shue has not reprised her role as Ali. However, she has previously teased that she may eventually turn up on the show.

Asked by Entertainment Tonight Canada during a junket for the Amazon Prime Video show The Boys whether she would return, she said "I'm thinking about it." Macchio, meanwhile, said of PopCulture.com: "They certainly approached [her] and have questioned it. We know that she really enjoyed the show and sees the quality of the show. So yeah, I think the door is open for something there."

Johnny and Daniel are not the only Karate Kid characters who return for Cobra Kai. Joining them is former Cobra Kai trainer John Kreese (Martin Kove) and Daniel's mother Lucille (Randee Heller). A number of 1984 Cobra Kai students, meanwhile, appeared in a Season 2 episode, with Tommy (Rob Garrison), Bobby (Ron Thomas), and Jimmy (Tony O'Dell) all returning.

Cobra Kai Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming now on Netflix and YouTube; Season 3 is coming in 2021 to Netflix.