The Karate Kid (40th Anniversary Edition) (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Karate Kid 4K ReviewThe Karate Kid is one of those films that was almost always a big part of my movie-watching as a kid.  I was drawn to the underdog story of Daniel Larusso, who, with a great deal of spunk and determination, proved himself to be a teenage hero for some.  We are now at the 40th Anniversary of The Karate Kid, and time sure has flown. The message of the film remains the same and continues to inspire its audiences to this day, as evidenced by the spin-off series Cobra-Kai. Read on about this new 4K edition below, and be sure to click the new retro cover art at the end to access a paid link to order yourself a copy!

The Karate Kid 4K


NOTE: This review was originally published in April of 2019.

The Karate Kid tells the simple yet amazing story of Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio), a California transplant who just took a cross-country journey from Newark, NJ. He is awkward, socially anyway, and is unsure of how to fit in in his new surroundings. Upon arriving at his dumpy new apartment, he encounters the maintenance man (Pat Morita in an Oscar-nominated performance), Mr. Miyagi, and makes a new friend (or so he thinks) with a kid who lives in the same complex.

When he’s at a beach party the night before school,  he meets Ali (Elizabeth Shue) and has his first encounter with Johnny (Billy Zabka, who creates a prototype for 80’s teen villainy here).  Johnny is a testosterone-fueled outright bully with nothing better to do but be cruel.  He goes from scene to scene with a group of cronies in tow.

When Johnny begins to bother Ali at the beach, Daniel is the only person to come to her aid. He asks Johnny to back off, and Johnny sees this as an invitation to fight.  Daniel tries to hold his ground but is ultimately defeated.  Despite this, Ali is intrigued by Daniel.  Back at home, Daniel tells his mom he had a bike accident and the next day starts out for school.  There he encounters more fish out of water moments.  When the bullies push him over the edge, literally, Mr. Miyagi puts himself into Daniel’s life.

Mr. Miyagi works hard to encourage, train, mentor and become a father figure for Daniel.  He sees a kid coming of age with so many good qualities and a kind heart and uses his wise ways to make Daniel into a good man.  Their relationship is the real charm to the story.  We see two unlikely friends bonding in real-life situations and becoming closer and familiar with one another.  We are treated to some great moments between the two of them throughout (“Wax On, Wax Off”, The Crane Technique sequence, the scene at the lake and some bonding over Bonsai trees, just to make a few).

The film also deals with a relationship angle with Ali and Daniel and leads up to the climactic martial arts tournament that closes the film (“Sweep the leg…”).  This all goes without a mention of Kreese, Johnny’s hateful Karate sensei who instills hate in each one of his students and is seen as the main reason for Johnny’s douchebag behavior.

Through it all, Daniel overcomes social differences, bullying, judgments and challenges.  Daniel is an unlikely hero, but for those of us that watched this as kids, he is someone we looked up to.  Even 35 years later, this is an incredible coming of age film.  There have been many since, but none of them hold up as well as this particular film does.  Absolutely outstanding!

The Karate Kid 4K


  • Encoding: HEVC/H.265
  • Resolution: 4K Digital Intermediate (Fully restored in 4K from the original camera negative)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • HDR: Dolby Vision
  • Clarity/Detail: This newest edition of the Karate Kid features Dolby Vision, something it didn’t have in the previous 2 4K releases.  The results are very similar to the 2019 disc, with only a subtle uptick in color spectrum from the DV pass. Sony has outdone themselves yet again with the clarity of this film being outstanding.  Interior scenes show off detail of backgrounds and beyond, showing new details in every shot.  Outdoor sequences best those interior shots with amazing clarity and gorgeous renderings overall.
  • Depth: While I didn’t expect a 3D pop on this image, I was blown away by just how much depth there was to much of the image.  Things I’d never seen in my many previous viewings on many different formats were now so obvious and visible!
  • Black Levels: Blacks look great here, with much of the pictures moments in darkness or blacks in clothing or interiors looking true to the time and with no graying at all.  There is a nighttime scene with some fog, but that is obviously going  to be more artistic choice than a fault with the remaster.
  • Color Reproduction: This is where this disc truly makes its mark.  Colors are gorgeous throughout.  The interiors at times are drab (as is to be expected…), but immediately after the start of the film we are treated to beautiful outdoor landscapes via the opening road trip montage.  Gorgeous colors in many locales are shown so vividly.  When we visit Miyagi’s home as Daniel begins training we see even more gorgeous outdoor color!  The scenes at the lake and the beach are all reproduced with more color clarity and the HDR is a real stunner in this manner throughout!
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are faithful to the source, looking natural and never fake.  Sweat is prevalent on many of the actors during the movie and depth makes itself known in the flesh tones as well.
  • Noise/Artifacts: As a 35mm film, grain is to be expected and we have a nice subtle amount of grain.  The movie itself doesn’t look new and shouldn’t, but the grain is not even a minor hinderance here.

The Karate Kid 4K


  • Audio Format(s):  English Dolby Atmos (with a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD core), English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.1 Stereo, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
  • Dynamics: Originally released with a stereo soundtrack, The Karate Kid makes its debut on 4K Blu-ray with a brand new Dolby Atmos mix.  Overall the presentation is unexpectedly good, making itself comfortable in all the channels in many ways.  There is never any problem distinguishing anything through the various channels and the sound field is presented in a nice organic way throughout.
  • Height: Height effects are used in outdoor or crowd scenes for the most part.  You will also hear music creep up into the height channels from time to time.  This isn’t the type of movie where you should be expecting anything that immersive up top, but it’s nice to see those height channels used in any way.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The low end makes itself known in the music for the most part.  As a dialogue driven film this is to be expected.  Bill Conti’s orchestrations are gorgeously reproduced with a full low end here.  Source cues from the time sound great and bassy as well, despite being mostly pretty cheesy.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds are used for outdoor or crowd scenes more than anything.  You hear natural sounds in the lower surrounds and height channels, while you hear water, crowds and music in the height channels.  The sound field is spread out though, stretching its legs through the whole movie and being a great presence the entire time.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue remains front and center throughout and crystal clear.  You wouldn’t realize this movie is over 30 years old just by listening to it.

The Karate Kid 4K


Extras for this new 4K edition of The Karate Kid are mostly from the Blu-ray edition that accompanies the new 4K disc.  There is one feature ported from the 2019 4K disc, One new one, raw dailies deleted scenes, finished deleted scenes, a new commentary from the creators of Cobra Kai and then legacy features. The legacy features are from 2009 or earlier and presented in only 480P and found on the 4K disc.  This new edition comes in a “retro VHS” style slipcover, which isn’t all that different from the 2019 edition, and does not include a list of the features included on the discs.  A digital code is included.

  • Commentary by Cobra Kai Creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg
  • Deleted Scenes Dailies (4K, Approx. 30 min.) — These are rough cut, grainy, dirty, damaged and amazing for film fans! This shows a process of filmmaking we don’t see too often on home releases and you even get to see how The Karate Kid may have begun, had they had the standard intro instead of the road trip opening! The rest of the scenes are standard, and obviously cut for time.
  • Deleted Scenes (4K, Approx 3 min.) — 3 minutes worth of deleted scenes that neither would’ve helped or hurt the film if they would’ve been included.
  • “Remembering The Karate Kid” (4K, 10 min.) — A short mini-doc with the movie’s stars reminiscing about the movie with Ralph Macchio, William Zabka and Martin Kove.
  • Blu-Pop — A Pop Up Trivia Track
  • Audio Commentary – With Director John G. Avildsen, stars Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita and writer Robert Mark Kamen (on both discs).
  • “The Way of the Karate Kid” — A multi-part documentary from the long ago DVD release.
  • 3 Featurettes —
    • Beyond the Form (about martial arts)
    • East Meets West (about the Score of the film)
    • Life of a Bonsai (all about the famous trees)
  • Theatrical Trailer (on the 4K disc only)

The Karate Kid 4K


The Karate Kid is a truly special movie from a great time in movie history.  The story is universally relatable, human and still refreshing after so long. This particular presentation is one that I didn’t expect to be as good as it is and Sony continues to be the standard bearer for releasing catalog titles in the 4K Blu-ray format.  I have no hesitation in saying that fans of the film or newcomers to it should grab this one without hesitation. Is it worth a double, triple or quadruple dip for people who have the last 4K edition? Your mileage may vary, but, this movie presented this way earns my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!

The images used above within the review are not actual 4K screenshots.  They are for illustrative purposes only.  


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