The Karate Kid has a feel good ending. Daniel lands the crane kick, defeats Johnny, and hoists his first place trophy. Mr. Miyagi watches with a smile on his face, and the movie fades to the end credits.
This is not the original ending to the movie, however. The ending for The Karate Kid was actually supposed to be the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II, where Mr. Miyagi confronts Kreese in the parking lot. The film presumably would have ended after Mr. Miyagi ‘honks’ Kreese’s nose and he and Daniel leave him in the parking lot.
How the Ending Impacts the Movie
Currently The Karate Kid ends on a very upbeat, positive note. Daniel is the champion and Johnny admitted defeat, so his bullying problems have come to an end. This original ending, however, would leave the movie with a slightly darker feel.
Even though Daniel and Mr. Miyagi still walk off victorious, the original ending casts Johnny and Kreese’s futures into doubt. He attacks Johnny, nearly killing him in the process. It makes the viewer feel a sense of sympathy for Johnny that was not there the rest of the movie, and makes his future more worrisome.
Kreese, meanwhile, is revealed to be truly villainous. Previously the movie portrays Kreese as very aggressive and intensely focused on winning, even to the point of foul play. It does not, however, make him seem murderous. His actions against Johnny revealed him to be a very sinister character, which we see in The Karate Kid Part III and Cobra Kai. This scene makes him vindictive, dangerous, and a little unhinged.
Why the Scene Is Important to the Franchise
During the scene Kreese and Johnny are in an argument because Johnny lost the tournament. Kreese yells at him that he is a loser, then snaps his trophy and puts him in a headlock. After Kreese fights off a few pupils trying to stop him, Mr. Miyagi approaches and tells him to release Johnny.
When Kreese declines to release Johnny, Mr. Miyagi grabs his arm, forcing him to let go. Kreese then attacks Mr. Miyagi, shattering multiple car windows and bloodying his knuckles as a result. Miyagi proceeds to force Kreese to his knees before honking his nose and walking away.
The scene is important because it sets up many events in the future of the franchise. In The Karate Kid Part III we see that Kreese has lost all of his students and his dojo is going out of business as a result of his actions in the parking lot. Additionally, he still holds a grudge against Mr. Miyagi and Daniel, and deals with residual pain in his knuckles from shattering the car windows. He brings in Terry Silver to take them down, and tells him to make sure that Daniel’s knuckles bleed.
In Cobra Kai we see the effect that Kreese’s attack had on Johnny. He had to quit Cobra Kai, the one place he felt at home. When Kreese comes back it takes a long time for Johnny to trust him again. All of Johnny’s old Cobra Kai friends, who were there in the parking lot, tell him that it is a bad idea. Kreese has been an evil presence that they have had hanging over their heads for their entire lives.