Who Was the Real Villain in The Karate Kid? William Zabka Weighs In

William Zabka

Getty William Zabka talks on a panel during the 2019 San Diego Comic Con.

For over three decades, there has been a dispute if Johnny Lawrence, played by William Zabka, is the actual villain of The Karate Kid. The acclaimed series Cobra Kai examines the notion and allows Johnny to give his perspective on how certain events unfolded. The character’s long-time rival Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) is also presented as sometimes being misguided in his actions. This characteristic helps support the argument that Johnny may have been occasionally justified in his treatment of the New Jersey native.

However, some of the character’s actions in the first installment of the film franchise are questionable. Johnny is possessive with his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue) and acts aggressively towards Daniel upon first meeting him. He is particularly violent during the Halloween dance and nearly kicks Daniel, who was barely conscious, in the head before being stopped by Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita). 


William Zabka Asserted That Johnny Is Not ‘the Pure Villain’ in ‘The Karate Kid’

William Zabka

Getty William Zabka strikes a pose at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

However, William Zabka has asserted that he does not believe his character is “the pure villain.” 

In a December 2020 interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast, the 55-year-old explained how he views the character. 

“You know listen to play a character like that you can’t go in and think of him as evil. It doesn’t fit with your body right so I went in and I saw the goodness in him and tried to find his vulnerabilities,” explained the actor.

He then mentioned that Johnny shows good sportsmanship by giving Daniel the trophy after he lost the 1984 All Valley Tournament. 

“At the end of the movie he hands a trophy and so he’s not all bad. He’s a little redeemed,” explained Zabka. 

Zabka then noted that he did not agree with the assessment that his character is a “pure villain.”

“I always felt that like yeah he was tough. Daniel, you know instigated, maybe Johnny overreacted a little. Maybe his training kicked in and he took things too far but overall. Yeah, he wasn’t a bad guy so you know, for the years that he was, you know, labeled the biggest a***** and the worst villain and all those things. I’m like sure I was like the antagonist but I never saw him as a pure villain,” asserted the actor. 

He stated, however, that he viewed Johnny’s sensei John “Kreese more of a pure villain.” 


Zabka Previously Shared Similar Sentiments About Kreese

Martin Kove

GettyMartin Kove, who plays John Kreese, strikes a pose at TCL Chinese Theatre.

Zabka shared similar sentiments in a video that was uploaded on Netflix’s Youtube channel in September 2020. In the video, the actor and his co-star Ralph Macchio were presented with clips from Cobra Kai and The Karate Kid.

After watching the clips, Zabka determined that Kreese was at fault for Johnny’s violent behavior. 

“A lot of people talk about who’s the bad guy in just the film The Karate Kid. I think the real bad guy in the Karate Kid is Kreese,” said the father-of-two. “And I think it’s kind of the teaching that’s the bad guy and that style and that mentality and that’s what’s great about the show is that Johnny is trying to create a new Cobra Kai. He’s trying to he knows there was something not great about that and attempting to move forward but he’s got a lot of baggage with that.” 

READ NEXT: The Issue Elisabeth Shue Had With Her ‘Karate Kid’ Character


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