Almost Everyone Hates The Karate Kid Part III, Except Villain Thomas Ian Griffith

Ask any "Karate Kid" fan for a ranking of all the films in the franchise and one thing you'll almost always hear is how bad "The Karate Kid Part III" is. The first film introduced us to the relationship between Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and got a ton of people into martial arts. The second film was a lovely tale of redemption and forgiveness set in Okinawa. The third? Well, there was karate, but it seemed like all the lessons from the first two films were undone, and logic was non-existent. 

Daniel forgets about only fighting when necessary. The apartment he lived in is being renovated and he and Mr. Miyagi are somehow homeless, so he spends his entire college fund on a bonsai shop. He rappels halfway down a cliff to get a MacGuffin special bonsai tree that Miyagi somehow planted there long ago. Oh, and then there is the villain, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), who is over the top in so many ways. He is a Vietnam vet (despite the fact that this is impossible) who served with John Kreese (Martin Kove), wealthy beyond belief, and dead set on destroying the life of a teenage stranger who upset his war buddy. Also, his business is toxic waste and his company is called Dynatox. You see where this is going. 

One can understand why Ralph Macchio has often stated that he, like so many viewers, doesn't like the film at all. I recently participated in a roundtable interview with Griffith, where he was asked about that film and whether its inclusion in "Cobra Kai" has changed his perspective on it. His answer might surprise you. 

'Fans are surprised I love Karate Kid III'

Terry Silver is pretty much pure evil in the film, and whatever you thought of it, Griffith is actually a fan. 

"It's funny because fans are surprised I love 'Karate Kid III,' but a lot of them were like, 'I hated Karate Kid [III],' so it was a very divisive film. But for me, where I was coming from, being directed by John Avildsen as young actors, and coming from New York and going, 'Hey, John Avildsen wants you in this movie,' when I read the script, it's like they were rewriting it because they had lost Kreese [Martin Kove], and they didn't have him for the movie, whatever it was." 

It makes sense. This was Griffith's first big film, and certainly what most of us know him from. "[Creator] Robert [Mark Kamen] came and was thinking he had to create a villain badder than Kreese," Griffith said. 

"So it's this over-the-top thing, and so I'm playing the bad guy, a Vietnam vet, and there's no way I could've been in Vietnam. They go, 'Don't worry about it, we're just going to throw you into it.' Then it's like, is this a little much? And Alvidsen's like, 'This is the humor of this character, this is going to drive that new life into the franchise.' And I was like, 'Okay, I'm going for it.'"

It would be hard to go against the creator of two films that the moviegoing public loved. Add in the director telling you to go over the top, and there would be no way to resist. One thing you can say about Silver in that film is that he seems to be enjoying every moment of his existence, as Griffith is clearly enjoying his work. 

'That is so over the top'

It's hard to argue about how cheesy this film is. Heck, Silver does his deals from a hot tub full of bubbles as his underlings take notes. Griffith looks at it differently though. "That type of commitment, which is Terry's commitment, is what I can look back [at] and go, 'I'm fond of that. I'm proud of that.'" Of course, he completely acknowledges the film's overall messiness.

"Granted, I'm not the first to say, it's not a good film, but I do love that character still, you know what I mean? Because I just go, 'That is so over the top.' I always say, 'If those are the shots they used in the film, can you imagine what the outtakes were? What the hell was I doing? Thank God.' I said, 'God, I was on cocaine back then,' because how do you explain that? But I think, again, being a New York stage actor, if the director says this, I'm going for it."

That explains a lot, but I have to agree. Terry Silver is absolutely over the top, but you cannot help but smile at how much fun he's having. Seeing him again in "Cobra Kai," trying to tone it down before he lets out his inner evil makes the original film even more fun. Not good, certainly, but definitely fun.

'A very fascinating, watchable character'

Griffith said he knows that Macchio hated the film, but that he's "in a different place." He said he thinks of "Cobra Kai" as a redemption story, because "we're really seeing what drove Terry Silver," and that it's more entertaining to watch the film now, after "Cobra Kai." "Not that I'm saying anyone should go back and watch 'Karate Kid III' right now, but I think it really informs us [about] his world and where he was, psychologically." 

You know what? Do go watch it right now. It hits very differently, knowing what we know about Silver's backstory, his relationship with Kreese, and where he is now. Griffith thinks so, too. "And on the flip side," he added, "that makes Terry Silver in 'Cobra Kai,' in this goofy, ridiculous world, a very fascinating, watchable character."

Rewatching a film you liked in your youth can often be disappointing as they don't always hold up. In this case, the reverse is true. If you hated this film as a kid, and you've watched "Cobra Kai," it's going to be so much more fun, knowing what the future holds. 

"Cobra Kai" season 5 will premiere on Netflix on September 9, 2022. Stay tuned for our full interview with Thomas Ian Griffith.