Daniel LaRusso is one of the main protagonists of The Karate Kid series. His first debut was in the original film, The Karate Kid (1984). He also appeared in Part II and Part III. Although he didn't make an appearance in The Next Karate Kid (1994), he was briefly mentioned by Mr. Miyagi. Daniel becomes the deuteragonist of the 2018 web drama series Cobra Kai, where he has two children and owns the LaRusso Auto Group, a chain of auto-dealerships, with his wife Amanda.
The Karate Kid (1984)Edit
Daniel and his mother, Lucille move from Newark, New Jersey to the "South Seas" apartment complex in Reseda, California due to Lucille's job transfer. Upon arriving, Daniel befriends one of his neighbors, Freddy Fernandez, after karate kicking a gate door into Freddy's face, but Freddy doesn't take offense, and invites him to a beach party. Before the beach party, Daniel meets his future mentor, Mr. Miyagi, when Daniel goes to ask him to fix their new apartment's leaky faucet.
Daniel then goes to the beach party. It is at this beach party that Daniel first encounters Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), and is instantly infatuated with her. He attempts to teach her how to bounce a soccer ball in the air. As he does this, Ali's ex-boyfriend, Johnny Lawrence is riding dirt bikes with his friends. They stop to talk, and it is pointed out to him that they can see Ali flirting with Daniel. This leads to Johnny going down to the beach to try and talk to Ali. She is less than receptive, and in his frustration, he breaks her radio. Johnny, the star pupil of the Cobra Kai Dojo, and the winner of the last All-Valley Karate Tournament, beats up Daniel when he tries to aid Ali. This leads to Daniel being humiliated, and Freddy abandons Daniel on the beach.
In the following weeks, Daniel occasionally falls under the ire of Johnny and the rest of the Cobra Kai gang, who harass him. This conflict finally comes to a head at their high school Halloween party, where Daniel soaks Johnny with water in one of the bathroom stalls. Johnny and his friends chase Daniel from the high school to the fence of his apartment complex, when they are finally able to catch up with him, and begin beating Daniel. Viewing the attack, Mr. Miyagi intervenes. He jumps down from the fence, and beats all of Daniel's assailants single-handedly.
Daniel and Mr. Miyagi go to the Cobra Kai Dojo the next day to attempt to make peace, and ask the head of the dojo, John Kreese to order his students to stop. Kreese refuses, until Miyagi suggests that the matter be settled during that year's All-Valley Karate Tournament, to which they all agree. Mr. Miyagi begins to teach Daniel the ways of karate through a series of labor tasks, including paint the fence, paint the house, wax the car, and sand the floor.
When the tournament comes around, Daniel enters and despite knowing the rules when he starts, he does well, even defeating some of the best Cobra Kai students, Tommy, and Dutch. He makes it to the semifinals, against the Cobra Kai member, Bobby. Bobby is told by Kreese to put Daniel out of commission, and despite Bobby's protests about being disqualified, and the fact that could beat Daniel, he still breaks Daniels leg with a savage kick to the kneecap. When this happens, Daniel is given fifteen minutes to recover, and if he can't fight by then, Johnny will win by forfeit. But thanks to Mr. Miyagi's warm hands, and mysterious healing techniques, Daniel is able to limp back onto the tournament floor.
Johnny and Daniel then exchange points, with the fight coming down to the final point for both of them. This is when Johnny grabs one of Daniel's kicks from his injured leg, and elbows it, causing Daniel an insane amount of pain. Daniel is no longer able to stand on that leg, so he assumes the crane technique position as his final stance, and when the ref signals the next bout, Johnny moves forward, only for Daniel to kick Johnny in the face, winning the tournament. Daniel is then bum rushed by his friends and family, and Johnny grabs the trophy from the organizer of the tournament, and presents it to Daniel, saying, "you're all right Larusso! You're all right!" The movie then closes with Daniel looking towards Mr. Miyagi,who was sitting on the bleachers, and sees him smiling proudly.
The Karate Kid Part II (1986)Edit
As Daniel and Mr. Miyagi are leaving the All-Valley Tournament, they overhear John Kreese berating Johnny for not winning first place. Kreese then starts to mercilessly strangle Johnny, despite the pleas of the rest of the Cobra Kai. Mr. Miyagi intervenes, and after tricking Kreese into punching two car windows, and making both of his hands bleed, Miyagi drops him, and offers him a choice of whether to live or die. He then honks Kreese's nose, because Miyagi doesn't kill.
Six months later, Daniel angrily comes to Mr. Miyagi's house with his car, steamily stating that Ali did something to the car. He also tells him that Ali has fallen in love with a football player as well. To make matters worse, he is supposed to go away on a long trip with his mom. But Mr. Miyagi calls his mom, and convinces her to let Daniel stay with him. Miyagi then gets a letter from Okinawa saying that his father is dying, so he and Daniel travel to Okinawa.
When they get off the plane, they are told that a car is waiting for them, so they get in the car. But the driver was Chozen Toguchi, who was Sato Toguchi's nephew. He takes them to a warehouse, where Sato is waiting. Sato used to be Miyagi's best friend, until a girl came between them. Miyagi also fled before the two could fight, and this insulted Sato's honor, which he could not get over. Then, they go to Miyagi's house, and see Miyagi's father. While they are in Okinawa, Miyagi tries to teach Daniel the Miyagi family technique, but Daniel is unable to grasp it. Chozen makes life difficult for them when he goes to their house and starts screaming in the night for Miyagi to come out, and destroying the thin walls with a spear. Miyagi's father dies, and Sato gives Miyagi three days to grieve before they must fight. Miyagi goes to Sato's mansion, and talks to Sato while he is trying to break a thick beam of wood, which Miyagi and him had found on the beach when they were still best friends. This is when the famous quote happens. Miyagi says, "Same piece of wood we found on beach that day", and Sato says, "Same!".
Meanwhile, Daniel is hanging out with Kumiko, and it is clear they are developing a relationship, but Chozen is making Daniel's life miserable. Daniel then catches Chozen cheating the villagers on produce with fake weights. And, when Daniel and Kumiko stumble into a building where people are placing bets on how many ice blocks people can break, Daniel is telling Kumiko how the people are doing it wrong. Chozen then challenges him to do better, and while Daniel is trying to leave, Miyagi comes in, and places 600 dollars on Daniel breaking all of the ice blocks. Chozen says he cannot cover that, and that is when Sato comes in and says that Chozen is covered. Daniel succeeds, and this further angers Chozen, who later goes up and robs Daniel to get his money back.
Things come to a head, when a huge storm comes, destroying much of Okinawa. Sato is trapped in a destroyed building, trapped beneath a large piece of wood. Miyagi hears his screams, and runs out from shelter to save his old friend. he breaks the wood, and helps Sato get to shelter. Sato then decides to forgive Miyagi, and disowns his nephew who had done nothing to help people. Chozen then runs into the storm.
There is a huge celebration that the storm has passed, and Kumiko is dancing in the island in the middle of the castle. Chozen ziplines in screaming, and holds a knife to Kumiko's neck. He then orders Daniel to come into the circle, and then drop the bridge. He wants to fight to the death. Chozen is winning, but Daniel is getting hits in. He attempts the crane technique, but Chozen knows the counter, and turns it against him. When it looks as if Daniel is going to lose, Miyagi starts twirling a hand drum. Soon, all of the onlookers are also twirling their hand drums. Miyagi is telling Daniel to use the drum technique, and Daniel finally understands the Miyagi family technique.
Daniel starts to repeatedly punch Chozen in the face, while twisting his upper body with every hit, so it resembles a swinging drum. He knocks Chozen to the ground, and tells him, "Live or die man!" Chozen responds, "Die." Daniel says, "Wrong!" and honks his nose. The camera then focuses on Miyagi, who is once again smiling proudly at his student, and the movie closes.
The Karate Kid Part III (1989)Edit
In The Karate Kid Part III, Daniel and Miyagi return to Los Angeles from Okinawa, Japan only to discover that the South Seas apartment complex is being converted into condominiums, leaving Miyagi unemployed and Daniel homeless. They also learn that Daniel's mother, Lucille, is in New Jersey taking care of Daniel's ill uncle. Miyagi invites Daniel to stay at his house, and Daniel uses his college funds to realize Miyagi's dream of opening a Bonsai tree shop. As thanks, Miyagi makes him a partner at the business. When Daniel visits a pottery store across the street, he meets Jessica Andrews; though Daniel has a brief crush on her, she tells him that she has a boyfriend back home in Columbus, Ohio, but they remain friends.
Cobra Kai sensei John Kreese is now broke and destitute after losing all of his students. He visits his Vietnam War comrade, Terry Silver, a wealthy businessman who founded the Cobra Kai Dojo with profits from his billion dollar toxic-waste disposal business. Silver vows to personally help him get revenge on Daniel and Mr. Miyagi and re-establish the Cobra Kai, sending Kreese on vacation to Tahiti to rest and recuperate. Silver hires "Dynamite" Mike Barnes, a vicious karate prospect nicknamed "Karate's Bad Boy", to challenge Daniel at the upcoming All Valley Karate Tournament. Silver also hires two goons to help Barnes, called "Snake" and Dennis. Silver sneaks into Miyagi's house to gather information and overhears Daniel telling Miyagi that he will not defend his title at the tournament. Barnes and some cohorts attempt to coerce Daniel to enter the tournament, but Daniel refuses, and Barnes departs in a rage. The next morning, as Daniel and Miyagi are practicing kata, Silver interrupts and lies about John Kreese suffering a fatal heart attack after losing his students, and begs forgiveness for Kreese's behavior.
Barnes and his friends return to make Daniel sign up for the tournament; when Daniel again refuses, a skirmish ensues until Miyagi arrives and fends off the three men. After driving Jessica home, Daniel and Miyagi return to find their stock of bonsai trees missing and a tournament application hanging in place. To replace the missing trees, Daniel and Jessica decide to dig up and sell a valuable bonsai tree that Miyagi brought from Okinawa, and planted halfway down a cliff. As they retrieve it, Barnes and his henchmen appear and retract their climbing ropes, leaving Daniel no choice but to sign up for the tournament. After pulling them back up, Barnes breaks the tree. Daniel returns to the shop with Miyagi's damaged bonsai, which Miyagi attempts to mend. Miyagi tells Daniel that he sold his truck to buy a new stock of trees, and cannot train him for the tournament.
Silver offers to "train" Daniel for the tournament at the Cobra Kai dojo with a series of brutal, violent, offensive techniques. He derides Miyagi's kata forms and pressures Daniel to destroy a wooden practice dummy, causing him several injuries in the process. Throughout his training, Daniel's frustration alienates him from Miyagi. While Daniel and Jessica are at a nightclub, Silver bribes a random man into provoking a fight with Daniel, who responds by punching the man and breaking his nose. Shocked by his aggressive behavior, Daniel apologizes and makes amends with Jessica and Miyagi. Daniel visits Silver to inform him that he will not compete at the tournament, but Silver reveals his true agenda to Daniel as Barnes and Kreese enter the dojo. After Barnes viciously assaults Daniel, Miyagi intervenes and finally agrees to train him. They replant the healed bonsai and begin training.
At the tournament, Barnes reaches the final round to challenge Daniel. Silver and Kreese instruct Barnes to inflict serious damage on Daniel, keep the score a tie, and finally beat him in the sudden death round. Barnes gets the upper hand during the fight while taunting Daniel relentlessly. When the initial round concludes, Daniel wants to concede, but Miyagi urges him on. In the sudden death round, Daniel performs the kata; as a confused Barnes lunges toward him, Daniel flips him to the ground and strikes him to win the tournament. Silver walks away in disgrace while the crowd throws their Cobra Kai shirts back at him.
In the three decades between Karate Kid and Cobra Kai, Daniel met and married a woman named Amanda and had two children, Samantha and Anthony. When Sam was 8, Daniel trained her in karate, though she eventually stopped training with him. Also at some point, the bonsai tree store, opened in 1989 with Mr. Miyagi ultimately failed and Daniel went into the car dealership business. Sadly, Mr. Miyagi died in 2011, which dealt a heavy blow to Daniel.
Cobra Kai (2018)Edit
34 years after the events of the first movie, Daniel Larusso is now a successful car dealer, owning the LaRusso Auto Group, a chain of car dealerships in the San Fernando Valley with his wife Amanda. While working at one his dealerships one day, he encounters Johnny Lawrence, who was at the dealership to reclaim his car after (unknown to Daniel), Daniel's daughter Sam and her friends damaged it in a hit-and-run. Despite Johnny's objections, Daniel has Johnny's car fixed for free.
Some time later, he discovers that the Cobra Kai dojo has reopened in Reseda, which revives his rivalry with Johnny Lawrence. Fearing that Johnny will create a new generation of bullies, Daniel becomes obsessed with trying to close Cobra Kai, which is only worsened when, in a drunken state, Johnny spray-paints a penis on one of Daniel's billboards, leading to Daniel being mocked both online and by his buisness rival Tom Cole( as well as, unknowingly to Daniel, causing Sam to be bullied after she dumped her boyfriend.
Soon after, Daniel manipulates Johnny's landlord into doubling the rent on his tenants, attempting to force Johnny to close. However, this fails due to Johnny's student, Miguel, defeating a group of bullies in the school cafeteria, which is then posted to the Internet and causes Cobra Kai to become rapidly popular and take in many more students.
After Amanda calls Daniel out on his pettiness and recent actions, Daniel goes to Mr. Miyagi's grave, admitting that ever since his mentor's death, he has lost his way, letting his anger take control of him. Just before he leaves, he remembers the lesson Mr. Miyagi taught him about balance 34 years prior. Thus, Daniel cleans out and rebuilds his old training room, once again resuming his training.
After Daniel tries unsuccessfully to persuade Samantha to go back to karate, he takes in and trains Robby Keene, who, unknown to Daniel, is actually the son of Johnny, who had started working at Daniel's company as an act of revenge against his father, after seeing him with Miguel and believing Johnny had replaced him. Daniel begins training Robby with the same methods that Mr. Miyagi had taught him decades earlier, such as "wax on, wax off."
Later, Daniel attends the meeting of the athletic committee for the City Karate Tournament of which he is a member, where Johnny is trying to convince the committee to lift the lifetime ban on Cobra Kai for the events that had taken place in Karate Kid III. Johnny tells the committee that his teachings are different from those of John Kreese and Terry Silver, stating that Kreese himself is dead. He says that he has learned from his past mistakes and that his dojo is now a place where people who get bullied are taught self confidence and how to stand up for themselves. Despite Daniel's furious objections, the committee is convinced by what seems to be Johnny's genuine sincerity and allows Cobra Kai to compete, which infuriates Daniel.
While at a family reunion, Daniel rants about how dangerous and cruel Cobra Kai is, which affects his daughter Sam, who, unknown to Daniel, was dating a student of Johnny's.
Some time later, Johnny confronts Daniel at his home, as, unknown to Daniel, Daniel's cousin Louie and several bikers he had hired destroyed Johnny's car and set it on fire. However, before they come to blows, Amanda quickly defuses the looming fight with an invitation to peacefully discuss the matter over breakfast and they reach an agreement: in addition to Louie being fired, Johnny would receive a trade-in car from their business in compensation, though much to Daniel's frustration.
While on a test drive, the two bond together over beers, where they end up visiting Daniel's old apartment and reveal their stories before they met, Daniel learning that Johnny's childhood hadn't been as perfect as he previously thought.When Johnny returns Daniel to his home seemingly friends and having finally put their grudge behind them, and possibly about to do a fight for fun(like the ending or Rocky III between Rocky and Apollo), Daniel introduces Robby to Johnny. The fact that Johnny knows that Daniel doesn't like Cobra Kai, and that he's training Robby, his own son, makes Johnny infuriated. Daniel is shocked and infuriated when he learns that Robby is Johnny's son, once again igniting the fires of hatred between the two men. Feeling betrayed, Daniel kicks Robby out of the house, as Daniel suspects Robby is involved in some con against him.
The morning of the annual All Valley Under-18 Karate tournament, Daniel is depressed about the events with Robby, and initially refuses to attend the tournament, until he is forced to go by Amanda. They sit in the front row, and Daniel is visibly dismayed when Cobra Kai makes their grand entrance. Then, much to Daniel's surprise, he learns that Robby is participating as a fighter unaffiliated with any dojo. Later, as a deliberate slight and insult to Daniel, Johnny has Miguel use Daniel's signature move, the Crane Kick, to defeat an opponent, which infuriates Sam.
Although initially hesitant, Daniel becomes more and more excited as he watches Robby fight, and approaches Robby after he is injured during the semifinal match, and advises him to find balance in his life by letting go of his anger toward his father, forgiving him for not telling him the truth about him and Johnny. Daniel assists Robby back into the ring and agrees to him fighting as a member of Miyagi-do Karate with Daniel as his coach.
Unfortunately, Robby ultimately loses the tournament to Miguel, after Miguel quickly realizes that Robby's shoulder is injured and targets it to get the win. Afterwards, Johnny approaches Robby and Daniel and tries to apologize, though without success. Daniel coldly congratulates Johnny for getting the win.
After the match, Daniel reassures Robby that he's proud of him and he fought with honor, unlike Miguel. Robby comments that Cobra Kai is going to take over karate in the Valley, something that Daniel says will happen "over his dead body." He then takes Robby to Mr Miyagi's old home, and reveals that he plans to use it as a dojo to continue Robby's training and teach others Miyagi-do karate, in order to defeat Cobra Kai in the subsequent tournament and bring them down once again. Unbeknownst to Daniel, however, another old enemy from the past has returned: John Kreese, ready and eager to get his revenge against Daniel once and for all.
- One strength and weakness of Daniel's is his loyalty to his family, a trait that was later revealed to have been due to Daniel's mother. However, this loyalty causes Danny to become extremely defensive anytime anyone in his family is criticized or insulted, especially by his rivals, such as Johnny Lawrence, even if the statement about said family member is true.
- In 2015, YouTube user J. Matthew Turner posted a video that proposed a serious conspiracy theory: that Daniel LaRusso is the real bully in "The Karate Kid", and Johnny Lawrence is just an innocent peacemaker, citing examples such as Daniel being the one who started the fight on the beach, as well as dousing Johnny at the dance. This version of events was validated in the 2018 Youtube Red series Cobra Kai, when Johnny recounts his version of events to Miguel, which matches Turner's theory practically verbatim (although Johnny does gloss over some details in his version, such as knocking Daniel down the hill or the way he acted with Ali at the beach, breaking her radio, and the later ballroom dance).
- Daniel's father died in 1974, when he was 8 years old. Daniel briefly discusses this with Mr. Miyagi in Part II and again in Cobra Kai.
- Daniel is compared to:
- John Kreese - both of them confront their rivals about fighting incidents (Miyagi and Johnny).