ByDavid Rodemerk, writer at
Watched HBO and Cinemax as a little kid before "binge-watching" was even a thing! Mom called me a TV Guide with diapers. Twitter @filmigos
David Rodemerk

Academy Award-winning director John G. Avildsen, acclaimed for helming the original Rocky and the first three Karate Kid movies, has passed away at the age of 81 in Los Angeles.

Avildsen directed several other movies and worked some of Hollywood's greatest stars: Joe starring Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle, Save The Tiger with Jack Lemmon, Neighbors with the comedy duo of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and Lean On Me, which kicked off Morgan Freeman's career. Several of these movies went on to win or be nominated for Oscars in various categories, and helped Avildsen become one of Hollywood's go-to directors.

There Was Something Special About His Movies

We loved to watch Avildsen's underdogs end up as winners in their own ways. We saw a little bit of ourselves in his characters, and the relationships that he created between them and their teachers — Mickey and Mr. Miyagi — made us realize that we don't have to go through our hardships alone.

Heck, anyone who has ever run up a flight of stairs has probably reenacted the famous scene in which Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) throws his hands up in triumph outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. How may times have we seen someone trying their best crane technique from the end of The Karate Kid?

I know I have. To this day, I can still remember being in the movie theater watching Daniel Larusso, despite all odds, defeat that blonde-haired jerk Johnny with one kick and win the tournament. Whenever I see the movie on TV, I have to stop what I'm doing and watch it.

There is a documentary on Avildsen's life called John G. Avildsen: King Of The Underdogs. Sylvestor Stallone, Ralph Macchio, Martin Scorsese and other Hollywood actors and directors provide interviews about Avildsen's incredible directing abilities — it's definitely worth checking out this weekend. Avildsen is survived by his daughter, Bridget, and sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley.

Thank you, John G. Avildsen, for inspiring us to never give up.

What is your favorite John G. Avildsen film? Leave your thoughts and memories in the comments below.


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