Johnny Lawrence is a recurring character of The Karate Kid series. He initially serves as the secondary antagonist of the 1984 film The Karate Kid but later appears as the main anti-heroic protagonist of the YouTube Red TV Series Cobra Kai.
He is portrayed by William Zabka.
The Karate Kid
Johnny was the best student of John Kreese's Cobra Kai Dojo and the leader of the gang of bullies representing the dojo, as well as the ex-boyfriend of Ali Mills.
Throughout the film, Johnny torments and bullies the protagonist Daniel LaRusso. But when Kreese told Johnny to "sweep the leg" in order to beat Daniel at the All-Valley Karate Tournament, Johnny gives Kreese a frightened glance (while also possibly realizing that Kreese had gone too far).
After he lost to Daniel, Johnny shows respect to Daniel and gives him the first-place trophy. With that, he and Daniel patch things up and become friends.
The Karate Kid Part II
At the beginning of the second film, while Johnny was perfectly fine with winning second-place, Kreese was not as he broke the trophy in two after Johnny called him a sore loser. After an argument between Kreese and Johnny (which Daniel and Miyagi take notice of), Kreese violently berates Johnny, but Miyagi stops him. After that, Johnny and the rest of the Cobra Kai students left Kreese in the parking lot, now seeing Kreese for the kind of man he really was.
The Karate Kid Part III
Johnny appears in a montage in the beginning of the movie. It can be implied that Johnny and his friends left Cobra Kai following Kreese's actions in the begenning of Karate Kid 2 as in the present day Kreese doesn't have any students left.
34 years after losing the tournament, Johnny is down on luck. When he meets his new neighbor Miguel he is hostile with him. He later beats up a group of bullies who were harassing Miguel who asks him to teach him karate. At first, Johnny refuses at first. However, he later changes his mind and decides to train him. He reopens the Cobrai Kai dojo and managed to have it reinstated, which causes his rivalry with Daniel to get reignited. He later gets more students at the Cobra Kai thanks to Miguel. He teaches all of them to strike first, and act merciless to their opponents which is what Kreese taught him. While cobra Kai was initally banned from the all valley tournament due to the actions of Kreese, Terry Silver and Mike Barnes in 1985 (Karate Kid 3) Johnny convinces the committee to reinstate Cobra Kai.
During the tournament, his students Miguel and Eli (Hawk) make it to the semifinals, but Johnny's son Robbie also makes it to the semifinals. During the semifinals Hawk commits an illegal move by kicking Robbie in the shoulder while they weren't fighting which got him disqualified. Johnny got angry at Hawk for what he did and was worried for Robbie. In the final round Miguel attacks Robby's shoulder which is dislocated thanks to hawk, and even yanks his shoulder after losing the point. When Johnny tells him not to fight dirty Miguel said there is nothing dirty about winning which makes Johnny realize what he has turned Miguel into. While Miguel wins the tournament for Cobra Kai, Johnny is upset oat what happened, and even apologizes to Robby for it as well.
While drinking his sorrows upon looking at the winning trophy, Johnny is visited by an arriving Kreese (who has bigger plans of putting Cobra Kai up to the top by all means, much to Johnny’s distress).
In the original movie, Johnny is the leader of the Cobra Kai and the meanest of them. He bullies and harasses Daniel due to the latter becoming friendly with Ali. He doesn't show the enemy any mercy which is what Kreese has taught him to do. In the final round of the tournament however, when Kreese tells him to sweep Daniel's leg Johnny is shocked, and he express reluctance to do so which shows that Johnny knows that things are going too far. After Daniel defeats Johnny, the latter shows respect to Daniel by handing him the trophy and saying you're alright.
34 years later, Johnny is still bitter over losing to Daniel. He is initially hostile with Miguel when he meets him. When he begins training him in karate he teaches him to be merciless. However, when Miguel's mom stops Johnny from seeing him, Johnny realizes that he really cares about him, and that Miguel is the only person that still hasn't given up on him. After more students enroll in the dojo Johnny makes several negative remarks to them which causes several of them to quit. After realizing his mistake, he stops being so harsh with them.
His relationship with his son Robby is strained due to Johnny neglecting him his whole life, which has made Robbie resentful towards his father, and bent on doing everything he can to make Johnny suffer. While Johnny has expressed desire to make amends with Robby and Robby himself did seem to want to work things out with Johnny after Shannon tells him Johnny wanted Robby to live with him, Robby goes back to disliking him after seeing Johnny hugging Miguel, though Johnny was unaware that Robby saw him. Despite their failed realtionship Johnny does care about Robby, and Robby in turn does show that he does care for Johnny by accepting his apology following his loss in the all valley tournament.
After reopening the Cobra Kai dojo his rivalry with Daniel is reignited. Daniel raises his rent just so Cobrai Kai gets closed down which angers him. He tries to prevent Cobrai Kai from getting reinstated in the All-Valley tournament which angers him. After Daniel's cousin Louie burns his car, Johnny confronts Daniel and the two almost get into a fight. However, he two bond together on a car ride where they end up visiting Daniel's old apartment and reveal their stories before they met. However, they go back to being rivals after Johnny finds out that Robbie has been training with Daniel, though Daniel was unaware that Robbie was Johnny's son.
After his student Hawk gets disqualified in the semifinals of the tournament for making a cheap move against Robbie, Johnny gets angry at him for goung far. Whenattacking Robbie's inhured shoulder in the finals, Johnny tells him not to play dirty, and then realizes that he has gone too far. Despite Miguel winning the tournament for the Cobra Kai, Johnny expresses guilt for what has he turned Miguel into.
- Johnny's actor, William Zabka is notable for playing villains in various 1980s movies (with another one of his roles being Greg Tolan from the 1985 coming-of-age high-school comedy drama film Just One of The Guys). However, he played a good guy in a 1980s sitcom To Protect & Surf, as well as being featured in The Equalizer. Out of homage to his 1980s villainous roles, Zabka was cast as Rick Steelman in the 2010 film Hot Tub Time Machine.