Science fiction is about the unbelievable. The impossible. Things most people wouldn’t equate with a show about aging karate champions and their students. And yet, that Cobra Kai not only exists, but is so freaking good, is unbelievable. It is impossible. And that, along with the mountains of nostalgia the show provides, have made us obsessed.
But, yes, this is io9. Cobra Kai is not sci-fi. If you’re here, you probably like sci-fi. And yet, if you indulged those none-sci-fi impulses in bingeing Cobra Kai, maybe you want to duplicate those emotions it brings up in us all in your preferred genre. We’ve got a few suggestions that might sweep your space legs.
Here’s our thinking: Cobra Kai works because of two main things, the nostalgia we bring in from the original Karate Kid movies, and the zero to hero story. That’s an arc that applies to several characters, from Daniel in the original movies, to Johnny and Miguel in the streaming series. So, for a movie to pair with the show it would have to duplicate those feelings. It needs a good, wholesome, heroic arc, with some cheesiness and emotion. And, also, the unbelievable that makes sci-fi so compelling in the first place.
The king of the sci-fi underdog sports movie genre...of which, admittedly, the competition is scarce. And yet, this Hugh Jackman movie about a father and son who take a fighting robot and turn it into a champion is basically “Robot Rocky.” And since The Karate Kid movies were basically “Karate Rocky,” and everything you got from those movies you got from the Cobra Kai series, you get it right here too. Plus robots.
Cars is obviously not the champion when it comes to great Pixar movies—but it is, in fact, a pretty good underdog, teamwork positive sports movie. Don’t forget Lightning McQueen was a champion racer who loses it all, only to find purpose in friends and get back into the big race. Watch it, or watch it again, not expecting much and you’ll be surprised just how heartfelt and entertaining it is.
Video games are sci-fi right? No? Well, whatever. The story of a young boy and his brother leaving their family to become video game champions is...way darker than you remember it. Trust us. And yet, there’s plenty of Eighties nostalgia, the Power Glove, and an excellent coming of age story with a heart pumping ending.
Imagine being home, playing video games, and then an alien comes down from space and says you’re not just the best in the world at that game, but that the real life war the game is based on needs you to be a hero. That’s The Last Starfighter, a criminally underseen but completely wonderful ‘80s movie that has the sci-fi, it has the heart, and it has a no one becoming quite a someone.
Yes, a second Pixar movie. Yes, a second Pixar movie most people don’t love. But don’t forget, Monsters University is a basically a Revenge of the Nerds remake with monsters. So it’s the story of a bunch of losers who band together to get great at things and defeat the cool, popular, evil bad guys. Hmmm, sounds like a certain Netflix show, doesn’t it?
Sports movies give you that warm and fuzzy feeling because of the accomplishment. The hero has worked hard, persevered, and taken a risk. A risk that’s rewarded, usually, in victory. That’s not the story, but it’s the vibe of Explorers, a River Phoenix/Ethan Hawke film about three friends who find a mysterious piece of technology and use it to build a spaceship. The camaraderie combined with ultimate glory made us think of it here.
Want to talk about underdogs? How about a young boy with no social skills, raised as an orphan, who turns out to be a military-created super computer? That’s D.A.R.Y.L. a wild little Eighties movie that does have some sports in it, but ends up as more of a big, rousing adventure. Maybe it’s the scrawny kid at the center, the small town setting, but there’s just something about the friendships, excitement, sports elements, that makes me think it would be a good side bar to Cobra Kai. Random? Sure. But hey, this whole article is.
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