Forgotten Friday – The Best of the Best

Thanks for checking out our Forgotten Fridays feature. This is a feature to review some older films that maybe you have forgotten about or maybe never got around to seeing that we just want to share. They may not be old, maybe not forgotten, but they are not new. Just fun to share.

Today, we review The Best of the Best

Genre: Action
Directed by: Robert Radler
Staring: Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, James Earl Jones, Chris Penn, John Dye, David Agresta, Simon Rhee
Released: November 10, 1989


A team from the United States is going to compete against Korea in a Tae Kwon Do tournament. The team consists of fighters from all over the country–can they overcome their rivalry and work together to win?


The national pride and sportsmanship in this movie sets it apart from the typical martial arts film. Instead of a “above the law” throw down. We get a team hand picked for the US National Karate team for an exhibition match against the Koreans. While the film shows a difference in cultures, the Koreans are not “the badguys” which is refreshing for an action film from a film in the late 80s.

The movie has some caricatured personalities but it just serves to illustrate that this hand picked team was not chosen for its personalities, but (mostly) abilities. Its their personalities that causes them conflict with each other and keeps things interesting.

The late Chris Penn is awesome in this as the cowboy Karate fighter with a temper. And the dynamic and fast paced moves of Phillip Rhee is always a pleasure to watch. But the real action is with Eric Roberts. His particular style of fighting is a lot of fun to watch.

But when you hear James Earl Jones speak it gives you shivers. This guy could recite the alphabet and its still intimidating.

The real impact is the ending. I cannot say this enough. I can’t watch this and not cry. I am man enough to admit it, but when you see the end of this movie, it will catch you off guard.


Sally Kirkland’s character is completely useless. If they deleted every scene she spoke in, this movie would not change at all. I don’t know why they paid her to even be on set.

Aside from that everything else in this movie is enjoyable.


A lot of great action, some comedy and charm. One of the few movies to move me to tears, and considering its an 80s action flick, that says a LOT about the movie.

A little trivia, Phillip Rhee wrote and stars in this, and his brother plays his adversary in the movie. I kind of wish they didn’t have to put an eyepatch on him to make him look evil. But it works.

Since all of these Forgotten Friday reviews are going to be what I would already give a high rating to, I had a Tv, Rent or Buy scale going on, but it would seem that an overwhelming majority of my picks get a BUY rating.

So with every Forgotten Friday you see from now on, you get to rate your anticipation for yourself!

TV – If you are at least a little curious, catch it if it comes on TV.
Rent – If it is something you have heard of and forgotten, or just remember enjoying this as much as I did once upon a time, go rent it.
Buy – But if you are like me, and you agree with my review you should go buy it. If its featured here, I already have.

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15 thoughts on “Forgotten Friday – The Best of the Best

  1. In looking this movie up on IMDB, I noticed something interesting. In Europe, the movie “No Retreat, No Surrender” was called Karate Tiger. OK, fine. The movie “No Retreat, No Surrender 2” was called Karate Tiger 2. Again, fine.

    But then things get nutty. In Germany, “Kickboxer” was named Karate Tiger 3. Totally unrelated movie except for being about Kickboxing. (In the rest of Europe, “No Retreat, No Surrender 3” was Karate Tiger 3. Good for them.)

    “Best of the Best” was named Karate Tiger IV in Germany. Again unrelated, and why the switch to roman numerals?

    King of the Kickboxers was Karate Tiger V in Germany. This was Karate Tiger 4 in the rest of Europe. Uh oh, the Germans have gotten into everyone’s heads now, but at least they didn’t randomly switch to roman numerals. “American Shaolin” was Karate Tiger 5 in the rest of Europe, and then they stopped. But not Germany, oh no.

    2 movies were named Karate Tiger 6 in Germany (neither used roman numerals, where’d they go?). “Best of the Best 2” AND “Kickboxer 3”. What happened to “Kickboxer 2” you ask? Why it was named “Kickboxer 2” of course.

    A movie called “To Be the Best” was Karate Tiger VII (there they are, whew). “Fists of Iron” was Karate Tiger 8 (uh oh, disappeared again). And finally “Superfights” was Karate Tiger 9.

    I am eagerly anticipating Karate Tiger 10. Or will it be Karate Tiger X? I’m on pins and needles.

    1. Gymnastics and karate combined, who could forget that? Personally my preferences when towards Remo Williams. Best scene in the movie is at the end when the old man runs across the water. Best of the Best is a classic, good addition, Rodney.

  2. This is what Forgotten Friday is about my friends, Best of the Best is one of my all time flicks. I still quote the ending TO SAVE A LIFE quote among my friends and I.

    The best of the best cast has done it all, founded the UFC, stopped the KKK, you name it they did it all!

  3. haha this movie is and and was always a Tae Kwon Do movie. I started Korean Martial Arts in San Jose in the year 1992 in 7th grade and this movie was promoted so hardcore in the korean community. The Korean team was clearly trained under WTF rules as the American team trained more of the ITF style but in the end they looked to be under ITF rules. Rhee brothers studied all the Korean Arts and since they pitched the movie and the fact that all the scenes come from TKD schools it was TKD…..just that karate kid made such an impact in the 80’s so the movie along with the TKD in the 90’s usually had the word Karate on the outside of the do jang.

  4. “Sally Kirkland’s character is completely useless. If they deleted every scene she spoke in, this movie would not change at all”

    I disagree Rodney. Not useless. Just ignored in her advice due to her looks and slo-mo karate chop. No, seriously. I never considered her a problem in the film. The biggest crutch was actually two scenes:

    – the on the nose meledrama of the kids with the ice cream and the brother letting the other have his;

    – the cliched bar room fight.

    Also, I don’t consider this an “action” film but more of a melodrama. I love the film a lot due to its dislays of tae kwon do. I loved the character arcs (including those regarding getting over prejudice) – it was the three sequels that followed that had more of an action feel to them.

    By the way… Rhee Bros. Phillip and Simon should be considered for the next Expendables…

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