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John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs (2017)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 1 August 2017 (USA)
1:39 | Trailer
An examination of the Oscar-winning director who brought to life some of cinema's most beloved motion pictures.
3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
William Zabka ... Self
Ralph Macchio ... Self
Martin Kove ... Self
Elisabeth Shue ... Self / Ali (archive footage)
Pat Morita ... Miyagi (archive footage)
Ron Thomas ... Self
Rob Garrison ... Self
Chad McQueen ... (archive footage)
Tony O'Dell ... Self
Matthew McConaughey ... Self (archive footage)
Sylvester Stallone ... Self
Tamlyn Tomita ... Self
Martin Scorsese ... Self
John Travolta ... Self (archive footage)
Morgan Freeman ... Self (archive footage)


John G. Avildsen's films have inspired millions of 'underdogs' and shaped popular culture for decades, yet most people don't even know his name. Discover the unknown legend behind Rocky (1976) and The Karate Kid (1984) in this official biography about a prolific filmmaker who directed seven actors to Academy Award nominations and earned his own Oscar for Best Director.

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Plot Keywords:

cinema | story | legend | boxing | karate | See All (7) »


Discover the unknown legend behind Rocky and The Karate Kid




Not Rated

Did You Know?


The filmmakers conducted approximately 40 interviews over a span of 9 months. See more »

User Reviews

Solid Look At An Inspiring Filmmaker
3 July 2020 | by zkonedogSee all my reviews

I consider "Rocky" and "The Karate Kid" to be two of my favorite films of all-time. Most often, names like Sylvester Stallone, Ralph Macchio, or Pat Morita are synonymous with those efforts. Yet, both movies were directed by John G. Avildsen. This documentary tells his film-career story, especially focusing on those two iconic pieces of cinema in examining how he had a hand in shaping the great cinematic underdog narrative.

Avildsen had a bit of a strange Hollywood career in that he helmed two blockbusters but didn't really do a whole let else (or at least nothing near as iconic) in the industry. "King of the Underdogs" delves into both of those accounts.

Though touching on some of his other directorial efforts, "Rocky" and "Karate Kid" are the main focus here, as they should be. Interviews from the cast, crew, and Avildsen himself shed some great light on how masterful he was behind the camera and working with all types of actors (young, old, etc.). It's fun to see these nostalgic reminisces.

At the same time, most of those figures also acknowledge that Avildsen could have a prickly, controlling side, potentially part of the reason why he didn't get more work than he ultimately did. He did things his way, and if he couldn't have it he'd either not start a project or walk away from one.

Overall, this was an entertaining and enlightening look at a film figure you may not know all that much about even though his biggest successes are now beloved by all. I feel like I understand his film industry journey much better after "King of the Underdogs", and it was an enjoyable experience all-around.

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Release Date:

1 August 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John G. Avildsen - Una vita all'ombra di Rocky See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

AJ16 Entertainment See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


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