Ralph Macchio is an anomaly of an American actor. He is a presenter, but he rarely plays a presenter in movies these days. If he’s the lead, the movie probably isn’t the most important. Of course Macchio doesn’t have the good faith of Keanu Reeves, but I won’t let anyone challenge the idea that Macchio is as natural as Keanu. Yes, there are other actors who have bigger and better accomplishments on their resumes. But is there any other actor on his resume who has these kinds of films and roles, films he hasn’t played in, but films that would be far less than if Macchio hadn’t played them?

In The Karate Kid (and now in Netflix’s Cobra Kai), Ralph Macchio is widely known as Daniel LaRusso and has starred in some very important films. In some of these films he played a lead or a supporting role, while other roles show that Macchio really understood Stanislavski’s decree that there are no small roles, only small actors. It is this state of mind that allows him and other actors of his generation (Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell) to work in 2020. While we thought Macchio could have (or should have) made The Karate Kid’s career, we thought that during this energetic push for his career, it would be a good time to remember the other Ralph Macchio films you should see.


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Macchio’s performance as Johnny Cade in The Outsiders is nothing but tragic poetry on screen. An emotional loser who hangs out with a bunch of social misfits, it’s clear that he and his best friend Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) are striving for a better life. The tears Johnny shed when he kills a rival to save Ponyboy’s life seem genuine. The sense of calm he feels after moving into the serene countryside with Ponyboy is palpable. In those vulnerable moments when Johnny Macchio is just crying because he doesn’t seem to know what to do, we finally realize how brave this scared, shady character is.


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As Eugene Martone, aka Lightning Boy, Ralph Macchio directed a blues film titled Crossroads in one of the greatest moments of his young career. Eager to learn how to become a better blues guitarist, he puts his character on a collision course with an old guitar legend named Willie Brown (Joe Seneca). Together they embark on an odyssey to the Mississippi Delta to find the lost song and get Willie out of a legal agreement with the devil. Macchio is a great blues guitar prodigy, and you can believe it. It hits all the right chords and is the perfect guide for the younger generation to discover one of the greatest forms of music ever.

Fans may have wanted something different in 1986, but the film and Macchio’s intentions are nothing short of noble. The Devil’s Disciple’s honorable mention is none other than that of world-renowned guitar virtuoso Steve Vai, who also breaks out the neo-classical rhythms Lightning Boy uses to crush his opponent at the climax. Charming on so many levels.

My cousin Vinny

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This wonderful comedy from director Jonathan Lynn (All Nine Yards) is not a Ralph Macchio film at all. However, in Bill Gambini’s smaller (but equally important) role, Macchio (starring Mitchell Whitfield) plays a man who finds himself in legal trouble and asks his cousin Vinny (Joe Pesci) for help. Of course Macchio is more of a buffer between Vinny and his friend Stan, but his timing is comically perfect, and he really brings a lot of levity to the proceedings. My Cousin Vinny is a classic movie. It’s one of those movies you watch over and over again. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Vinny’s girlfriend, and Marisa Tomei won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.


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In the film, which was released the same year as The Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio is excellent in the role of the risky student who is also not in the film. He is part of a group that includes Nick Nolte, JoBeth Williams, Judd Hirsch, Crispin Glover and others. Teachers is a look into the corridors of the school that highlights the problems we still face in education. We follow Alex Jurel (Nolte) as a teacher who has lost interest in the school system that a child who cannot read or write goes through. There are many stories here, but the most interesting one is about Eddie Pilician (Macchio) and Danny (Glover). The two are buddies, and Pilikian tries to keep an eye on Danny as the layers of this very dysfunctional establishment come unstuck. It would be nice to look back on this film and say that things have improved in the area of education (and for educators), but unfortunately it seems that many of the problems that high schools faced in 1984 still exist today. Macchio, as a young man who clearly sees the hypocrisy of this system, is as perfect a character as a Pilikian who speaks softly (but cannot read).

Bill Grier’s Three Wishes

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This interesting ABC TV movie stars Macchio in the title role. He plays a character who suffers from a very rare disease in which he ages extremely quickly. So Macchio literally had to play a young man and a much older man in the same movie. He has little time left to live and his goal is to see his long lost father again, play in a band and fall in love before he dies. For fans of the young Ralph Macchio, who are used to the charisma he displays in films like Teachers and The Karate Kid, this film was pretty nervous. Anyway, Three Wishes by Bill Grier is a very well made film that takes a little known subject (at least for 1984) and puts it in prime time.


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As the screenwriter for the legendary horror/thriller psychopath, Ralph Macchio does a very credible job as Joseph Stefano. In a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock, Helen Mirren as Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, Macchio is clearly in a strong cast. This well-made film highlights Hitchcock’s private life during the time he directed the classic thriller Psycho. Macchio may have a small role, but it is no less important given the role his real character plays in the story. Of course, the focus is clearly on the other actors in this cast (namely Hopkins, Mirren and Johansson), but Macchio, as always, does a very credible job in a film populated by solid spies. Unfortunately, Hitchcock doesn’t seem to have given it the attention it deserves, but that shouldn’t make us forget how solid the film is and how Macchio performs against some of the best actors in the world.

Ascending Academy

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The biggest complaint Macchio fans will probably have about this movie is that Macchio doesn’t have enough of a presence. Like Choch, Macchio is part of a group sent to a military school for training. Given that this film was released in 1980 and is represented by Mad Magazine, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Up The Academy is a lesser-known youth comedy from the 1980s. Honestly: Up at the Academy is an entertaining film. It’s not Porky’s, but it doesn’t have to be. Rated R for many reasons, Up Academy is masterfully directed by none other than Robert Downey, Macchio senior in the role of Chooch, raw, astute and the perfect combination of sass and street smarts to really put himself in the shoes of Major Vaughn (Ron Leibman). Much lesser known than many other 80’s films we’ve talked about, Up The Academy is definitely worth 90 minutes of your time to rediscover this gem of the 80’s and the Macchio it contains.

Beer competition

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Of all the movies on this list, Bear League may be the one that makes you scratch your head. Artie DeVanzo (Artie Lange), in danger of being kicked out of his softball league, must rally the troops to make sure that doesn’t happen. One of those teams happens to be Maz (Ralph Macchio), who, although he likes to drink and hang out with the guys, seems to have accidentally landed on that particular team of misfits. But Macchio has a lot of fun in this one-minute comedy of laughter. Sure, the jokes are great, the plot is messy and nothing in Beer League will ever be awkward in the morning, but it’s still nice to see Macchio not afraid to test his range with a project like this. Honestly, if you think of toilet humor corn comedies, Macchio wouldn’t be our type. That makes his turn at Maz even more triumphant.

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