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How to watch Cobra Kai and the original Karate Kid movies for free

The surprisingly good YouTube series is out from behind the paywall, but only for a short while.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

It's like some kind of ... dojo time machine.


There's a special place in my heart for The Karate Kid, and not just because I had a mad crush on Elisabeth Shue. In 1984, I was exactly the right age for the story about an awkward teen who stands up to bullies with the help of a kind mentor. (Could have used one of those.)

Of course, when Cobra Kai debuted on YouTube last year, with Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their roles as Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence, I had low expectations. Extremely low. These reboots never work. Everybody's going to look old and weird, the story will feel contrived and pointless.

Imagine my surprise when Cobra Kai turned out to be a darn good show. Of course, I've seen only the first two episodes, which YouTube offered for free. I wasn't about to subscribe to yet another streaming service just to watch one series.

Watch this: 10 best free movie and TV streaming services

Good news: As promised earlier this year, Cobra Kai Season 1 is now available to stream for free -- no YouTube Premium subscription required. The only catch: It's not streaming ad-free. (Use the time during commercials to practice your wax-on, wax-off moves.)

Needless to say, you can watch the show anywhere you can watch YouTube: PC, phone, tablet, streaming stick and so on.

As for season 2, YouTube Premium subscribers already have access to it. For everyone else, the first episode is available to watch right now, with additional episodes emerging from behind the paywall (read: going free) each week starting Sept. 11. However, these episodes will be available free only for a limited time, according to a YouTube press release. It's unclear if there's a time limit on season 1. 

Need a refresher course in all things Karate Kid? This is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with young Daniel, young Johnny and the dearly departed Mr. Miyagi. Here's how to watch the original Karate Kid movie online. (My two cents: You really only need to watch the first one, which sets up everything that happens in Cobra Kai. But if you want to slog through the three sequels, they're available as well.) Note that CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.


Remember, you only need to watch the first one to prepare yourself for Cobra Kai. (Maybe that's a good thing.)

CBS All Access

Watch the first Karate Kid free, free with ads or for $4

Unfortunately, the movie isn't currently available via HBO, Hulu , Netflix, Showtime or any other streaming service you might already be paying for -- with one exception: You can watch it as part of your CBS All Access subscription. (Disclosure: CBS owns CNET.)

If you're new to the service, you can try the Commercial Free plan free for one week. After that, it's $9.99 per month. And for what it's worth, All Access has not only the original, but also The Karate Kid: Part II, The Karate Kid: Part III and The Next Karate Kid.

The movies are also available "free with ads" (meaning you'll have to sit through some commercials) from the following services:


What's available


The Next Karate Kid


The Karate Kid and all three sequels


The Karate Kid and all three sequels

Of course, you can also rent the movies. The Karate Kid is $3.99 at most of the major services: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and so on.

If you've found a better deal, or some other way to watch Daniel throw crane kicks on the cheap, hit up the comments!

Note: This post was published previously and has been updated with the availability of Cobra Kai for free.

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