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10 Shows and Movies Like Cobra Kai to Watch While You Wait for Season 5

Binge first, binge hard, no mercy!

malcolmvenable.jpg
Malcolm Venable
Tanner Buchanan, Cobra Kai

Tanner Buchanan, Cobra Kai

Netflix

Cobra Kai continues to punch along as one of Netflix's most popular original series, and certainly one of its most popular acquired shows (it was originally a YouTube original before Netflix rescued it). Four seasons of The Karate Kid continuation are out now, with Cobra Kai Season 5 set to premiere on September 9, less than a year after Season 4 came out.

A little background on the series: Cobra Kai has been around since 2018, when it debuted on YouTube, but it got some additional attention by moving to Netflix after its second season. Picking up 34 years after the events of The Karate Kid films, Cobra Kai reunites its stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka in their roles as Daniel and Johnny to examine what happens when their rivalry reignites vis-à-vis their teenage children, who are also conveniently into karate.  


Since Cobra Kai Season 5 is months away, we've put together a list of shows that are like Cobra Kai in some way — let's face it, few shows are exactly like Cobra Kai — whether they're focused on the teen drama or just punching someone in the face. 

Kung Fu

Olivia Liang, Kung Fu

Olivia Liang, Kung Fu

The CW

Yes, karate is Japanese and Kung Fu is Chinese, but The CW's action drama Kung Fu shares a lot more in common with Cobra Kai than just having a balanced center around martial arts. In Kung Fu, a young woman named Nicky Shen (Olivia Liang) uses her skills with quick kicks and powerful punches to clean up her community, and while she's not taking down a rival dojo, she is taking out a gang that's terrorizing San Francisco. Kung Fu also focuses on what it's like to be an outsider in your own home, as Nicky's more traditional Chinese family would rather her not risk her life by tussling with gangsters, yet it's through martial arts that Nicky finds her confidence and purpose, just like the kids at Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang. -Tim Surette 


Warrior

Andrew Koji, Warrior

Andrew Koji, Warrior

David Bloomer/Cinemax

Let's get straight to it — you watched Miguel kick a kid through a wall and now you have an unquenchable bloodlust for martial arts. You'll find no better show on TV for that than HBO Max's Warrior, an action drama set in 1870s San Francisco following a Chinese immigrant (Andrew Koji) who works as muscle for gangs in the infamous Tong Wars. That's where the similarities between Cobra Kai and Warrior end, however. Warrior is extremely violent, very bloody, and incredibly serious, and because it's an import from its original home on Cinemax, it's pretty adult, too. But if it's the style and grace of a human body turning into a tornado of clenched fists and whipping feet that you're looking for, you'll find it in Warrior. -Tim Surette 


More recommendations:


The Paper Tigers

Paper Tigers

Paper Tigers

The greatest part of Cobra Kai is its self-awareness. Revisiting the characters of The Karate Kid decades later only works if it's both tongue-in-cheek and sentimental, mixing fun and respect for the original in an entertaining cocktail. The 2020 film The Paper Tigers isn't based on a previous property, but it has that same formula: Three friends who trained in martial arts as kids get back together many years later as middle-aged men to avenge the death of their teacher, even if their bodies aren't quite up for it. Like Cobra Kai, the film is aware that many years have passed since these guys were badasses, and mines that for comedy. Also like Cobra Kai, there's an intense respect for martial arts and the characters, making it a heartfelt film with plenty of laughs. -Tim Surette 



Saved By the Bell

Dexter Darden, DeShawn Cavanaugh, and Mario Lopez, Saved by the Bell

Dexter Darden, DeShawn Cavanaugh, and Mario Lopez, Saved by the Bell

Casey Durkin/Peacock

If it's some of the sweet, sweet nostalgia that you're craving, take off the gi, put on some shades, pop a collar, chisel those dimples, and head over to Bayside High for the continuation of the '80s and '90s series Saved by the Bell. Like Cobra Kai, it follows the characters from the original series years later (Zack is governor of California!), as well as a new generation of high schoolers who realize the older characters can't stop living in the past. It also pokes fun at the original by pointing out some of the characteristics of the show that haven't held up well over time. Almost all of the original gang reprise their roles in some capacity. -Tim Surette



The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

Disney/Liane Hentscher

In the mood for another show that's the continuation of a movie that came out in the theaters decades ago? Disney+'s The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers follows the same path as Cobra Kai, bringing us up to speed on what's going on with the Mighty Ducks youth hockey program, and, obviously, Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), the coach from the original movies. Lauren Graham stars as the mom of a young hockey player who gets cut from the Ducks, who have turned into an elitist powerhouse. See? That's kind of like Cobra Kai with the whole script flipping! It's a lot more wholesome than Cobra Kai, but it's also surprisingly funny and a real charmer. -Tim Surette



GLOW

GLOW

Jackie Tohn, Marianna Palka, Rebekka Johnson

Ali Goldstein/Netflix

When it comes to charming shows with '80s nostalgia and subtly poignant commentary to be made, you can't go wrong with the totally rad Netflix original GLOW. A fictional tale based on the real-life ladies wrestling league of the Reagan era, GLOW stars an ensemble cast led by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin. As Ruth "Zoya the Destroya" Wilder and Debbie "Liberty Belle" Eagan, Brie and Gilpin portray actors whose ambitions were thwarted by institutional sexism and personal life choices. Both Brie and Gilpin -- nominated for a Golden Globe, Emmys, and Critics Choice awards between them -- make the show's skillful blend of lightheartedness and serious drama look easy to pull off and they're just two of many great performers who make the show's unforgettable characters come alive. Each of its three seasons gets better and more satisfying as the episodes go on.



Into the Badlands 

Daniel Wu, Into the Badlands

Daniel Wu, Into the Badlands

Aidan Monaghan/AMC

Want to see more of the karate and less of the kid? This action-adventure series ran for three seasons on AMC and follows a warrior, Sunny (Daniel Wu), and a young boy, M.K. (Aramis Knight), who go on a journey to seek true enlightenment. Heavy on martial arts and formulas from that genre, Into the Badlands of course required its journeymen to battle many, many foes along the way as they trudge through a post-apocalyptic landscape that's the result of a centuries-old war. Full of warlords, mystics, and magic, Into the Badlands is packed with cinema-level fight choreography, and engrossing conflicts that make it a compelling drama.



Friday Night Lights 

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

NBC/Getty Images

Friday Night Lights ran from 2006 to 2011 yet this oldie remains a goodie. It's about high school football in Texas, where high school football is everything, but it's also about community, duty, and the sometimes suffocating ties that bind. Kyle Chandler is damn-near iconic as Coach Taylor, a conflicted family guy doing his best to lead the Dillon Panthers to state at all costs; Connie Britton shines as his wife/guidance counselor Tami Taylor; and Taylor Kitsch earns our love again and again as Tim Riggins, the talented athlete struggling with alcohol and problems at home. It's way more intense than Cobra Kai but is just as beloved as a portrait of a community surrounding a sport.



Teenage Bounty Hunters

Anjelica Bette Fellini, Kadeem Hardison, and Maddie Phillips, Teenage Bounty Hunters

Anjelica Bette Fellini, Kadeem Hardison, and Maddie Phillips, Teenage Bounty Hunters

Netflix

True to its name, this dramedy follows a pair of high schoolers who, well, become teenage bounty hunters. At the outset, Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) are normal teenaged twins doing normal teenaged twin things when they accidentally land a job nabbing fugitives to earn cash. With Orange Is the New Black's Jenji Kohan on as a producer, the series has that madcap vibe you can't turn away from even when it goes completely off the hinges. Yet as Sterling and Blair balance crazy adventures with standard coming-of-age rites like dating and school, just like Cobra KaiTBH remains lovable and sometimes excellent.



Kickin' It

Kicking It

Disney XD

If you liked Cobra Kai for its family-friendly take on a dojo in a strip mall, then wait until you get a load of...this family-friendly Disney series about kids doing karate at a dojo in a strip mall! Running on Disney XD from 2011 to 2015, Kickin' It was a half-hour comedy series about a crew of kids who chop and kick their way through lessons about life and friendship. Of course, its mousey home network means this one's a little less gritty and a lot more PG than Cobra Kai, but the fundamental appeals are very much the same.