Before the Montage
Daniel is a 98-pound weakling. His best friend is a retired janitor who speaks broken English. Everybody in his high school hates him except for Elizabeth Shue, who just might let him feel her up if he can win the All-Valley Karate Tournament. The only problem is that his opponents spent the first half of the movie mercilessly and convincingly kicking his ass:
Since those ass-kickings, Daniel has learned how to do a slow motion interpretive dance known as Kata, and the bullies have grown angrier. That's a problem since their previous encounters have come increasingly close to the legal definition of murder.
Cue the Music
"You're The Best," Joe Esposito
A strange thing happens to the logical part of your brain when Joe Esposita tells you you're the best around, and that nobody in the world can possibly do anything to stop you.
You head into the All-Valley Karate Tournament thinking logical thoughts, such as, "There is literally no way that this ends with anything other than an embarassing ass-beating." But then, suddenly ...
YOU'RE THE BEST, ARRROUND!
"Hey, the little douchey guy just dropped him with a single feathery punch. That seems reasonable enough to me."
"But seriously, why are there 30,000 people at an amateur karate tournament? And why are they more enthusiastic than the crowd at most Def Comedy Jams? The only people who attend karate tournaments are parents and scout masters ..."
NO ONE'S EVER GONNA KEEP YOU DOWN!!!
"Maybe I should stop asking so many questions, and get back to being an unstoppable force of being the best around."
The song is so effusively congratulatory that it makes you want to believe anything. It's like the really persistent guy who tells a girl she's beautiful over and over again. She knows he's a loser, she tells her friends he's a loser, and yet the next morning she still wakes up in his race car shaped waterbed. The final montage of The Karate Kid may not be subtle or make any damn sense, but it's as effective as a chloroform soaked rag.
Daniel hugs Elizabeth Shue with one arm, his retired custodian best friend with the other. Film audiences leave theaters trying to figure out what just happened to them.
Before the Montage
The film's main character, Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) has been paying people to do his homework and take his tests all year, but with an oral exam coming up, he has to learn a semester's worth of information in just one night:
And even though that last sentence describes the finals experience of pretty much every college student we've ever met, Rodney Dangerfield is old so, you know, it's worth making a movie about.