|The Karate Kid character|
|First appearance||The Karate Kid (1984)|
|Last appearance||"December 19" (Cobra Kai) (2021)|
|Created by||Robert Mark Kamen|
|Portrayed by||Elisabeth Shue|
|Family||Mr. and Mrs. Mills (parents)|
|Spouse||Dr. Gregory Schwarber (separated)|
|Significant other||Daniel LaRusso |
|Children||Ava Schwarber (daughter)|
Lucas Schwarber (son)
Ali Mills is a fictional character who appears in the motion picture The Karate Kid (1984) and in season 3 of the streaming television series Cobra Kai (2021), portrayed by Elisabeth Shue.
Ali Mills grew up in a wealthy family in Encino, Los Angeles, where she was a high school cheerleader. During high school (The Karate Kid), she was a genuine, athletic, independent, tough, and down to earth teenager. She had a keen interest in learning to play soccer, and enjoyed spending time at the Arcade where she excelled at all of the games.
Currently (Cobra Kai), after attending UCLA and then medical school, Dr. Ali Mills is a Denver-based pediatric surgeon settled in Colorado. She has two children and is divorcing her husband, Dr. Gregory Schwarber, an oncologist (whom she met in medical school).
Main article: The Karate Kid
Main article: The Karate Kid Part II
Main article: Cobra Kai
In Season 1, Episode 1 of Cobra Kai, Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso meet accidentally after Johnny's car is towed to Daniel's auto business, 34 years after the events of The Karate Kid. Prosperous and successful Daniel appears happy to see him, while Johnny (who was just fired from his construction job and is living in a small apartment in Reseda, California) is very uncomfortable. Daniel introduces Johnny to his employees as a "guy who really had it in for me" when they were in high school. Johnny replies that he behaved that way because Daniel "move[d] in on my girl", referring to the fact that he and Ali had dated before she met Daniel. In response, Daniel states that "she actually wasn't really your girl anymore was she," as Ali and Johnny had broken up a few weeks before Daniel met her at the beach.
Johnny (in Cobra Kai) describes both his relationship with Ali and their 1984 breakup (events alluded to but not shown in The Karate Kid). In Season 1, Episode 8 of Cobra Kai, Johnny tells his student Miguel that he first met Ali in the Summer of 1982, when he and his Cobra Kai friends went to see the movie Rocky III. They noticed a group of girls in front of them and one of his friends, Dutch, began to throw Milk Duds at them. When Miguel is surprised, Johnny explains that it was an "alpha move," because girls like guys who "treat them like crap". The girls became angry and one of them - Ali - got up and began yelling at Dutch, pouring her popcorn (with butter) all over him. Johnny said that was the first time he met Ali, and thought that she was a "firecracker." After turning him down many times, Ali finally said yes to a date. He took her to "Golf and Stuff", where they kissed on the ferris wheel. Johnny said that they were "madly in love" and dated for two years. She gave Johnny the black headband he wears during Karate. However, the summer before senior year, they had a big fight. While he thought they would "work things out," Ali met Daniel instead.
In Season 2, Episode 5 of Cobra Kai, Johnny makes a confession about his breakup with Ali to Tommy (who he helped to sneak out of the hospital for a 24-hour road trip). Johnny states that on the night that Dutch got so drunk that he smashed a dart board, he also got so drunk that he missed Ali's birthday - ultimately leading up to the "big fight" that ended their relationship. Later that evening, Tommy also makes a confession. He said that he was also in love with Ali (whom he met in Homeroom during Freshman year) but never had the courage to ask her out. After Johnny began dating her, Tommy said was inspired to become a Cobra Kai so that he could gain Johnny's courage, although he got over Ali as he did not wish to have her come between him and a fellow Cobra. Johnny responded by saying that he never got over Ali, though he dated many women after her. Ali was the only one with whom Johnny was able to "let his guard down."
In Season 3, Episode 9 of Cobra Kai, Johnny and Ali reunite after he finds her on Facebook. After realizing that they haven't seen each other since he lost the tournament (The Karate Kid), he apologizes to her for the mistakes he made while they were dating. Ali tells him that she can't even remember why they were angry with each other.
Ali first notices Daniel at a beach party the summer before senior year of high school (The Karate Kid). Daniel's friends tell him that she is "off-limits" by his friends because she is "Hills" (meaning part of the clique of rich students). They inevitably meet when he teaches her a few soccer moves. Johnny is infuriated when he sees her with Daniel (although Ali ended the relationship a few weeks prior, he did not believe it was over) and races his motorcycle into their conversation. Despite repeatedly telling him to leave her alone, Johnny continues to insist she talk with him. Daniel tries to stick up for Ali and is badly beaten by Johnny, who is experienced in karate. Ali attempts to help him, but he pushes her away.
Daniel and Ali meet the next day at their high school on the soccer field. It is during this conversation that she introduces herself as "Ali — with an ‘i’", to which he responds that he is "Daniel — with an ‘l’". As they continue to get to know each other, Daniel discovers that Johnny is Ali's ex-boyfriend (as of 3 weeks). As her interest in Daniel deepens, Ali encourages him to stand up to Johnny, whom she feels is a bully and realizes is frequently beating Daniel up. She tells Daniel that "It's just that he [Johnny] thinks he can do whatever he wants to people." She also tells Daniel that she would "love to see him [Johnny] get a dose of his own medicine." Unfazed by Johnny's outbursts, she frequently tells him off or yells at him, and is angry that he will not leave her alone.
Ali's down-to-earth nature is highlighted during her first date with Daniel, when she is picked up by Daniel's mother Lucille in an old car that stalls. Not only does Ali immediately get along with Lucille, but willingly helps Lucille and Daniel start the car up again. This interaction is a stark contrast with Ali's parents who interrogate Daniel when they meet him and are not impressed that he lives in Reseda rather than Encino. This difference in social class is further emphasized at the end of the date, when Daniel is teased by other teenagers because he is picked up by his mother in their old car (an incident that bothers him more than Ali).
Social class is further reinforced when Ali asks Daniel to meet her after dinner with her parents at an elite country club. Johnny, also at the club, tries to get her attention and is aided by Ali's parents (who prefer Johnny to Daniel). Ali, however, is hostile after she is coerced to dance with Johnny by her mother, and hits him in the face when he forces her to kiss him (a move he made to infuriate Daniel who was watching in the kitchen). She yells at Johnny, "Don't you ever do that to me again!" and storms away. Daniel also tries to run away but gets spaghetti spilled on himself after he accidentally crashes into the kitchen staff.
A few days later, equipped with a driver's license and a car from Mr. Miyagi, Daniel finds Ali at the Arcade, and they argue (as Daniel is angry over the kiss he witnessed and Ali is angry about the entire incident). Daniel accuses her of being a snob who is behaving badly because he isn't "rich with a fancy car." This statement infuriates Ali, as it contradicts her real nature, which she summarizes by telling him: "you know Daniel I didn't go out with you because of a car or where you live ... I thought maybe you were different." She makes him understand that the discomfort with the class differences between them comes from him and not from her. Daniel also learns that Ali rejected Johnny's kiss, after her friend tells him that Ali punched Johnny with "her right hook- you think she sprained her wrist doing her nails?" Daniel apologizes, and Ali agrees to support him at the tournament against Johnny the next day.
Ali arrives at the tournament with Daniel and Mr. Miyagi, and tells the officials that she needs to be at the ringside because she is Mr. Miyagi's translator. Since neither Daniel nor Miyagi know the actual rules of competitive karate, Ali quickly teaches Daniel what he needs to know before the competition begins. Daniel eventually proceeds to the finals and defeats Johnny. Ali rushes to hug Daniel afterward as they celebrate his victory.
Ali and Daniel broke up six months later, an event that Daniel conveys to Mr. Miyagi in the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II. Daniel enters Mr. Miyagi's home dressed in a tuxedo, and in the now badly beaten up car that Mr. Miyagi gave to him. Mr. Miyagi said that it "must have been some senior prom; what happened?" In response, Daniel exclaims angrily, "You mean, what didn't happen? First I let Ali borrow the car and she redesigns my fender! And I don't know what she did with the engine but that ain't running right either. And you know what else she does? She tells me that she's just fallen in love with some football player from UCLA! Why didn't she just lie?"
In Season 2, Episode 1 of Cobra Kai, Daniel tells his daughter Samantha about Ali (to help Samantha work through her breakup with Miguel). First, Daniel tells her, when he lived in New Jersey, he fell in love with Judy, and thought it would last forever. It ended, however, when he moved to California. Then, he met Ali and this time he was sure that "she was the one" and that "it was true love." When Samantha asks him what happened with Ali, he told her that it was "a story for another time." He continues to say that after Ali, there was another story, and then after that, there was another story.
Ali offers a different version of her breakup with Daniel in Season Three, Episode 10 of Cobra Kai. After spending an afternoon together for the first time since high school, Johnny and Ali meet later at a holiday party that her mother asked her to attend, and bump into Daniel and his wife Amanda. During their dinner together, Daniel is not eager to explain their breakup, in response to Amanda thinking that it was because of the rivalry between Johnny and Daniel. Ali says that this was not the reason, and eagerly offers to tell the story stating: "So I got into UCLA, and I ran into this guy that I knew who went there. Daniel sees me talking to my friend." Daniel interrupts the story by sarcastically repeating the phrase, "your friend" (with air quotes). In response Ali states that, "yes he was my friend, actually," then points to Daniel and says that, "he jumps to conclusions. Well, I was a little bit upset so I probably, maybe, egged you on." Daniel becomes defensive, and tells Ali that he thought she was "in love with the guy." Ali then said to him, "I told you! Just like I told you that the brakes on Mr. Miyagi’s car were gonna go! I hope that you didn’t tell him that it was my fault it crashed?" Ashamed, Daniel lied, saying, "no, of course not." Later, as he is leaving, Daniel apologizes to Ali for the manner of their breakup, which she replies to by saying that they were very young, and that she will remember the good times.
Main article: Cobra Kai
Johnny and Daniel end up in a bar and begin to talk about their shared childhood over drinks. Daniel reveals to Johnny that Ali is currently a pediatric surgeon who has since moved to Denver with her husband Gregory Schwarber, an oncologist whom she met in med school. Daniel says he has not spoken to Ali since 1985, which Johnny thinks is odd because Daniel knows so much about a woman he has not seen or spoken to in decades. Daniel says he learned of her from his Facebook account, and learns that Johnny has no idea what Facebook is. Daniel opens up Facebook, explains how it works to Johnny, and shows him Ali's account. It displays her name as Ali Mills Schwarber and shows a picture of Dr. Schwarber (whom Daniel and Johnny agree is a "pretty boy"). Daniel mentions that he did not send her a friend request, as he believes Amanda would frown on him reconnecting with ex-girlfriends, and does not see a purpose in doing so in the first place.
One night while drinking in a bar, Johnny (who has since learned about Facebook and set up an account) types a Facebook message to Ali, which he hesitates to send. He only sends the message accidentally (and without his knowledge) after someone bumps into him, forcing him to press the "send" button.
After losing the Cobra Kai dojo to Kreese (who had a talk with the landlord, and finds out that the landlord doesn't like Johnny), and seeing his student Miguel Diaz on life support, Johnny drives to the beach and throws his smart phone away into the sand in a fit of rage. He is thus unaware that Ali has sent him a Facebook "friend request" in response to the Facebook message he had unknowingly sent earlier.
Miguel takes pictures of himself and Johnny at a concert and tells Johnny that he can see them on Facebook. When Johnny tells Miguel that he doesn't have Facebook anymore because he threw his phone away, Miguel explains to him that he can access Facebook through his computer. Later, while working on his laptop, Johnny opens up Facebook to look at the concert photos and finally sees Ali's "friend request," which he accepts.
After Johnny accepts her Facebook “friend request,” Ali sends him a message via Facebook Messenger. She notes that a lot of time has passed since high school, and says that she is happy with her family and career, and could “still kick your ass at air hockey.” Ali also says that while they used to see each other every day in high school, she doesn’t know anything about what he is like now and wonders what he is up to?
Johnny initially composes a novel-length response in “all caps” (after "liking" all of her photos), a response which sends Miguel into a panic. He asks Johnny for photos so that they can develop a better Facebook Profile. After looking through Johnny's box of 1980's “pin-up” style photos of himself, Miguel decides that they should take contemporary pictures, and Johnny decides to base them on the kind of photos that Ali posts. Ultimately, however, Johnny posts pictures of himself with his karate students and responds,“Not much, U?”
Ali is visiting her parents for the holidays, and her mother asks her to attend the Christmas party, which Ali agrees to do. She had also responded to Johnny’s Facebook message with a note that says she is in town and that they should meet for lunch. During the lunch, they realize they had not seen each other since Johnny’s defeat at the karate tournament (at the end of The Karate Kid).
Johnny confesses to Ali that he wasted his life, first during his 20’s and 30’s partying too much, and then after his girlfriend became pregnant, he was unable to cope with being a father. Ali also confesses that she has “messed up” many things in her life, because she was always playing a series of roles: “Ali the Good Doctor, Ali the Good Mom, Ali the Good Wife.” Next she states that she and her husband are separated and are divorcing each other. Johnny apologizes for his behavior in high school, and for the mistakes that he made in their relationship.
They next play air hockey and other games at “Golf and Stuff" (their high school hang out), take selfies, and nearly kiss. However, Ali receives a phone call from her mother reminding her about the Christmas party, and she invites Johnny to join her. When Johnny arrives at the party at the country club, he sees Ali talking to Daniel.
While Daniel is ordering drinks at the Christmas party he hears a voice say, "Daniel — with an ‘l’". Daniel turns to see Ali, whom he hasn’t seen since high school. They joke that it’s funny to run into each other at the same country club that Daniel (the “kid from Reseda”) was forced out of when he came to find Ali, and hug. At that moment, Johnny enters and almost has an accident with a waiter carrying bowls of spaghetti (all references to similar events in reverse in The Karate Kid).
Unaware that Daniel and Johnny had been in touch, Ali "reunites" them, but is soon witness to their continued rivalry. She meets Amanda and bonds with her during dinner, as Ali, Johnny, and Daniel tell stories of high school. During this time, Ali reveals that what actually caused her breakup with Daniel was his jealousy over a college friend of hers (which he mistook for a love affair). Ali also did not crash Daniel's car but instead the brakes had gone out, something that Ali had tried to warn him would happen. While Amanda is paying for dinner, Ali lectures Daniel and Johnny on their behavior, telling them: “you guys are more alike than you want to admit. And maybe you recognize parts of yourselves in each other and maybe you don’t always like what you see.” Ashamed, Daniel and Johnny both agree that they are at fault, and will try harder. Daniel again apologizes to Ali for the mistakes of the past as he says goodbye, and she tells him that she tends to only think of the good things.
Next, she says goodbye to Johnny. They talk about his relationship with Carmen (which Amanda told Ali about), and how happy she is for him. As an act of closure, she tells him “sometimes it's good to visit the past, to know where you are now. But you can’t live in the past.” Johnny agrees, saying that “we have to live for today” and Ali adds “and the future, whatever that might bring.” Ali tells Johnny that she has faith in him and “will always be there for him.” She pushes him towards his car saying, “So get out of here, you have a future to find.” Johnny agrees and leaves to find Carmen, while Ali returns to the country club to find her parents.
Elisabeth Shue attended Wellesley College. She transferred to Harvard University in 1985, from which she withdrew to pursue her acting career (she was inspired by a friend to work in television commercials as a way to pay for college) one semester short of earning her degree. It was during this time that she auditioned for the part of Ali in The Karate Kid. Among the younger cast members, Shue remembers Ralph Macchio [Daniel] as someone who was considered a "a big star compared to the rest of us. We were all like: Woah, he has a manager." Shue also recalls "being incredibly jealous that Ralph got to learn karate and I didn’t. I made fun of him a little bit, like: I could kick your ass." In contrast, Shue was put through a different kind of physical conditioning for the beach scene: "I remember having to wear a bathing suit for that scene, which was a big deal because I felt so uncomfortable. When we first started filming, I was given a trainer (Jake Steinfeld, of Body by Jake fame) and asked to stay in shape." Shue states that as The Karate Kid was her first main role in a theatrical release, she was "still pretty starry-eyed about it all. What was so extraordinary about The Karate Kid is that I don't think anyone involved felt like we were making a culturally important 1980s movie. I remember thinking that the title felt pretty insubstantial and I wondered about Ralph Macchio's karate skills...." In 1987, Shue reflected on the experience stating that, "doing The Karate Kid was not a happy experience for me, and I think my performance reflected my feelings...I didn’t feel anyone had passion for the work, at least during what I observed on the set..the last thing I wanted to do was a Karate Kid sequel. Shue's character Ali did not appear in The Karate Kid movie sequels.
36 years after the original film, Shue returned to the Karate Kid universe by joining Season 3 of Cobra Kai (although characters in the series referred to her in Seasons 1 and 2). She rejoined the series partly due to the encouragement from director, Dan Trachtenberg. She also decided to return because the writers wanted to contest the narrative of The Karate Kid II, which offers only Daniel's version of their breakup. Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg stated that they "didn't like [Daniel's reason]. Elisabeth didn't like that reason. So we tried to think of a way to make a way that didn't make Daniel out to be a liar but also gave Ali her own side of the story." Hurwitz also added that, "hearing what happened at the start of that movie was such a bummer for us ... so we knew when we brought her on the show we would find a way to explain and get her side of the story."
Shue states that acting with Macchio and Zabka is "like the movie never stopped... It just felt like our chemistry and our connections were exactly the same as they were." She compared it to "a high school reunion; it felt like no time had passed. Like none at all. We kept reminiscing and laughing, constantly reliving the first Karate Kid every minute between takes. Non-stop reminiscing about our experience and laughing about what a great movie it turned out to be." Zabka concurred noting that, “I think I lived everybody’s fantasy of being Daniel LaRusso at Golf N’ Stuff with Ali Mills on his arm … to kind of recreate those moments was so much fun and we just laughed the whole time. She’s awesome, Elisabeth. We were good friends when we made [1984’s The Karate Kid] and lost touch over the years. But it was just an instant chemistry.” Macchio enjoyed the sense of closure that the reunion brought, such as the “moment where I come back and I want to apologize for years back and she cuts me off. When I turn to leave, it’s such a genuine moment on her face and they put the Karate Kid little love story music under it, and it just really was an ‘awww’ moment for me. It sort of tied it up. I didn’t know it when we shot it because I’m leaving and it was me turning away, and you just stay on her for that moment and there was a whole story in her eyes there that I thought really captured the heart of that sweet little adolescent romance from 36 years ago.”
Regarding Daniel and Johnny, Shue notes: "The one thing that’s so sweet is to see Daniel and Johnny still fighting it out. They really haven’t evolved much." She was glad that Ali's appearance in Season 3 acts as a mitigator to this rivalry, leading to a truce.