Best of the Best Cast: Unveiling the Martial Arts Movie Icons

The cast of “Best of the Best” is a dynamic ensemble that brought to life the 1989 martial arts film which became a cult classic in its genre. Directed by Bob Radler, the film stars Eric Roberts and Phillip Rhee, with Rhee also serving as a co-writer and a producer. They are joined by acting heavyweights such as James Earl Jones and Sally Kirkland, along with Simon Rhee and Chris Penn. The film’s narrative centers on a group of American martial artists who are selected to face a formidable South Korean team in a Tae Kwon Do tournament, a plot that showcases not only the physical prowess but also the dramatic talents of its diverse cast.

Each Best of the Best cast member contributes to the film’s depiction of personal and team challenges within the competitive world of martial arts. Eric Roberts’ commitment to his role as the team’s emotional anchor is palpable, and the real-life martial arts expertise of the Rhee brothers, Phillip and Simon, adds authenticity to the combat sequences. James Earl Jones, known for his powerful screen presence, portrays the team coach, bringing a layer of gravitas to the film.

The influence of “Best of the Best” extends beyond its initial release, as reflected by its enduring popularity and subsequent sequels. The film’s ability to blend action with a story of personal and national pride resonated with audiences and the strong performances by its cast played a pivotal role in the movie’s lasting appeal. The narrative not only showcases the physical intensity of martial arts but also explores themes of perseverance, honor, and the spirit of teamwork.

Cast Overview

The 1989 film Best of the Best featured a diverse group of actors who portrayed a team of martial artists. This cast united popular Hollywood talent and martial arts aficionados to deliver a classic action drama experience.

Lead Actors

  • Eric Roberts portrayed Alex Grady, a central character whose determination and resilience drive much of the film’s storyline. With a compelling performance, Roberts brings depth to the role of a martial artist overcoming personal and collective challenges
  • James Earl Jones took on the role of Frank Couzo, the coach of the martial arts team, displaying his commanding presence and acting prowess which solidify his character’s pivotal role in the film

Supporting Roles

  • Tommy Lee was depicted by Phillip Rhee, who not only acted but also co-wrote the film, showcasing his multifaceted talent both on and off-screen
  • Other notable characters were portrayed by actors with various levels of experience in Hollywood, contributing to the film’s dynamic ensemble

Production Team

The production team behind “Best of the Best” played a crucial role in bringing the film to life, from the creative vision executed by directors to the intricate logistics handled by producers and crew members. Their expertise and dedication were essential in crafting an authentic narrative centered around a multicultural cast of characters.


  • Robert Radler: He served as the director, steering the creative execution of the film’s story


  • Phillip Rhee: Not only did he co-write the screenplay, but Rhee also produced the film, overseeing its development from script to screen
  • Peter Strauss: As a co-producer, Strauss contributed to the management and coordination of the film’s production tasks

Crew Members

Director of Photography

  • Douglas Ryan: The film’s visual aesthetic was shaped by Ryan, who worked as the director of photography


  • William Hoy: The film’s pacing and visual coherence were entrusted to Hoy, who edited the action-packed scenes


  • James F. Tarzia: Under the professional name Jim Tarzia, he managed the casting process, ensuring the selection of an effective ensemble cast that could resonate with the industry standards

Production Design

  • Kim Rees: Responsible for the overall look of the film, Rees created the visual concept and guided the film’s art direction

Art Direction

  • Maxine Shepard: She translated the production design into the practical construction and detailing of the film’s sets

Costume Design

  • Cynthia Bergstrom: Through her costume designs, Bergstrom added depth to the characters, enriching the film’s authenticity

Makeup Department

The film’s makeup department played a significant role, but specifics on the team members are omitted.

Production Management

  • Joel DeLoach: They were instrumental as the production manager, coordinating the logistics that enabled the film’s creation

This team’s collaboration brought “Best of the Best” to life, combining industry experience with a commitment to cinematic quality, ensuring the film’s place in the pantheon of classic martial arts movies.

Plot and Genre

In the film “Best of the Best,” viewers encounter a dynamic fusion of emotionally charged drama and the competitive world of martial arts.


The film follows a narrative centered on a team of American martial artists as they prepare for and engage in a high-stakes martial arts tournament against a formidable South Korean team. The storyline delves into the characters’ personal struggles and backgrounds, infusing the martial arts genre with depth and dimension.

Drama Elements

At its core, “Best of the Best” is a drama, propelled by themes of family, personal will, and heartbreak. Characters face internal and external conflicts that test their resolve, and the film navigates the intricate nature of team dynamics and the personal sacrifices made for the collective good. Elements of family influence and personal trials add layers of complexity to the narrative.

Comedic Aspects

While the film is predominantly a drama, it sporadically introduces comedic moments to balance the tension and provide relief from the intense competitive scenes. These moments make use of lighthearted interactions and situational humor, though comedy is not a central element of the film.

Critical Reception

The reception of a cast often reflects the culmination of their skills recognized through accolades, critical appraisal, and audience admiration.

Awards and Nominations

Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay nominations are pinnacle acknowledgments a cast can aspire to within the industry. They indicate a collective performance that not only resonates with the soul of the narrative but also demonstrates an enjoyable and memorable delivery. Best of the Best, though, did not win any huge awards. Yet, it became a cult classic because of its fan reception in the United States and the world.

Critics’ Reviews

Critics usually offer a nuanced perspective on the cast’s performance, assessing the level of skill and creativity involved in their portrayal. An impressive Adapted Screenplay can serve as a foundation for the cast’s talent to shine. Review aggregators such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic provide a condensed consensus. For example, films rated PG may receive a higher critical reception if they are able to convey complex themes while remaining accessible to a wider audience.

Audience Response

Audience ratings often vary from critical reviews but play a critical role in evaluating the cast’s performance. Consensus from both critics and audiences enhances a film’s standing, making it more likely to be remembered as a highlight of the year. Audience response contributes significantly to a film’s overall success, particularly evident when it wins over both the hearts of moviegoers and the rigorous standards of critics.

Cultural Impact

The best of the best cast in Hollywood often leaves a significant mark on both the industry and its audience, setting standards for performances and resonating themes of love, family, and the soul of storytelling.

Influence on Hollywood

The selecting of a superior cast sets a precedent in Hollywood, often dictating industry trends and standards. Directors and producers view these ensembles as templates for success, blending star power with authentic portrayals that resonate with audiences. They shape narratives around pivotal themes like family dynamics and the search for love, which become integral to a film’s identity and influence future projects.

Fan Base

The impact of an exceptional cast extends beyond the screen, cultivating a dedicated fan base. Fans do not merely appreciate the narrative; they connect deeply with characters that exemplify aspects of their own lives. This connection fosters communities that transcend the film itself, engaging in discussions, fan fiction, and social commentary, often propelled by the soulful performances of a revered cast.

Written by Alexander

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