Avildsen took the Rocky job only because funding fell through for another movie he was set to direct. The filmmaker died of pancreatic cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times, citing Mr Avildsen's eldest son. It won Oscars for best picture, director (Avildsen) and editing and was nominated for seven others.
The 1984 film tells the story of a teenager hounded by bullies, who learns karate from a Japanese handyman and takes on his bully in a karate contest - and wins. Sylvester Stallone, then unknown, had written the script and sought Avildsen to direct it, but Avildsen was already working on another film.
"Throughout the decades, his rousing portrayals of victory, courage and emotion captured the hearts of generations of Americans", the Directors Guild of America wrote in a statement Friday.More news: Inglewood will vote on a new arena for Clippers
The Karate Kid' actor, Ralph Macchio, also paid tribute to the great director and tweeted, "RIP to my friend and KK director John G Avildsen". The renowned director directed the popular movie Rocky and the first three parts of original Karate Kid movies. Avildsen even returned to direct Rocky V in 1990.
John Avildsen is survived by sons Anthony, Jonathan and Ashley; and daughter, Bridget.
Born in Oak Park, Illinois, Avildsen graduated from Hotchkiss School and New York University. Ironically a documentary spotlighting his career is just about to be released on August 1st, titled John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs, from AJ16 Entertainment and directed by Derek Wayne Johnson.More news: It's the shipping, stupid: why Opec's output cuts are not working
Among John G. Avildsen's other notable credits include 1980's The Formula (starring Marlon Brando and George C. Scott), the 1981 comedy Neighbors (which marked the final performance from the late John Belushi) and the 1989 drama Lean on Me, starring Morgan Freeman. A few years later, he would direct Jack Lemmon to a Best Actor Oscar with 1973's Save the Tiger.
The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report.More news: Some hope California winner of $447M Powerball helps area