Macchio first appeared on American television commercials for products such as Bubble Yum and Dr Pepper. His on-screen debut was in the 1980 film Up the Academy, and his first major role was playing Jeremy Andretti in the television series Eight Is Enough. In 1983, he appeared as Johnny Cade in The Outsiders alongside many young actors who had yet to become major stars, such as C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, and Matt Dillon. In 1984, Macchio became known internationally following the release of the first Karate Kid film. Playing high school senior Daniel LaRusso, Macchio was actually in his early twenties when the film was made. He continued this success with the film's sequels, The Karate Kid Part II and The Karate Kid Part III. In the mid-1980s, Macchio's face began appearing on the covers of many teen "bubblegum" magazines such as Tiger Beat, 16, and Teen Beat. Macchio appeared in the 1986 film Crossroads, portraying music student Eugene Martone. Also in 1986, Macchio starred in Cuba and His Teddy Bear on Broadway, alongside Robert DeNiro. In 1992, he starred opposite Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in the hit comedy My Cousin Vinny, playing Billy Gambini, who was wrongfully accused of murder while passing through a small Alabama town.