This article is about the first film in The Matrix Trilogy. For the Virtual Reality construct, see Matrix.
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Matrix High
The Matrix
Production Credits

Andy Wachowski
Larry Wachowski


Joel Silver
Andy Wachowski
Larry Wachowski


Andy Wachowski
Larry Wachowski


Bill Pope


Zach Staenberg


Don Davis

Acting Credits

Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster

Distributed by:

Warner Brothers
Village Roadshow Pictures

Release Date:

March 31, 1999

Running Time:

136 minutes


$63,000,000 (estimated)

Followed by:

The Matrix Reloaded

Preceded by (timeline):

The Second Renaissance

Followed by (timeline):

Final Flight of the Osiris


What is The Matrix?


The Matrix is the first film in the Matrix trilogy directed by The Wachowski Brothers.

The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction action film written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, and Hugo Weaving. It was first released in the USA on March 31, 1999, and is the first entry in The Matrix series of films, comics, video games and animation. The film received four Academy Awards in the technical categories.

The film describes a future in which reality perceived by humans is actually the Matrix, a simulated reality created by sentient machines in order to pacify and subdue the human population while their bodies' heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Upon learning this, computer programmer "Neo" is drawn into a rebellion against the machines. The film contains numerous references to the cyberpunk and hacker subcultures; philosophical and religious ideas; and homages to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Hong Kong action movies, Spaghetti Westerns and Japanese animation.


Computer programmer Thomas A. Anderson leads a secret life as a hacker under the alias "Neo". He wishes to learn the answer to the question: "What is the Matrix?" Cryptic messages appearing on his computer monitor and an encounter with several sinister agents leads him to a group led by the mysterious Morpheus, a man who offers him the chance to learn the truth about the Matrix. Neo accepts by swallowing an offered red pill, and abruptly wakes up naked in a liquid-filled pod, his body connected by wires to a vast mechanical tower covered with identical pods. The connections are severed and he is rescued by Morpheus and taken aboard his hovercraft, the Nebuchadnezzar. Neo's neglected physical body is restored, and Morpheus explains the situation.

The year is estimated to be around 2199, and humanity is fighting a war against intelligent machines created in the early 21st century. The sky is covered in thick black clouds created by the humans in an attempt to cut off the machines' supply of solar power. The machines responded by using human beings as their energy source, growing countless people in pods and harvesting their bioelectrical energy and body heat. The world which Neo has inhabited since birth is the Matrix, an illusory simulated reality construct of the world of 1999, developed by the machines to keep the human population docile. Morpheus and his crew are a group of free humans who "unplug" others from the Matrix and recruit them to their resistance against the machines. Within the Matrix they are able to use their understanding of its nature to bend the laws of physics within the simulation, giving them superhuman abilities. Morpheus believes that Neo is "the One", a man prophesied to end the war through his limitless control over the Matrix.

Neo is trained to become a member of the group. A socket in the back of Neo's skull, formerly used to connect him to the Matrix, allows knowledge to be uploaded directly into his mind. He learns numerous martial arts disciplines, and demonstrates his kung fu skills by sparring with Morpheus in a virtual reality "construct" environment similar to the Matrix, impressing the crew with his speed. Further training introduces Neo to the key dangers in the Matrix itself. Injuries suffered there are reflected in the real world; if he is killed in the Matrix, his physical body will also die. He is warned of the presence of Agents, powerful and fast sentient programs with the ability to take over the virtual body of anyone still connected to the system, whose purpose is to seek out and eliminate any threats to the simulation. Yet Morpheus predicts that once Neo fully understands his own abilities as "the One" they will be no match for him.

The group enters the Matrix and takes Neo to the apartment of the Oracle, the woman who has predicted the eventual emergence of the One. She tells Neo that he has "the gift", but that he is waiting for something, perhaps the next life. Neo interprets from this that he is not "the One". She adds that Morpheus believes in Neo so blindly that he will sacrifice his life to save him. Returning to the hacked telephone line which serves as a safe "exit" from the Matrix, the group is ambushed by Agents and SWAT, Morpheus is captured as Neo and the others escape. The group was betrayed by one crew-member, Cypher, who preferred his old life in ignorance of the real world's hardships, and made a deal with the Agents to give them Morpheus in exchange for a permanent return to the Matrix. The betrayal leads to the deaths of all crew-members except Neo, Trinity, Tank, and Morpheus, who is imprisoned in a government building within the Matrix. The Agents attempt to gain information from him regarding access codes to the mainframe of Zion, the humans’ last refuge which is deep underground. Neo and Trinity return to the Matrix and storm the building, rescuing their leader. Neo becomes more confident and familiar with manipulating the Matrix, ultimately dodging bullets fired at him by an Agent. Morpheus and Trinity use a subway station telephone to exit the Matrix, but before Neo can leave, he is ambushed by Agent Smith. He stands his ground and eventually defeats Smith, but flees when the Agent possesses another body.

As Neo runs through the city towards another telephone exit, he is pursued by the Agents while "Sentinel" machines converge on the Nebuchadnezzar's position in the real world. Neo reaches an exit, but he is shot dead by the pursuing Agent Smith. Back onboard the Nebuchadnezzar, in the real world, Trinity whispers to Neo that she was told by the Oracle that she would fall in love with "the One", implying that Neo is "the One". She refuses to accept his death and kisses him. Neo's heart beats again, and within the Matrix he stands up; the Agents shoot at him, but he raises his palm and stops their bullets in mid-air. Neo sees the Matrix as it really is: lines of streaming green code; he finally becomes "the One". Agent Smith makes a final attempt to physically attack him, but his punches are effortlessly blocked, and Neo destroys him. The other two Agents flee, and Neo returns to the real world just in time for the ship's EMP weapon to destroy the Sentinels that had already breached the hull of the ship. A short epilogue shows Neo back in the Matrix, making a telephone call promising that he will demonstrate to the people imprisoned in the Matrix that "anything is possible." He hangs up the phone and flies into the sky.

Cast Edit


The Matrix was a co-production of Warner Bros. Studios and Australian Village Roadshow Pictures, and all but a few scenes were filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia, and in the city itself. Recognizable landmarks were not included in order to maintain the setting of a generic American city. Nevertheless, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, AWA Tower, Martin Place and a Commonwealth Bank branch are visible in some shots. Subtle nods were included to Chicago, Illinois, the home city of the directors, through place names, city maps, and a subtly placed picture of the Sears Tower.[citation needed]

The rooftop set that Trinity uses to escape from Agent Jones early in the film was leftover from the production of Dark City, which has been remarked upon due to the thematic similarities of the films.[1] According to The Art of the Matrix, at least one filmed scene and a variety of short pieces of action were omitted from the final cut, and have (to date) not been published.

The Wachowski Brothers were keen that all involved understood the thematic background of the movie.[citation needed] For example, the book used to conceal disks early in the movie, Simulacra and Simulation by the French Philosopher Jean Baudrillard, was required reading for most of the principal cast and crew.


Actor Will Smith turned down the role of Neo. He later stated that, if given the role at that time, he "would have messed it up".[2] Nicholas Cage turned down the role because of "family obligations".[3] Janet Jackson turned down a role in the film because of previous obligations to go on tour.[4]

Production designEdit

In the film, the code that comprises the Matrix itself is frequently represented as downward-flowing green characters. This code includes mirror images of half-width kana characters and Western Latin letters and numerals. In one scene, the pattern of trickling rain on a window being cleaned resembles this code. More generally, the film's production design placed a bias towards its distinctive green color for scenes set within the Matrix, whereas there is an emphasis on the color blue during the scenes set in the real world. In addition, grid-patterns were incorporated into the sets for scenes inside the Matrix, intended to convey the cold, logical, artificial nature of that environment.[5]

The "digital rain" is strongly reminiscent of similar computer code in the film Ghost in the Shell, an acknowledged influence on the Matrix series (see below). The linking of the color green to computers may have been intended to evoke the green tint of the older monochrome computer monitors.

Visual effectsEdit

The film is known for developing and popularizing the use of a visual effect known as "bullet time", which allows the viewer to explore a moment progressing in slow-motion as the camera appears to orbit around the scene at normal speed.

One proposed technique for creating these effects involved accelerating a high-frame-rate motion picture camera along a fixed track at a high speed to capture the action as it occurred. However, this was discarded as unfeasible, as the destruction of the camera in the attempt was all but inevitable. Instead, the method used was a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time-slice photography, in which a large number of cameras is placed around an object and triggered nearly simultaneously. Each camera is a still-picture camera, and not a motion picture camera, and it contributes just one frame to the video sequence. When the sequence of shots is viewed as in a movie, the viewer sees what are in effect two-dimensional "slices" of a three-dimensional moment. Watching such a "time slice" movie is akin to the real-life experience of walking around a statue to see how it looks from different angles. The positioning of the still cameras can be varied along any desired smooth curve to produce a smooth looking camera motion in the finished clip, and the timing of each camera's firing may be delayed slightly, so that a motion scene can be executed (albeit over a very short period of movie time.)

Some scenes in The Matrix feature the "time-slice" effect with completely frozen characters and objects. Film interpolation techniques improved the fluidity of the apparent "camera motion". The effect was further expanded upon by the Wachowski brothers and the visual effects supervisor John Gaeta so as to create "bullet time", which incorporates temporal motion, so that rather than being totally frozen the scene progresses in slow and variable motion. Engineers at Manex Visual Effects pioneered 3-D visualization planning methods to move beyond mechanically fixed views towards more complicated camera paths and flexibly moving interest points. There is also an improved fluidity through the use of non-linear interpolation, digital compositing, and the introduction of computer generated "virtual" scenery.

The objective of the bullet time shots in The Matrix was to creatively illustrate "mind over matter" type events as captured by a "virtual camera". However, the original technical approach was physically bound to pre-determined perspectives, and the resulting effect only suggests the capabilities of a true virtual camera.

The evolution of photogrametric and image-based Computer Graphic Interface background approaches in The Matrix's bullet-time shots set the stage for later innovations unveiled in the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Virtual Cinematography (CGI-rendered characters, locations, and events) and the high-definition "Universal Capture" process completely replaced the use of still camera arrays, thus more closely realizing the "virtual camera".

This film overcame the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace by winning the Academy Award for Visual Effects.


The film's score was composed by Don Davis. He noted that mirrors appear frequently in the movie: reflections of the blue and red pills are seen in Morpheus's glasses; Neo's capture by Agents is viewed through the rear-view mirror of Trinity's motorcycle; Neo observes a broken mirror mending itself; reflections warp as a spoon is bent; the reflection of a helicopter is visible as it approaches a skyscraper. (The film also frequently references the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which has a sequel entitled Through the Looking-Glass.) Davis focused on this theme of reflections when creating his score, alternating between sections of the orchestra and attempting to incorporate contrapuntal ideas.[6]

In addition to Davis's score, The Matrix's soundtrack also features music from acts such as Rammstein, Rob Dougan, Rage Against the Machine, Propellerheads, Ministry, Deftones, The Prodigy, Rob Zombie, Meat Beat Manifesto, Massive Attack and Marilyn Manson.


The Matrix was first released in the U.S. on 31 March 1999. It earned $171 million in the U.S. and $460 million worldwide,[7] and later became the first DVD to sell more than three million copies in the U.S.[8] The Ultimate Matrix Collection was released on HD DVD on May 22 2007.[9]

Critical receptionEdit

The combination of special-effects-laden action and philosophical meandering was considered fresh and exciting.[10] Philip Strick commented in Sight & Sound, "if the Wachowskis claim no originality of message, they are startling innovators of method", praising the film's details and its "broadside of astonishing images".[11] Roger Ebert praised the film's visuals and premise, but disliked the third act's focus on action.[12] Similarly, Time Out praised the "entertainingly ingenious" switches between different realities, Hugo Weaving's "engagingly odd" performance, and the film's cinematography and production design, but concluded, "the promising premise is steadily wasted as the film turns into a fairly routine action pic… yet another slice of overlong, high concept hokum".[13] Other reviewers criticised the comparative humorlessness and self-indulgence of the movie.[14][15]

In 2001, The Matrix was placed 66th in the American Film Institute's "100 Years... 100 Thrills" list. In 2007, Entertainment Weekly called The Matrix the best science-fiction piece of media for the past 25 years.[16]

Several science fiction creators commented on the film. Author William Gibson, a key figure in cyberpunk fiction, called the film "an innocent delight I hadn't felt in a long time", and stated, "Neo is my favourite-ever science fiction hero, absolutely".[17] Joss Whedon called the film "my number one" and praised its storytelling, structure and depth, concluding, "It works on whatever level you want to bring to it."[18] Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky commented,[19] "I walked out of The Matrix [...] and I was thinking, 'What kind of science fiction movie can people make now?' The Wachowskis basically took all the great sci-fi ideas of the 20th century and rolled them into a delicious pop culture sandwich that everyone on the planet devoured."

Awards and nominationsEdit

The Matrix received Oscars for film editing, sound effects editing, visual effects, and sound.[20][21] In 1999, it won Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film and Best Direction.[22] The Matrix also received BAFTA awards for Best Sound and Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects, in addition to nominations in the cinematography, production design and editing categories.[23]

Influences and interpretationsEdit

Template:Quote box The Matrix makes numerous references to recent films and literature, and to historical myths and philosophy including Judaism,[24] Messianism, Buddhism, Gnosticism, Christianity, Existentialism, Nihilism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Yoga Vashishta Hinduism, Sikhism and the Tarot. The film's premise resembles Plato's Allegory of the cave, René Descartes's evil genius, Kant's reflections on the Phenomenon versus the Ding an sich, and the brain in a vat thought experiment, while Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation is featured in the film. There are similarities to cyberpunk works such as Neuromancer by William Gibson.[25]

In Postmodern thought, interpretations of The Matrix often reference Baudrillard's philosophy to demonstrate that the movie is an allegory for contemporary experience in a heavily commercialized, media-driven society, especially of the developed countries. Another angle is supplied by French artist, psychoanalyst and feminist theorist Bracha L. Ettinger's "Matrix" Notebooks form the 1980s and Matrixial theory from the 1990s.[26][27] This influence was brought to the public's attention through the writings of art historians such as Griselda Pollock[28] and film theorists such as Heinz-Peter Schwerfel ([29]. Ettinger began to articulate the matrixial sphere and the matrixial gaze as psychic unconscious sphere with social, cultural, spiritual, and finally potitical implications around 1985, alongside series of paintings named Matrix. Her notebooks named "Matrix" were first published in France in 1991, reprinted in 1992 by Deleuze and Guattari, and in 1993 by the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in Oxford. Starting a long series of essays on the matrix with "Matrix and Metramorphosis" (Differences 4(3)) in 1992 and "The Matrixial Gaze" in 1994, Ettinger transformed the debates in psychoanalysis, postmodernism, feminist theory, gaze and aesthetics in terms of the matrixial borderspace already during the 1990s. In Ettinger's matrixial theory the emphasis is on the space of "co-emergence" of several "I" and "non-I", the virtual, potential and actual shareability of traces of trauma and of phantasy (beginning in the womb as matrix), on the mental re-co-birth where subjects are trans-connected by psychic strings and threads to form trans-subjectivity. Some scenes from the film provide actual visualizations of her highly abstract notions. Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was a strong influence. Producer Joel Silver has stated that the Wachowski brothers first described their intentions for The Matrix by showing him that anime and saying, "We wanna do that for real".[30][31] Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G, which produced Ghost in the Shell, noted that the anime's high-quality visuals were a strong source of inspiration for the Wachowski brothers. He also commented, "... cyberpunk films are very difficult to describe to a third person. I'd imagine that The Matrix is the kind of film that was very difficult to draw up a written proposal for to take to film studios." He stated that since Ghost in the Shell had gained recognition in America, the Wachowski brothers used it as a "promotional tool".[32]

Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show.[12][33][34] Comparisons have also been made to Grant Morrison's comic series The Invisibles; Morrison believes that the Wachowski brothers essentially plagiarized his work to create the film.[35] In addition, the similarity of the film's central concept to a device in the long running series Doctor Who has also been noted. As in the film, the Matrix of that series (introduced in the 1976 serial The Deadly Assassin) is a massive computer system which one enters using a device connecting to the head, allowing users to see representations of the real world and change its laws of physics; but if killed there, they will die in reality.[36]

Influence on filmmakingEdit

The Matrix has had a strong effect on action film-making in Hollywood. It upped the ante for cinematic fight scenes by hiring acclaimed choreographers (such as Yuen Woo-ping) from the Hong Kong action cinema scene, well-known for its production of martial arts films. The success of The Matrix put those choreographers in high demand by other filmmakers who wanted fights of similar sophistication: for example, Yuen Woo-ping's brother Yuen Cheung-Yan was choreographer on Daredevil (2003). There was a surge in movies, commercials and pop videos copying "the Matrix look", usually without the training and attention to detail that made it successful in the first place.[citation needed]

Following The Matrix, films made abundant use of slow-motion, spinning cameras, and, often, the famed bullet time effect of a character freezing or slowing down and the camera panning around them. The bullet time effect has also been parodied numerous times, in comedy films such as Scary Movie, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Shrek and Kung Pow: Enter the Fist; in TV series such as The Simpsons and Family Guy; in the OVA series FLCL; and in video games such as Conker's Bad Fur Day.

In 2005 a feature-length parody of the Matrix series called The Helix...Loaded starring Scott Levy as the Neo character and Vanilla Ice was released.

The Matrix seriesEdit

Main article: The Matrix (series)

The film's mainstream success led to the greenlighting of the next two films of what was conceived as a trilogy,[citation needed] The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. These were filmed simultaneously during one shoot and released in two parts in 2003. The first film's introductory tale is replaced by a story centered on the impending attack of the human enclave of Zion by a vast machine army. Neo also learns more about the history of the Matrix, his role as the One and the prophecy that he will end the war. The sequels also incorporate longer and more ambitious action scenes, as well as improvements in bullet time and other visual effects.

Also released was The Animatrix, a collection of nine animated short films, many of which were created in the same Japanese animation style that was a strong influence on the live trilogy. The Animatrix was overseen and approved by the Wachowski brothers but they only wrote four of the segments themselves and did not direct any of them; much of the project was created by notable figures from the world of anime. Four of the films were originally released on the series' official website; one was shown in cinemas with the Warner Bros. movie Dreamcatcher; the others first appeared with the DVD release of all nine shorts. Several of the films were shown first on UK television prior to their DVD release.

The franchise contains three video games: Enter the Matrix (2003), which contains footage shot specifically for the game and chronicles events taking place before and during The Matrix Reloaded; The Matrix Online (2004), a MMORPG which continues the story beyond The Matrix Revolutions; and The Matrix: Path of Neo, which was released on November 8 2005 and focuses on situations based on Neo's journey through the trilogy of films.

Available on the official website are a number of free comics set in the world of The Matrix, written and illustrated by figures from the comics industry.[37] Some of these comics are also available in two printed volumes.

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