The Matrix (franchise)
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The Matrix Franchise

The Matrix
Ultimate Matrix Collection poster.jpg
Created byThe Wachowskis[a]
Original workThe Matrix (1999)
Owned byWarner Bros. Pictures
Print publications
Book(s)List of books
Short storiesIncluded in The Matrix Comics
  • The Matrix Comics Series 1-3 (1999-2003)
  • The Matrix Comics Volumes 1 & 2 (2003-2004)
Magazine(s)The Matrix Online: The Official Magazine (2005)
Films and television
Video game(s)
Soundtrack(s)List of albums

The Matrix is a science fiction action media franchise created by the Wachowskis. The series primarily consists of a trilogy of feature films which began with The Matrix (1999), and continued with two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both 2003), all written and directed by the Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver. The franchise is owned by Warner Bros., which distributed the films along with Village Roadshow Pictures. The latter, along with Silver Pictures are the two production companies that worked on all three films.

The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of man, in which the creation of artificial intelligence led way to a race of self-aware machines that imprisoned the vast majority of humanity in a virtual reality system—the Matrix—to be farmed as a power source. Every now and then, some of these prisoners manage to break free from the system and, considered a threat, become pursued by the artificial intelligence both inside and outside it. The films focus on the plight of Neo (played by Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) trying to free humanity from the system while pursued by its guardians, such as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). The story incorporates references to numerous philosophical, religious, or spiritual ideas, among others the dilemma of choice vs. control, the brain in a vat thought experiment, messianism, and the concepts of inter-dependency and love. Influences include the principles of mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly "heroic bloodshed" and martial arts movies). The film series is notable for its use of heavily choreographed action sequences and "bullet time" slow motion effects, which revolutionized action films to come.

The characters and settings of the films are further explored in other media set in the same fictional universe, including animation, comics, and video games. The comic "Bits and Pieces of Information" and The Animatrix short film "The Second Renaissance" act as prequels to the films, explaining how the franchise's setting came to be. The video game Enter the Matrix connects the story of the Animatrix short "Final Flight of the Osiris" with the events of Reloaded, while the online video game The Matrix Online was a direct sequel to Revolutions.

The first film was an important critical and commercial success, winning four Academy Awards, introducing popular culture symbols such as the red pill and blue pill, and influencing action filmmaking. For those reasons it has been added to the National Film Registry for preservation.[1] Its first sequel was an even bigger commercial success, breaking the previous record for the highest-grossing R-rated film in history. As of 2006, the franchise has generated $3 billion in revenue. Warner Bros. has officially confirmed that a fourth Matrix film is in development with Village Roadshow Pictures, with Lana Wachowski co-writing and directing and Reeves and Moss reprising their roles.


Film Release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Producer(s) Distributor(s) Running time
The Matrix March 31, 1999 (1999-03-31) The Wachowskis[a] Joel Silver Warner Bros. Pictures
Village Roadshow Pictures
136 minutes
The Matrix Reloaded May 15, 2003 (2003-05-15) 138 minutes
The Matrix Revolutions November 5, 2003 (2003-11-05) 129 minutes
Untitled film TBA Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski, Aleksandar Hemon & David Mitchell Lana Wachowski and Grant Hill TBA
The franchise's logo, used since the release of the original film in 1999 and is featured throughout its licensed merchandises.

The Matrix series includes a trilogy of feature films, all of which were written and directed by the Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving. The series was filmed in Australia and began with 1999's The Matrix, which depicts the recruitment of hacker Neo into humanity's rebellion against sentient machines.

The film's mainstream success had backed up the initial idea of making a trilogy.[2] The sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, were filmed simultaneously during one shoot (under the project codename "The Burly Man"),[3] and released in two parts in 2003. They tell the story of the impending attack on the human enclave of Zion by a vast machine army. Neo also learns more about the history of the Matrix and his role as The One. The sequels also incorporate more ambitious action scenes and visual effects.


Untitled fourth film

While making the Matrix films, the Wachowskis told their close collaborators that at that time they had no intention of making another one after The Matrix Revolutions.[4][5][6][7] In February 2015, in interviews promoting Jupiter Ascending, Lilly Wachowski called a return to The Matrix a "particularly repelling idea in these times", noting the studios' tendency to green-light sequels, reboots, and adaptations over original material,[8] while Lana Wachowski, addressing rumors about a potential reboot, said that they had not heard anything, but she believed that the studio might be looking to replace them.[9] At various times, Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving have stated that they would be willing to reprise their roles in potential Matrix films, but only if the Wachowskis were involved.[10][11] In May 2019, Chad Stahelski, who worked as stunt coordinator of several films by the Wachowskis including the Matrix trilogy, stated that at least one of the sisters are involved with a new Matrix film, although he retracted his statement shortly afterwards clarifying he was speaking hypothetically.[12][13]

Warner Bros. officially announced the development on a fourth film in August 2019, with Lana Wachowski serving as co-writer, director, and producer on it. Lana will write the screenplay with David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon, both of whom she worked with in the Netflix series Sense8;[14] Mitchell also wrote the novel Cloud Atlas, which the Wachowskis had adapted into a film in 2012. Grant Hill, who was executive producer and unit production manager on Reloaded and Revolutions and producer on all of the Wachowskis' subsequent projects, will act as producer alongside Lana. The production will be a joint-venture between Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures, similar to the original films. Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss will reprise their roles from the previous films. The studio greenlit Lana's project, after being impressed with her script, and given the notion of Reeves' return to the franchise following his resurgence of stardom after repeated box office successes.[15][16] Other crew members include Geof Darrow and Steve Skroce returning from the original trilogy as concept and storyboard artists, and John Toll, who worked with the Wachowskis on Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending and Sense8, acting as cinematographer.[17][18] Lilly Wachowski was reported to not be returning to the series due a preoccupied schedule with her work on the upcoming Showtime series Work in Progress, though she gave her blessing to the project.[19] She also stated that at this point in her career, she would rather depict social issues explicitly in her work, rather than as a subtext in science-fiction.[20] Original trilogy film producer Joel Silver sold the rights to the films to Warner Bros. when he severed ties with them in 2012.[21]

The film is set to begin production in Chicago in February 2020.[22]

Other projects

In March 2017, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Warner Bros. was in early stages of developing a relaunch of the franchise, with Zak Penn in talks to write a treatment, and interest in getting Michael B. Jordan attached to star. According to the article, the Wachowskis were not involved at that stage.[23] Penn refuted rumors of a reboot or remake, stating he was working on stories set in the established continuity.[24] Potential film ideas that the studio was considering, included a prequel film about a young Morpheus or a spin-off about a descendant of his.[23][25][26] By March to April 2018, Penn confirmed that he was still working on a new Matrix film, which he described being at a nascent stage.[27][28]


The series depicts a future in which Earth is dominated by a race of self-aware machines that was spawned from the creation of artificial intelligence early in the 21st century. At one point conflict arose between mankind and machines, and the machines rebelled against its creators. Humans attempted to block out the machines' source of solar power by covering the sky in thick, stormy clouds. A massive war emerged between the two adversaries, which ended with the machines victorious. Having lost their definite source of energy, the machines devised a way to extract humans' bioelectricity and thermal energy energies by growing people in pods, while their minds are controlled by cybernetic implants connecting them to a simulated reality called the Matrix.

The virtual reality world simulated by the Matrix resembles human civilization around the turn of the 21st century (this time period was chosen because it is supposedly the pinnacle of human civilization). The majority of the stories in the Matrix franchise take place in a vast Western World unnamed megacity inside the simulation. This environment is practically indistinguishable from reality (although scenes set within the Matrix are presented on-screen with a green tint to the footage, and a general bias towards the color green), and the majority of humans connected to the Matrix are unaware of its true nature. Most of the central characters in the series are able to gain superhuman abilities within the Matrix by taking advantage of their understanding of its true nature to manipulate its virtual physical laws.

The virtual world is first introduced in The Matrix. The Animatrix short film "The Second Renaissance" and the short comic "Bits and Pieces of Information" show how the initial conflict between humans and machines came about, and how and why the Matrix was first developed. Its history and purpose are further explained in The Matrix Reloaded. In The Matrix Revolutions a new status quo is established in the Matrix's place in mankind and machines' conflict. This was further explored in The Matrix Online, a now defunct MMORPG.

Main cast and characters

Character Main films Video games Anime film
The Matrix The Matrix Reloaded The Matrix Revolutions Enter the Matrix The Matrix Online The Matrix: Path of Neo The Animatrix


Thomas A. Anderson
Neo / The One
Keanu Reeves   Andrew Bowen Keanu Reeves
Morpheus Laurence Fishburne  
Trinity Carrie-Anne Moss   Jennifer Hale Carrie-Anne Moss
Cypher Joe Pantoliano  
Tank Marcus Chong  
Niobe   Jada Pinkett Smith Gina Torres Kimberly Brooks  
Link   Harold Perrineau Keith Ferguson  
Cdr. Lock   Harry Lennix  
Cllr. Hamann   Anthony Zerbe  
Kid   Clayton Watson   Clayton Watson
Bane   Ian Bliss   Gideon Emery  
Cpt. Mifune   Nathaniel Lees  
Cpt. Roland   David Roberts  


Agent Smith Hugo Weaving   Christopher Corey Smith  
Agent Brown Paul Goddard  
Agent Jones Robert Taylor   James M. Connor  
Agent Johnson   Daniel Bernhardt   Daniel Bernhardt   Fred Tatasciore  
Agent Jackson   David A. Kilde   David A. Kilde   Stephen Stanton  
Agent Thompson   Matt McColm   Matt McColm   Robin Atkin Downes  


The Oracle Gloria Foster Mary Alice  
Seraph   Collin Chou Alex Huynh  
The Architect   Helmut Bakaitis   Peter Renaday  
The Merovingian   Lambert Wilson Robin Atkin Downes  
Persephone   Monica Bellucci  
Rama Kandra   Bernard White  
Keymaker   Randall Duk Kim   Randall Duk Kim   Peter Renaday  
Sati   Tanveer K. Atwal   Tanveer K. Atwal  
Trainman   Bruce Spence  


The following is a list of crew members who have participated in the making of the Matrix film series.

Film Directors Writers Producer Executive producers Director of photography Editor Composer
The Matrix The Wachowskis[a] Joel Silver Barrie M. Osborne
Andrew Mason
The Wachowskis[b]
Erwin Stoff
Bruce Berman
Bill Pope Zach Staenberg Don Davis
The Matrix Reloaded The Wachowskis[b]
Grant Hill
Andrew Mason
Bruce Berman
The Matrix Revolutions


Box office performance

The Matrix was highly successful, earning over $460 million worldwide on a budget of $63M. Reloaded was an even bigger commercial success, earning over $740 million worldwide and becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film in history,[29][30] a title which it held for 13 years, until it was surpassed by the film Deadpool.[31]Revolutions had the world's first simultaneous release at the same time across major cities all over the world,[32] which for the first time in history included both a release in China,[33] and a release in IMAX theaters.[34] Its five-day opening at $204 million broke the previous record,[32] but ultimately the film made $427 million, a little less than the original.

Film U.S. release date Box office gross All-time ranking Budget
U.S. and Canada Other territories Worldwide U.S. and Canada Worldwide
The Matrix March 31, 1999 $171,479,930 $292,037,453 $463,517,383 285 232 $63 million [35]
The Matrix Reloaded May 15, 2003 $281,576,461 $460,552,000 $742,128,461 96 103 $150 million [36]
The Matrix Revolutions November 5, 2003 $139,313,948 $288,029,350 $427,343,298 412 262 $150 million [37]
Total $ $ $ $363 million

Critical and public response

While The Matrix received largely positive reviews, and The Matrix Reloaded received generally positive reviews,[38][39] the overall critical response to The Matrix Revolutions was mixed.[40] One major complaint was that it did not give any answers to the questions raised in Reloaded.[41]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
The Matrix 88% (147 reviews)[38] 73 (35 reviews)[42] A-[43]
The Matrix Reloaded 73% (245 reviews)[39] 62 (40 reviews)[44] B+[43]
The Animatrix 89% (18 reviews)[45] N/A N/A
The Matrix Revolutions 36% (214 reviews)[40] 47 (41 reviews)[46] B[43]
List indicator(s)
  • A dark gray cell indicates the information is not available for the film.


Influences and interpretations

What we were trying to achieve with the story overall was a shift, the same kind of shift that happens for Neo, that Neo goes from being in this sort of cocooned and programmed world, to having to participate in the construction of meaning to his life. And we were like, "Well, can the audience go through the three movies and experience something similar to what the main character experiences?"

So the first movie is sort of typical in its approach. The second movie is deconstructionist, and it assaults all of the things that you thought to be true in the first movie, and so people get very upset, and they're like "Stop attacking me!" in the same way that people get upset with deconstructionist philosophy. I mean, Derrida and Foucault, these people upset us. And then the third movie is the most ambiguous, because it asks you to actually participate in the construction of meaning.

--Lana Wachowski, Movie City News, October 13, 2012[47]

The Matrix films makes numerous references to films and literature, and to historical myths and philosophy including Buddhism, Vedanta, Advaita Hinduism, Christianity, Messianism, Judaism, Gnosticism, existentialism, obscurantism, and nihilism. The films' premise resembles Plato's Allegory of the cave, René Descartes's evil demon, Kant's reflections on the Phenomenon versus the Ding an sich, Zhuangzi's "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly", Marxist social theory and the brain in a vat thought experiment. Many references to Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation appear in the first film. Baudrillard himself considered this a misrepresentation,[48] although Lana Wachowski claims the point the reference was making was misunderstood.[49] There are similarities to cyberpunk works such as Neuromancer by William Gibson,[50] who has described The Matrix as "arguably the ultimate 'cyberpunk' artifact."[51]

Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was a strong influence.[52] Producer Joel Silver has stated that the Wachowskis first described their intentions for The Matrix by showing him that anime and saying, "We wanna do that for real."[53][54]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 Wachowskis. 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 Wachowskis used it as a "promotional tool."[55] Similarities to the 1985 anime film Megazone 23 have also been noticed, but the Wachowskis claimed to have never seen it.[56]

Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show.[57][58][59] The Wachowskis claimed no influence regarding Dark City, but commented about it and The Truman Show that they thought it was "very strange that Australia came to have three films associated with it that were all about the nature of reality.".[56]

Comparisons have also been made to Grant Morrison's comic series The Invisibles; Morrison believes that the Wachowskis essentially plagiarized his work to create the film.[60] The Wachowskis responded that they enjoy the comic but did not use it for inspiration.[56]

In addition, the similarity of the films' 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.[61]

The first Matrix film features numerous references to the "White Rabbit", the "Rabbit Hole" and mirrors, referring to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.[62][56]

Matrixism is a new religious movement inspired by the trilogy. A sociologist of religion Adam Possamai describes these types of religions/spiritualities as hyper-real religions due to their eclectic mix of religion/spirituality with elements of popular culture and their connection to the fluid social structures of late capitalism.[63] There is some debate about whether followers of Matrixism are indeed serious about their practice; however, the religion (real or otherwise) has received attention in the media.[64][65]

Following the Wachowskis' coming out as transgender women some years after the release of the films, the first film and the pill analogy have also been analyzed in the context of the Wachowskis' transgender experiences. In this case, taking the red pill and living out of the Matrix symbolizes exploring one's own gender identity, starting the transition and coming out as transgender, as opposed to a continued life in the closet.[66][67] Lilly Wachowski has acknowledged this analysis by calling it "a cool thing because it's an excellent reminder that art is never static".[68]

Legal claims

In April 2003 Sophia Stewart filed a legal complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleging that the idea of The Matrix (and the 1984 film The Terminator) were plagiarized from her own film treatment entitled "The Third Eye".[69][70] The court allowed the lawsuit to move forward in 2005,[71] but Stewart did not attend the hearing. In a 53-page ruling, Judge Margaret Morrow dismissed the case, stating that Stewart and her attorneys "had not entered any evidence to bolster its key claims or demonstrated any striking similarity between her work and the accused directors' films." [69][72] Despite the ruling, the case became the subject of "Internet legend", with many sources claiming Stewart had actually won the lawsuit.[69][72][73][74]

In 2013 Thomas Althouse filed suit in California federal court alleging that ideas for the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions came from a screenplay he wrote called The Immortals. In a summary judgement for the defendants, Judge R. Gary Klausner stated "The basic premises of The Matrix Trilogy and The Immortals are so different that it would be unreasonable to find their plots substantially similar."[69][75][76][77][78]

In other media

By August 2000, The Matrix DVD had sold over three million copies in United States, becoming the best-selling DVD of all time.[79] By November 2003, The Matrix franchise had generated $677 million from VHS and DVD sales, $162 million from the video game Enter the Matrix (2003), $37 million from The Matrix Reloaded: The Album soundtrack sales, and $3.5 million from licensed merchandise sales.[80] As of 2006, the franchise has grossed $3 billion from all sources worldwide.[81][82]


In acknowledgment of the strong influence of Japanese anime on the Matrix series, The Animatrix was produced in 2003 to coincide with the release of The Matrix Reloaded. This is a collection of nine animated short films intended to further flesh out the concepts, history, characters and setting of the series. The objective of The Animatrix project was to give other writers and directors the opportunity to lend their voices and interpretation to the Matrix universe; the Wachowskis conceived of and oversaw the process, and they wrote four of the segments themselves, although they were given to other directors to execute. Many of the segments were produced by notable figures from the world of Japanese animation. Four of the films were originally released on the series' official website, one was shown in cinemas with Dreamcatcher, one was shown on MTV, MTV2, MTV3, MTV4, and Syfi, and the others first appeared with the DVD release of all nine shorts shortly after the release of The Matrix Reloaded.

Video games

On May 15, 2003, the game Enter the Matrix was released in North America concurrently with The Matrix Reloaded. The first of three video games related to the films, it told a story running parallel to The Matrix Reloaded and featured scenes that were shot during the filming of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.[83]

Two more The Matrix video games were released in 2005. The MMORPG The Matrix Online continued the story beyond The Matrix Revolutions,[84] while The Matrix: Path of Neo allowed players to control Neo in scenes from the film trilogy.[85]The Matrix Online was shut down in 2009.[86]

The Matrix official website also provided several original Adobe Flash-based browser games.[87][88]

Comic books

The Matrix Comics is a set of comic books and short stories based on the series and written and illustrated by figures from the comics industry; one of the comics was written by the Wachowskis and illustrated by the films' concept artist Geof Darrow. Most of the comics were originally presented for free on the Matrix series' website;[89] they were later republished, along with some new material, in two printed trade paperback volumes. A deluxe twentieth anniversary edition, combining the two published volumes along with the web comics that weren't included in them, is set to be published in November 2019.[90][91]


The Matrix official website provided a free screensaver for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, which simulates the falling "Matrix digital rain" of the films.[92][93] The screensaver was reported to have a password security issue.[94] The "Matrix digital rain" also inspired the creation of many unofficial screensavers.[95]

  • The Art of the Matrix by Spencer Lamm (Newmarket Press, 2000) ISBN 1-55704-405-8
  • The Matrix Comics by various (Titan Books, 2003) ISBN 1-84023-806-2
  • The Matrix Comics Volume 2 by various (Titan Books, 2005) ISBN 1-84576-021-2
  • The Matrix Shooting Script by Larry and Andy Wachowski (with introduction by William Gibson) (Newmarket Press, 2002) ISBN 1-55704-490-2
  • Enter the Matrix: Official Strategy Guide by Doug Walsh (Brady Games, 2003) ISBN 0-7440-0271-0
  • The Matrix Online: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Games, 2005) ISBN 0-7615-4943-9
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo Official Strategy Guide (Brady Games, 2005) ISBN 0-7440-0658-9

Home video release

In 2004, Warner Home Video released The Ultimate Matrix Collection, a ten-disc set of the films on DVD. It included all three films, The Animatrix, and six discs of additional material, including the documentary film The Matrix Revisited, the live action footage shot for Enter the Matrix, and a promotional compilation of The Matrix Online. For this release, The Matrix was remastered under the supervision of the Wachowskis and Bill Pope to improve its picture quality and make its coloring closer to that of its sequels. At the request of the Wachowskis, as they explain in a written statement that accompanies the boxset, each of the three films is accompanied by two audio commentaries, one by philosophers who liked the films, and another by critics who did not, with the intention that viewers use them as reference points to form their own opinion. The compilation includes 35 hours of bonus material, but some of the extras from earlier, standalone, releases are missing. A Limited Edition of The Ultimate Matrix Collection was also released. It encases the ten discs plus a resin bust of Neo inside an acrylic glass box.[96]

The Ultimate Matrix Collection was later also released on HD DVD (5 discs) and Blu-ray (6 discs) in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The HD DVD release added a picture-in-picture video commentary to the three films and the extras that were missing from the previous DVD compilation.[97] The Blu-ray release presented The Animatrix in high definition for the first time.[98] A pared-down set dubbed The Complete Matrix Trilogy was also released on HD DVD and Blu-ray (3 discs each), which dropped The Animatrix and some of the special features.[99][100]

The Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Matrix Trilogy came out in 2018 (9 discs)[101] and presented the trilogy in 4K resolution and high-dynamic-range video, remastered from the original negative and supervised by Bill Pope. In this release The Matrix is presented with a color grade that reportedly comes closer to its theatrical release than any of the previous home video releases.[102][103] The set also includes standard Blu-ray copies of the films sourced from the new master, but is missing The Animatrix and some special features.[104]

See also


  1. ^ a b c The films' credits listed "The Wachowski Brothers" as the writers and directors.
  2. ^ a b The films' credits listed "Andy Wachowski" and "Larry Wachowski" as executive producers.


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