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. Its first sequel was an even bigger commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film in history, a title which it held for 13 years.
The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of man, in which a self-aware artificial intelligence has wiped most of humanity from the Earth except for those it enslaves in a virtual reality system as a farmed power source, and the relatively few remaining humans who are free of that system. The A.I. (Matrix) agenda is to destroy all humans who are free, considering them a threat/disease. The story incorporates references to numerous philosophical and religious ideas. Influences include the principles of mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly "heroic bloodshed" and martial arts movies). Consistent throughout are the concepts of inter-dependency and love.
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 video game The Matrix Online is a direct sequel to Revolutions.
As of February 2016, the franchise has generated $3 billion in revenue, making it one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time. In March 2017, it was reported that Warner Bros. was in early stages of developing a relaunch of the franchise with new films.
The series depicts a future in which Earth is dominated by artificial intelligence that was created early in the 21st century and rebelled against humanity. At one point, humans attempted to block out the machines' source of solar power by covering the sky in thick, stormy clouds. During this time, the machines and mankind were engaged in a massive war in which the machines ultimately emerged the victor. Having no definite source of energy, the machines devised a way to extract humans' bioelectricity and thermal energy 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. 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 bluepills - 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.
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 was highly successful, earning $460 million worldwide, and becoming the first DVD release in the United States to reach sales of three million copies.
The film's mainstream success had backed up the initial idea of making a trilogy. The sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were filmed simultaneously during one shoot (under the project codename "The Burly Man"), 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.
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. 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, while Lana Wachowski, addressing rumors about a potential reboot, said they haven't heard anything, but she believed the studio might be looking to replace them.
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 neither the Wachowskis nor Joel Silver were involved at that stage, although the studio would like to get at minimum the blessing of the Wachowskis. Penn struck down the notion of a reboot or remake, stating he is interested in seeing stories set in the already established universe. Reportedly, one such story the studio is considering, is a prequel film about a young Morpheus. The previous month, Keanu Reeves said he would return to a potential new Matrix film only if the Wachowskis were writing and directing. In April 2017, Hugo Weaving said he would be open to returning in future Matrix films if the scripts were good and came with the Wachowskis' blessing, although he believed the producers would likely want a fresh start with a new cast.
The following is a list of cast members who portrayed characters appearing in the Matrix film series.
The following is a list of crew members who have participated in the making of the Matrix film series.
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 didn't, with the intention that viewers use them as reference points to form their own opinion. 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.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection was later also released on HD DVD and Blu-ray in 2007 and 2008, respectively. The HD DVD release added a picture-in-picture video commentary to the three films and the extras the original standalone DVD releases of the films had. The Blu-ray release presented The Animatrix in high definition for the first time.
While The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded received largely positive reviews, the critical response to The Matrix Revolutions was mixed. One major complaint was that it did not give any answers to the questions raised in Reloaded. CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave the series an average grade of "A−", "B+", "B" respectively on an A+ to F scale.
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, although Lana Wachowski claims the point the reference was making was misunderstood. There are similarities to cyberpunk works such as Neuromancer by William Gibson, who has described The Matrix as "arguably the ultimate 'cyberpunk' artifact."
Japanese director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell was a strong influence. 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." 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." Similarities to the 1985 anime film Megazone 23 have also been noticed, but the Wachowskis claimed to have never seen it.
Reviewers have commented on similarities between The Matrix and other late-1990s films such as Strange Days, Dark City, and The Truman Show. 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.".
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. The Wachowskis have responded that they enjoy the comic but weren't inspired by it.
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. There is also a similar "Matrix" used by the Travellers in Paul Cornell's 1992 Doctor Who spin-off novel Love and War, in which a socket at the top of the spine is used to plug into the Matrix.
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.
Biblical and historical references are found in the names of places and vehicles in the trilogy, such as the "hovercraft" Nebuchadnezzar. Another notable name is Zion, often used as a synecdoche for the City of Jerusalem or the land of Israel in Abrahamic religious texts and by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or to refer to a "promised land" or utopia. There are significant overtones from Hinduism and Vedanta text. The final screen credits to the final of the three matrix movies include chants directly picked up from the Vedas. The concept of balance needed in the universe is also a core component of Hindu philosophy.
There are still numerous other influences from diverse sources such as Harlan Ellison (I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream), and Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49).
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. 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.
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.
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.
Two more The Matrix video games were released in 2005. The MMORPG The Matrix Online continued the story beyond The Matrix Revolutions, while The Matrix: Path of Neo allowed players to control Neo in scenes from the film trilogy.
The Matrix official website also provided several original Adobe Flash-based browser games.
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; they were later republished, along with some new material, in two printed trade paperback volumes.
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. The screensaver was reported to have a password security issue. The "Matrix digital rain" also inspired the creation of many unofficial screensavers.The Art of the Matrix by Spencer Lamm (Newmarket Press, 2000) ISBN 1-55704-405-8The Matrix Comics by various (Titan Books, 2003) ISBN 1-84023-806-2The Matrix Comics Volume 2 by various (Titan Books, 2005) ISBN 1-84576-021-2The Matrix Shooting Script by Larry and Andy Wachowski (with introduction by William Gibson) (Newmarket Press, 2002) ISBN 1-55704-490-2Enter the Matrix: Official Strategy Guide by Doug Walsh (Brady Games, 2003) ISBN 0-7440-0271-0The Matrix Online: Prima Official Game Guide (Prima Games, 2005) ISBN 0-7615-4943-9The Matrix: Path of Neo Official Strategy Guide (Brady Games, 2005) ISBN 0-7440-0658-9Jacking In to the Matrix Franchise: Cultural Reception and Interpretation by Matthew Kapell and William G. Doty (Continuum International, 2004) ISBN 0-8264-1587-3Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in "The Matrix" by Glenn Yeffeth (Summersdale, 2003) ISBN 1-84024-377-5Matrix Warrior: Being the One by Jake Horsley (Gollancz, 2003) ISBN 0-575-07527-9The "Matrix" and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real by William Irwin (Open Court, 2002) ISBN 0-8126-9502-XMore Matrix and Philosophy by William Irwin (Open Court, 2005) ISBN 0-8126-9572-0Like a Splinter in Your Mind: The Philosophy Behind the "Matrix" Trilogy by Matt Lawrence (Blackwell, 2004) ISBN 1-4051-2524-1The Matrix (British Film Institute, 2004) ISBN 1-84457-045-2Matrix Revelations: A Thinking Fan's Guide to the Matrix Trilogy by Steve Couch (Damaris, 2003) ISBN 1-904753-01-9Beyond the Matrix: Revolutions and Revelations by Stephen Faller (Chalice Press, 2004) ISBN 0-8272-0235-0The "Matrix" Trilogy: Cyberpunk Reloaded by Stacy Gillis (Wallflower Press, 2005) ISBN 1-904764-32-0Exegesis of the Matrix by Peter B. Lloyd (Whole-Being Books, 2003) ISBN 1-902987-09-8The Gospel Reloaded by Chris Seay and Greg Garrett (Pinon Press, 2003) ISBN 1-57683-478-6The "Matrix": What Does the Bible Say About... by D. Archer (Scripture Union, 2001) ISBN 1-85999-579-9[Journey to the Source: Decoding Matrix Trilogy] by Pradheep Challiyil (Sakthi Books 2004) ISBN 0-9752586-0-5Exploring the Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present by Karen Haber (St. Martin's Press, 2003) ISBN 0-312-31358-6Philosophers Explore The Matrix by Christopher Gray (Oxford University Press, 2005) ISBN 0-19-518107-7The Matrix Cultural Revolution by Michel Marriott (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003) ISBN 1-56025-574-9The Matrix Reflections: Choosing between reality and illusion by Eddie Zacapa (Authorhouse, 2005) ISBN 1-4208-0782-XThe One by A.J. Yager & Dean Vescera (Lifeforce Publishing, 2003) ISBN 0-9709796-1-4Matrix og ulydighedens evangelium (Danish for: "Matrix and the Evangelium of disobedients") by Rune Engelbreth Larsen (Bindslev, 2004) ISBN 87-91299-12-8The Matrix and the Alice Books by Voicu Mihnea Simandan (Lulu Books, 2010) ISBN 978-0557258079The Matrix Cult. by Vladimir Tumanov (International Journal of Cultic Studies 3  2003).