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The franchise as a whole

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: All over the place given the series's penchance for Mind Screw.
    • One surprisingly popular theory is that The One is not Neo, but actually Agent Smith. Morpheus tells Neo in the first movie that The One was born in the Matrix, possessed the power to reshape it as he saw fit, and he will eventually return and his coming would herald the destruction the Matrix, the end of the war, and humanity's freedom. These powers and feats are not really applicable to Neo, but are fully applicable to Smith, who (as a Program) was born in the Matrix, took over all of its functionality and gained the ability to reprogram it to his will, and in doing so functionally destroyed the Matrix, and as part of Neo defeating him the Machines ended the war and agreed to free the humans that wanted to be freed.
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  • Awesome Music: Has its own page.
  • Critical Dissonance: You would be forgiven for thinking everyone who saw both Matrix sequels loathed them even though they both turned profits during their respective theatrical runs. But while Revolutions' significantly lower gross lines up with its critical 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 47 on Metacritic,note  Reloaded actually got mixed to positive reviews (73% on Rotten Tomatoes, 62 on Metacriticnote ), making Reloaded moreso an example of Condemned by History than actual critical dissonance at the time (though defenses of the sequels have since emerged as well).
  • Designated Villain: The protagonists ruthlessly kill dozens of law enforcement agents and security guards without a hint of remorse. As far as the films are concerned (and as Morpheus explicitly states), every person that is still plugged into the Matrix is part of the system and therefore considered an enemy, even if they are not even aware of the Matrix's existence and thus technically innocent.
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  • Epileptic Trees: To this day, there are theories that the real world isn't really the real world, but a second simulation built as a failsafe to help control humans that reject the Matrix by giving them the illusion they have discovered the truth and freed themselves. The "Matrix within the Matrix" theory is supported by many who see it as a solution to plot holes and contrivances, while others disagree since such a reveal would undercut most of the franchise's lore and story.
  • Evil Is Cool: The Sentinels and the agents, but especially Agent Smith.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: The sequels, to some. The Matrix Online to several. The Animatrix fared better with fans.
  • Foe Yay: Smith/Neo can be implied in much of Smith's talking to Neo.
  • LGBT Fanbase: The films have been considerably popular with transgender audiences, given the heavy allegories depicting the trans experience, which was only enhanced by the fact that both Lilly and Lana came out and transitioned years after the first three films were completed.
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  • Magnificent Bitch: The Oracle is a mysterious sentient program responsible for the third iteration of the Matrix. For five generations, she acted as an ally to the redpills to find "the One" and give them The Prophecy, which led them to believe they would save humanity. In reality, the Oracle was luring the One to the Architect, who blackmails the One into entering the Source and saving the humans plugged into the Matrix, at the cost of Zion's destruction. The Oracle decides a different course of action for Neo, the sixth One, introducing romance into the equation to make him attached to humanity, while assisting Neo to defeat Agent Smith, which would inevitably achieve peace between humanity and the Machines as she had intended.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • In July 2002, a woman by the name of Tonda Lynn Ansley shot her landlady in the face. She proceeded to go for the Insanity Plea by claiming that she believed she was in a computer simulation, saying: "They commit a lot of crimes in The Matrix." The really weird part? This actually worked. A year later, a San Fransisco man named Vadim Mieseges used the same defense, for the same crime, even. This has led to "The Matrix Defense" being adopted as a real legal strategy.
    • This previously came up during the Columbine shooting, when some journalists speculated that Harris and Klebold might have been inspired by a certain amount of misaimed Matrix fandom.
    • Believing that reality is somehow unreal is a common delusion, the Matrix just happens to fit a paranoid feeling that some people have always had ("The Truman Show delusion" immediately preceded it).
    • In the New 10s and beyond, a number of right-wing groups and their supporters have hailed the Matrix as (supposedly) prophetic, or perhaps even a warning, about how world governments have become increasingly draconian and invasive, and "the Matrix" is the systems of government and media that Hollywood and liberals use to ​indoctrinate and control people. ​Morpheus' monologue "the Matrix is a system" in particular has practically become a rallying cry for far-right American conservatives. Aside from the Wachowskis outright stating years later that the film is a metaphor for gender transitioning, the two are trans-women and hold views that are very much in-line with American liberalism and contrary to American conservatism.
    • The "red pill" is a reference to premarin, a red pill commonly prescribed to transgender women in the 1990s. Both Wachowskis have come out as trans women. However, the term "Redpilled" is nowadays used by a great number of far-right movements who claim that they have woken up to how the world really is and now support racist, sexist, homophobic, or generally bigoted beliefs. The nihilistic "black pill" idealogy found in incel culture is also a spin on the "red pill" concept. Not to mention, the concept of "red" and "blue" pills gets eschewed altogether, as by the later installments Neo stops taking either of them. When Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump attempted to co-opt the messaging established in the film, Lilly Wachowski famously replied "Fuck both of you."
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Morpheus' voice is oddly satisfying to hear. Despite, or perhaps because of, him mostly "enunciating like a robot" as TIME magazine put it.
  • Movement Mascot: The character of Neo and the franchise in general made enough impact to create, more than a movement, a religion. This is what "Matrixism" (or "The Path of The One") is about, founded through The Internet and being a tendency during the Turn of the Millennium.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Revolutionary as the series (or perhaps only the first film) was, these movies owe a lot to classic cyberpunk, anime, fantasy and biblical lore. Many people think The Matrix invented Wire Fu, even though the technique has been used in countless martial arts films decades before the film was made.
    • The idea of The Matrix as well, being a modern/Sci-Fi update of Descartes's Demon, The Allegory of The Cave, Vedic notions of Maya, etc. Which had been a staple of sci-fi for decades, including the movie Dark City, which came out just before The Matrix. (Neuromancer and Shadowrun got it especially bad for a while, since they had both been using the term "The Matrix" for their cyberspaces a good decade or more before movie even existed.)
    • Elements like characters wearing black Badass Longcoats and Cool Shades who fight with fancy Wire Fu and Bullet Time dodges are associated with nothing other than Matrix in popular culture, but all of them were actually popularized by the first Blade film a year before and again had roots in the "cyberpunk aesthetic".
  • Paranoia Fuel:
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: The Love Triangle between Morpheus, Niobe and Locke is petty and irrelevant compared to what's at stake.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: The franchise is, in some ways, a sci-fi version of Mage: The Ascension, as it's about a group of people who discover that their world is an illusion, unlocking great powers in the process, and are then pursued by just-as-powerful beings who are tasked with keeping the illusion alive.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The sequels make it clear that there is a bit of a schism between the Machines and the Programs. Not only is the Matrix full of Exiles (Programs that were deemed redundant and scheduled to be deleted, but entered the Matrix and went into hiding), but there are Programs that exist purely within the Matrix to oversee its functions and seemingly do not have "real" bodies, and they may do things the Machines don't want them to. While the spin-offs explore this schism a bit more, in the films the only Programs to act against the wishes of the Machines and significantly influence the plot by doing so are Smith and to a lesser extent the Oracle. The Programs have the potential to be built up as a third faction in the Human vs Machine war, but instead they individually pick one side or the other.

The first film

  • Angst? What Angst?: Neo suffers no hesitation or guilt whatsoever in slaughtering the lobby guards. While this is technically also true of Morpheus and Trinity they have been doing this for a long time; Neo seems to be happy to kill the moment he has the opportunity to.
  • Complete Monster: Cypher, the treacherous member of Morpheus's crew, ends up selling out his comrades and Morpheus so he may reenter the Matrix as "someone important" without his memories. Setting up his team to die and Morpheus to be abducted by the Agents, Cypher is fully aware of the machines intending to wipe out the final bastion of humanity, Zion, while beginning to murder the remaining team members with nothing short of sadistic relish.
  • First Installment Wins: The first film is a classic of its kind. The sequels (especially the third film) tend to land in Fanon Discontinuity, though they're certainly not without their fans.
  • Genre Turning Point: The first film did the lion's share of popularizing Eastern-style fight choreography in the West.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: A decidedly bittersweet mixture of both this and Heartwarming in Hindsight — Lana Wachowski revealed years later that during her younger years struggling to figure out her gender identity, she once seriously considered committing suicide by jumping in front of a subway train. This naturally lends a ton of context to the film's iconic subway fight, which ends with toxic authority figure Agent Smith trying to force Neo to get run over by a train and using his birth name, to which he retorts "My name is Neo!" and escapes.
  • He Really Can Act: Keanu Reeves' performance in the first film is leagues ahead of what most people consider his standard performance in movies.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
  • Ho Yay: Neo and Tank get on incredibly well, and Tank is quite excited to help Neo adjust to things. It's also Neo who Tank saves from being killed by Cypher.
  • Idiot Plot: This accusation sometimes get hurled at the Cypher betrayal subplot, mostly because even in the context of just the film (never mind later works) Cypher has absolutely no guarantee that the Machines will actually honor their end of the deal or contingencies in place in case he gets double-crossed. Now, he also doesn't get a chance to cash in either way courtesy of Tank, but it still stands out if you think about it. Granted, Cypher's desperation and his inability to plan for contingencies might be meant as signifiers that he's really not cut out for the life he finds himself in, but it still sticks out as being a really obvious hole in his plan and makes one wonder how he ended up qualifying for a place on Morpheus' crew.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • Though it gets answered comparatively early on in the movie itself (it's the first big reveal and rising action at roughly the half-hour mark), "What is the Matrix?" is the Driving Question at the start, the reveal of it is treated as a fairly big deal and isn't really spoiled in the trailers (although certain promotional pieces on things like Entertainment Tonight at the time could be shockingly cavalier about it), and it was also the key promotional phrase for the movie itself before its release. In the 21st century, it's difficult to find anyone who doesn't already know what the Matrix is.
    • As a bit of history, though the "we're actually living in a simulation" idea had been trod in science fiction before the film, The Reveal coming so soon in the film (plus people assuming The Matrix would be some sort of kung fu magic power, judging by the trailers) made it a well-received twist when it came out.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Image macros of Morpheus saying "What if I told you..." followed by some kind of factoid. (Morpheus never says this in the movie.) Unlike the above Matrix memes, this one took nearly a decade after the film to arise.
    • To a lesser extent, Smith's "Mister Anderson."
    • Quotes like "There is no spoon." and "Whoa." made up some early Internet memes, being pretty prominent among image macros, gifs and parodies in the early to mid-2000's.
  • Narm Charm: Hugo Weaving's American accent as Agent Smith is a bit over the top, but it just serves to make him all the more sinister.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Gloria Foster as The Oracle in the original film. It's actually hard to believe she was only on screen about 5 minutes. It helps that the whole film hinges around it, but her scene itself is completely gripping.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • These days, the other two agents in the first film are likely to be recognized as Stark and Longmire.
    • If you're a fan of Australian soaps, you might recognize Dujour as Leah on Home and Away. Ada Nicodemou appeared in this film a year before being cast on the show.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • Heavily influenced by anime, religion and the western, the first film caused such a major shift in culture — and Special Effects, with the proliferation of Wire Fu and Bullet Time in action sequences — that it was imitated constantly. The "bullet dodge" scene, in which Neo bends over backwards to avoid being hit by the Agent's shots, has been parodied to death when not being outright copied, to the point that modern viewers often don't realise (or remember) that it actually was an incredibly cool effect when the movie released. Interestingly enough, it also suffered from Older Than They Think when it premiered to a young audience who were not aware of the multitude of Eastern and literary influences in the movie (or Blade doing essentially Bullet Time a year before). One major area the sequels suffered in was that they continued playing all this stuff like it was just as revolutionary, after the first film had inspired so many imitations and parodies in just a few years.
    • Watching Morpheus claim that the Matrix cannot be explained in words comes off a little weird nowadays, now that the concept of Inside a Computer System is so well-known. Of course, half the reason the concept is so well-known is this movie.
  • Signature Scene:
    • Morpheus offering Neo to take the blue or red pill.
    • The lobby shootout.
    • The rooftop shootout between Neo, Trinity and Agent Jones. The bullet time moment in particular where the camera does a 360 around Neo dodging bullets is usually the go-to moment that people remember (helped by the trailers emphasizing it, too).
  • Special Effect Failure: During the part of The Teaser chase where Trinity is pursued across rooftops, the special effects of her jumping across a street look entirely convincing. In every other shot, it's painfully obvious that the city beyond the rooftops is a backdrop. This is taken Up to Eleven at the climax of the rooftop chase, where a stretch of rooftop in front of Trinity is nothing more than a black curtain, complete with visible ruffles and folds.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Cracked claimed in its article that the first film is an adaptation of the 1973 film World on a Wire, which was actually based on the novel Simulacron-3; which, in turn, was adapted into the other 1999 film called The Thirteenth Floor.
  • Squick: The scene of Neo's mouth sealing up is unexpectedly gross.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Many critics point out that Neo and Trinity provide no chemistry or even hint at being attracted to one another before she professes her love for him. Especially funny when the Oracle calls Neo "not too bright" for not picking up on it.
  • Strawman Has a Point: While there’s no denying that Cypher is a monster for betraying Morpheus and killing most of his crew, he’s still right in the fact that people in The Matrix are better off. He’s also right in the fact that Morpheus taking them out of the simulation, is what put their lives in danger. Morpehus, of course, would counter that the ability to live freely is worth all the other hardships of "real life".
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: The supporting cast such as Apoc, Switch, Mouse and Dozer seem like they'll help make up an ensemble - providing some interesting insights into more people from the future. They get killed off in quick succession halfway through. Perhaps if they'd survived into the sequels, that would have helped with the Two-Part Trilogy feel and allowed their deaths to have more meaning. But of course, at the time, the Wachowskis had no idea sequels might even be on the cards, so the characters technically felt more "disposable".
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Cypher's Face–Heel Turn arguably comes a bit out of left field and feels as though it could have been built up a lot more. An earlier draft would explain that Morpheus has been so dead set on finding "The One" that Neo is the sixth candidate he's freed and the previous ones all died — thus giving Cypher more reason to become disillusioned with Morpheus and to betray him and want to re-join the Matrix.
  • Unintentional Period Piece:
    • The world inside of the Matrix is in the year 1999, and it certainly looks very, very '90s. The computers are all boxy, the monitors CRT, and the mobile phone that Morpheus first calls Neo on is big, blocky, and has an antenna. The club that Neo meets Trinity is dripping with Industrial Metal aesthetic, and the credits song is by Rage Against the Machine.
    • The whole reason the Matrix is predominately colored in green and blacks is because they were widely considered to be "computer colours" thanks to CRT screens. Similarly, the idea of going in and out of the Matrix via telephones is based on dial-up internet. Since LCD screens have become more commonplace and connecting to the internet has become wireless, The Matrix's take on computers has become more and more of a period piece.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: This film created a whole new style of visual effects so spectacular that the film was the first one to ever beat a Star Wars film at the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

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