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The franchise as a whole

  • Alternate 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: Both Don Davis's compositions and the licensed tracks in this series are amazing.
  • 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 ).
  • Designated Hero: For their willingness to kill civilians, the heroes often are accused of being this.
  • Evil Is Cool: The Sentinels and the agents, but especially Agent Smith.
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  • 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.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Amusingly, Gina Torres is married to Laurence Fishburne in Real Life, but this is not the only time her character loses a husband.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Jada Pinkett Smith playing a key role in the sequels after her husband turned down the role of Neo.
    • The Wachowskis adding a character named "Mifune" to the series just a few years before going on to direct Speed Racer.
    • The fate of the Vigilant crew in The Matrix Reloaded is straight out of Final Destination.
  • 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.
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    • 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).
    • The term "Redpilled" is nowadays used by a great number of right-wing people, especially far-right ones, who claim that they have woken up to how the world really is (mostly in regards to accepting a worldview that supports hardline racist/sexist/homimisic/generally bigoted beliefs). Red was the colour of premarin, a pill commonly prescribed to transgender women in the 1990s. Both Wachowskis have since come out as trans women, i.e. woken up to who they really are; Word of God says that it was intentional. Red-pillers adopting this imagery is pretty hilarious, though it's since cast a darker pall over the film series as a whole with the passing of time as a result of the aggressive rhetoric and tactics used by red-pillers.
      • Furthering the distorting of the film's message is another misaimed fandom which uses the term "Blackpilled," a spin on "Redpilled," to claim that they've "woken up" to an overtly nihilistic worldview in which they have so little agency that they claim it's better to either kill themselves or attack the people around them, a far cry from the film's actual use of the Red Pill as a way to signal Neo's newfound sense of agency and the start of his journey to help the people around him.
  • 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, et cetera. Which had been a staple of sci-fi for decades, including the movie Dark City, which came out just before The Matrix.
    • 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.
  • 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 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.

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.
  • 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: Western cinema has been lambasted for usually having terrible fight choreography compared to Asian cinema. This was the film where those fight choreographers from Asia got to show what they could do in Western cinema and a new standard for film fights in the West was born.
  • 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.
    • The expiration date on Neo's license is SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. The rescue of Morpheus also involves a helicopter crashing into the side of a skyscraper. What's more is that Aaliyah was originally in the second film, and filmed some scenes before her death in a plane crash.
    • The Matrix was designed to mimic the world "as it was at the end of the 20th century" (presumably when the movie was released in 1999), according to Morpheus, and "the peak of your civilization" according to Smith. Given the various severe downturns on many fronts resulting from the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the 2008 financial crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crash in 2020, Smith's line seems a little unintentionally (and darkly) prophetic.
  • He Really Can Act: Keanu Reeves's performance in the first film is leagues ahead of what most people consider his standard performance in movies.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In a 1996 draft of the script, we see hackers arguing in a forum about what the Matrix is, with one theorizing that it's all a hoax to promote a new video game, and another saying that the Matrix is Sega. The summer after the movie came out, Sega launched an actual ad campaign that presented the Dreamcast as a virtual world run by a sentient machine, not unlike the Matrix itself.
    • Hugo Weaving later starred in V for Vendetta as an anarchist trying to bring down a dystopian regime.
  • 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.
  • It Was His Sled:
    • Though it's answered early on in the movie itself, "What is the Matrix?" is the Driving Question at the start, as well as for the movie itself before its release. Now 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 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:
    • "What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer-generated dreamworld, built to keep us under control. In order to change a human being into this." Cue a close-up of Morpheus' face, after which he holds up a Duracell battery.
    • "TRINITY! HELP!"
    • The ridiculous way that the Sentinels spin around rapidly to throw bombs doesn't quite invoke the same reaction as their other methods of attack.
    • When Tank kills Cypher, he "spits" at him, but "spitting" consists of him simply angrily saying the phrase "ptoo!"
    • The stilted manner in which Trinity says "God damn you, Cypher!".
    • "It means fasten your seatbelt Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is going bye-bye."
    • When Mouse tells everyone that "Morpheus is fighting Neo", they all charge towards the door in a comically exaggerated manner.
  • 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, such that we don't realise (or remember) that it actually was cool for the time. 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 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.
    • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Cypher's Face–Heel Turn 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 in fact the sixth candidate and the previous ones all died - thus giving him more reason to want to re-join the Matrix.
  • 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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