The Matrix
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Matrix can be found here.

The story is set at an indeterminate point in the future, estimated by one character to be the 22nd century, in which human bodies are used for heat and electrical energy while their minds are held in a computer-generated, Virtual Reality simulation called the Matrix. Humans are essentially slaves in this world. People in the Matrix are subject to the lifelong, full-sensory illusion that they inhabit modern times at the turn of the century. Computer programmer/hacker Thomas "Neo" Anderson (Keanu Reeves), who may be "The One," joins a Resistance led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and several other freed humans, including Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Apoc (Julian Arahanga), Tank (Marcus Chong) and his brother Dozer (Anthony Ray Parker), Switch (Belinda McClory), Cypher (Joe Pantoliano), and Mouse (Matt Doran). They endeavor to expose the truth, overthrow the Matrix, and defeat the vengeful and warlike Machines behind it.

The Matrix is based on a screenplay by Andy and Lana Wachowski, who also co-directed the movie. The Matrix led to two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003). So far, there have been no official novelizations.

What is "the One"?

"The One" is the man prophesied to release the humans from their bondage to the Matrix through his ability to manipulate the Matrix. It was prophesied by the Oracle that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix and bring freedom to the human race. Morpheus is convinced that Neo is that man, although others, Neo included, are not so sure. As explained by the Architect in the second movie, ]the "one" is a program anomaly that the Matrix could not account for; an anomaly that occurs because humans have to be given a choice (if the only an illusion of such) in order to accept the virtual world the machines have created for them. Doing so creates the anomaly that is 'The One'. According to the Architect, there were 5 predecessors to the current "One". Once Neo reaches the Architect, he is told of the choice of the One: to choose a certain number of humans to repopulate Zion and start all over again, or to choose to let Zion fall and cause the mutual destruction of both, the machines and the humans. The One is basically a real world reset switch. There are those in the Matrix that will never fully accept the machines' reality, and they will find ways to leave the Matrix for the human city of Zion. Once the free human population of Zion grows too large, it poses a threat to the machines; therefore the "One" is reintroduced to the Matrix to restart the cycle. Once the One meets the Architect, he is given a choice: to return to the source in order to save humanity and rebuild Zion (thus starting a new cycle and bringing balance as prophesied), or to choose to stay in the Matrix, thereby assuring the destruction of both species. Each of the 5 predecessors to the current Neo chose to save humanity.

Morpheus is watching the green raining code screens on the Nebuchadnezzar. The code is the visual representation of the Matrix. He's able to decode what he sees on the screen, giving him a full view of Neo's office building, locations of Agents, the existence of the window washer platform, etc. Think of it like unlimited security camera footage.

What are "Agents"?

Agents, such as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), are sentient computer programs that can move in and out of any software hardwired to the Matrix. Agents and Sentinels (search and destroy vessels) are the Gatekeepers of the Matrix.

At this point in the film, Neo is still connected to the Matrix and so the Agents still have control over his body.

A metaphor. This was not referring to any specific physical place, but rather to the act of Neo getting out of the car and not getting the answers he sought. In the past, he probably used to run away from the truth; this is the 'road' that he has been down before, and they know that he does not want to go that way again.

Morpheus offers Neo the choice of either a blue pill, which will render him unconscious and give him the impression that all of the recent events were simply a dream, or a red pill. The red pill, as Morpheus states, is a gesture in the real world of Neo's mind's desire to be freed and is part of a tracing program that will help Morpheus and crew locate Neo quickly after he awakes.

"Copper-top" is the nickname used in US commercials for Duracell Batteries. In the film, it's a slur to describe people who unconsciously inhabit the Matrix, i.e., the Machines use them like batteries.

The Nebuchadnezzar is a hovercraft flying through the abandoned subway and sewer lines beneath the destroyed surface of the Earth. Somewhere in the sewers are tunnels leading to Zion, very far below the surface.

The Art of the Matrix's script notes on an extended version of this scene confirm the fan theory that Cypher rigged the system to connect him to the Matrix automatically while the others were busy elsewhere.This is why he jumps so much when Neo surprises him. Cypher casually but quickly turns off several screens, including three that have real time imagery instead of the Matrix code. This is likely so the inquisitive Neo wouldn't ask him about it.

The Oracle (Gloria Foster) never explicitly tells Neo that he is not The One. She expresses sorrow that he seems to be "waiting for something." He can't be told he is "The One", he has to believe it, much like what Morpheus had been alluding to during the training sequence.

The spoon exists only in the Matrix, which really means it doesn't exist. It's a lesson for Neo, to help him realize that manipulating the Matrix isn't about focusing on an object and trying to change it. The object doesn't exist, so he can't change it, he has to change himself. Metaphorically, it's all in his head.

"Noodle," in this context, is a slang term for brain, so named because of the one's loose resemblance to the other. So, "bake your noodle" means "make your brain work hard." It can also mean to confuse someone.

What is Zion?

Zion is where free humans live. Far below the destroyed surface of the earth, the citizens of Zion are both former inhabitants of the Matrix who've been freed, and also 100% home-grown humans that have never been slaves to the Matrix.

At first it looks just like a screen wall that you would expect in a police station's guard room, to monitor several areas at the same time, but that does not explain why Neo is displayed on every screen. Actually, the sequel The Matrix Reloaded later revealed this wall to be located in The Source, which is actually the origin of the signal that constitutes the entire Matrix. In the Source, the Architect resides, a Machine program who created the Matrix. The Architect apparently keeps a close watch on Neo, and the reason for this is that Neo is a complex and intricate part in the Machines' ploy to keep the humans subdued.

"The body cannot live without the mind." Somehow, the mind/consciousness leaves when they get plugged in, and one needs a proper 'hard-line' (data path) to get back in properly. It's likely that it forms some sort of data corruption between the user's mind and the Matrix. Think of when you want to transfer a file from your computer to a portable hard drive; if you're half way through the transfer and you sever the connection between your PC and the hard drive, the file will be damaged and useless.

He doesn't want the other Agents to know what he's saying to Morpheus. The Agents seem to operate collectively, finishing each others' sentences at times and certainly knowing what each is thinking. Smith's actions may largely be symbolic to show that he's able to turn this collective consciousness off and, in this case, has a reason to. His discussion with Morpheus implies that he is much more "human" than his colleagues/ He shows frustration, exhaustion, impatience, and hatred of the Matrix itself and his place in it.

How does the movie end?

Pursued in the Matrix by the three Agents, Neo races for the exit at the Heart O' the City Hotel, room 303. The moment he gets inside, however, Agent Smith empties his gun into his chest. Neo slumps to the floor as, back in the Nebuchadnezzar, Trinity, Tank, and Morpheus watch incredulously as Neo's body flatlines. As the Sentinels continue to break through the hull of the ship, Trinity whispers into Neo's ear that the Oracle told her that she would fall in love with the One, so Neo must be the One because 'I love you,' she says and kisses him. Neo suddenly begins to breathe. At the same time, he awakens in the Matrix now knowing that he is, indeed, the One. When the Agents empty their guns at him, he stops the bullets in mid-air. When Agent Smith tries to attack him, Neo easily bests him and takes over his body, killing him. The other two agents run away, and Neo transports back to the ship just as Morpheus orders the electromagnetic pulser (EMP) to be engaged, destroying the attacking Sentinels. In the final scene, as the blank screen fills with system prompts and a grid of numbers, a voiceover by Neo says, 'I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid... you're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.' In the Matrix world, Neo hangs up the phone. He looks at the masses around him, puts on his glasses, looks up, and takes flight.

The brain does not die immediately when heart and respiration stops. Neo was almost the One, he'd not been affected by the first bullet, until he saw his blood. So, his mind was almost to the point of disbelieving the illusion of the matrix -- that he should be injured by bullets. He could feel Trinity's kiss or hear her words, somehow, which reminded him that the matrix was not real.

Now that he truly believes he is the One, Neo is beginning to use some of his power over the Matrix. He can now see the Matrix for what it is, and this will lead to additional abilities to manipulate it as he sees it.

Neo is talking (possibly metaphorically) to the machine mainframe. He's talking to the Source, to the power behind the machines, to whatever sends the Agents after him. And he's telling it/them that he's done running, that he believes the Matrix can be a prison for humanity, or possibly something more, and finally that he wants peace.

Morpheus explains to Neo that babies are not born in the Matrix; they are grown. This suggests that the usual human birth cycle (in utero fertilization and growth followed by birth at term) is not being followed. The most likely methods are by cloning or by harvesting a female's eggs and artificially inseminating them, then placing the embryos in incubation, some of which may be allowed to develop and others of which, as Morpheus also explains, are liquefied as food. As for how do people procreate while connected to the Matrix; it's possible they don't. We never see any pregnant women inside the Matrix, so it's impossible to say for sure. Another possibility is that when the machines grow a new human infant, they pre-program a couple inside the matrix to conceive a child.

Based on all available information about the setting of the Matrix movies, the easiest explanation to accept would be that too few animals are left alive after the war between humans and the Machines. However, in 'Matriculated', an episode of The Animatrix (2003), a monkey named Baby was depicted with functional implants for jacking into simulations, evidence that the Machines could indeed insert some animals into the Matrix. Scientifically, the whole premise that Machines need to harvest human body heat to survive is dubious at best. For one thing, there's no adequate explanation of how the humans are kept alive. (Feeding them the liquid corpses wouldn't be enough.) Furthermore, other forms of fusion would probably prove more efficient. At the Machines' level of technology, solar power could still be an option, despite the sun being blocked off. Fans have proposed some alternate explanations for why people are kept alive in the Matrix. One intriguing idea is that the Machines cannot artificially replicate certain qualities of biological sentience and are secretly using human brains as CPUs. Otherwise, it is conceivable that the human race is being preserved for conservationist, ethical, sadistic, or sentimental reasons.

The actors that were hired had some kind of physical background; Carrie Anne-Moss was a dancer and Keanu Reeves used to play ice hockey. These experiences were used by Yuen Woo-Ping and his stunt crew when choreographing the fight scenes although all of the actors had stunt doubles for the more dangerous stunts. Most of the actors had no previous training. The actors underwent a hard training regimen for several months prior to filming under Master Yuen Woo-Ping who made them all look like expert Kung Fu fighters.

It isn't made clear what the rules are for the Agents to take over a person's body, but as shown in the movie, they wanted to use Neo in order to locate Morpheus and kill him and the rest of his group. Originally the agents tried to get Neo to simply agree to help them in order to have his criminal record expunged. When this fails they grab hold of Neo and put a tracking device into his stomach (also possible, given that it had some sort of bio-mechanical function that it could have taken over Neo's body causing him to fall under the control of the machines). To explain why the agents wouldn't take over Neo was with Morpheus is likely because they likely need to be within a certain radius from Neo. As the tracking device was removed from Neo, the agents didn't know where Neo was and could not take over his body. Also, after the Agents release Neo, Morpheus calls him and says "They have seriously underestimated how important you are. If they knew what I knew; you'd probably be dead.". So simple naivety or arrogance on part of the machines is likely why they didn't kill him.

Japanese katakana numbers and letters mirror-reversed.

Usually, science fiction films rarely even get nominated for the "majors" (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture), and none have ever won. However, The Matrix did win four Academy Awards in the "technical categories" - Sound Effects, Visual Effects, Sound and Editing. Keep in mind as well that 1999 was an unusually strong year for film. Those twelve months saw the release of Eyes Wide Shut, Todo sobre mi madre, Bringing Out the Dead, The Talented Mr. Ripley, American Beauty (the Best Picture winner that year), Man on the Moon, Being John Malkovich, Topsy-Turvy, Boys Don't Cry, Magnolia, The Straight Story, Election, Toy Story 2, The Insider, Lola rennt, Three Kings, The Sixth Sense, and Fight Club. All of those titles either upon release or over the years were celebrated as outstanding films by audiences and critics alike. An argument could be made for any of them to have deserved "major" Academy Awards.

One movie often compared to The Matrix is Inception (2010). Movies about memories or altered reality (whether distorted or artificial) include Total Recall (1990) (or its remake Total Recall (2012)), Twelve Monkeys (1995), The Truman Show (1998), Mr. Nobody (2009), A Beautiful Mind (2001), Dark City (1998), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Abre los ojos (1997) (or Vanilla Sky (2001), which is a remake of the previous one). For movies that deal with population control, check out Dark City (1998), Gattaca (1997), Equilibrium (2002) and The Island (2005). Movies about double lives in cyberspace include eXistenZ (1999) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999). Like The Matrix, the actors in Charlie's Angels (2000) also studied martial arts solely for the film and did their own fight scenes. If cyberpunk is of interest, check out Johnny Mnemonic (1995).

Three scenes were censored in the British version due to the usage of headbutts. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.

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