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The Matrix: 10 Things That Still Hold Up Today | ScreenRant

When the Wachowskis’ sci-fi action masterpiece The Matrix hit theaters in 1999, audiences were blown away. They’d never seen anything quite like it. There had been movies that questioned the nature of reality and movies with kung fu, but never had these two elements met.

RELATED: 15 Mind-Boggling Sci-Fi Movies To Watch If You Like The Matrix

Although the two Matrix sequels that followed were met with a more mixed critical response, the first movie still holds up today as a timeless gem. Older fans can go back this very moment and enjoy it just as much, while a generation of new viewers is quickly discovering it as well.

10 Questioning The Nature Of Reality

In its first few scenes, The Matrix takes place in a familiar world with nightclubs and offices. However, Neo learns that his entire reality is a lie and that the world as we know it is a computer program that some machines from the future have plugged us into while they use our bodies as batteries.

The fact that The Matrix blew the nature of reality wide open and dared to question what constitutes “the real world” resonated with audiences disillusioned with their mundane world (and still does today).

9 The Perfectly Cast Lead Trio

While The Matrix is known for its action, worldbuilding, and philosophical musings, it wouldn’t work nearly as well if its trio of lead characters was miscast. Fortunately, the Wachowskis found the perfect actor to play each of these roles.

Keanu Reeves gives the audience a fish-out-of-water surrogate as new recruit Neo, Laurence Fishburne provides plenty of wisdom and engaging exposition as Morpheus, and Carrie-Anne Moss gives the movie a heart as the ass-kicking Trinity.

8 The “Bullet Time” Effects

Inventor John Gaeta pioneered a brand-new visual effect called “bullet time” to use in The Matrix. Thanks to bullet time, the Wachowskis’ camera was no longer restricted by the time and space it occupied.

They were free to freeze a moment like Neo dodging flying bullets so they could swoop the camera around and capture it from a few different angles at once. Suffice to say, it made The Matrix’s action pretty unique.

7 Everyman Thomas Anderson’s Transformation Into Futuristic Superhero Neo

Much like Luke Skywalker, Neo goes on a traditional “hero’s journey” in The Matrix. He’s introduced as Thomas Anderson, an everyman with a mundane office job. He takes his first step into a larger world when Morpheus pulls him out of the Matrix and tells him he’s “The One.”

RELATED: 7 Other Movies That Influenced The Matrix

By the end of The Matrix, Anderson has become the futuristic superhero Neo, who can fly and stop bullets in mid-air. The script conveys this journey beautifully, and Keanu Reeves plays the transformation to perfection.

6 The Kinetic Fight Choreography

While The Matrix’s worldbuilding puts it more on the sci-fi side of the sci-fi action subgenre, the movie doesn’t skimp on the action, either. The rapid-paced fight scenes are breathtakingly choreographed.

In fact, the Wachowskis even worked with the same stunt team that would later co-direct Keanu Reeves in John Wick. The Matrix utilized a bunch of techniques from Hong Kong action movies, like “wire fu,” to create mind-blowing set pieces.

5 The Uniquely Green-Tinged Production Design

In the opening moments of The Matrix, the camera swoops through some glowing digital rain to see Trinity in the midst of an escape in the titular program. The color-grading is tinted green to delineate when a character is in the Matrix.

The green tint disappears whenever a scene takes place in the real world, but the green-tinged production design in the virtual reality scenes gave The Matrix franchise a look of its own.

4 The Cypher Twist

Midway through The Matrix, it’s revealed that Cypher has become disillusioned with the real world. He betrays Morpheus’ crew so the Agents will plug him back into the Matrix, because he’s changed his mind about reality and realizes he prefers the fake version created by the machines.

The Matrix largely presents the premise that the realer a reality is, the better. But, as Cypher sees it, it doesn’t matter if a steak is actually real as long as it tastes real. His betrayal significantly raises the stakes, as he starts unplugging his colleagues while they’re in the Matrix, and they’re forced to helplessly watch their friends die around them.

3 The Intensity Of The Lobby Shootout

There are a ton of iconic action scenes in The Matrix, from Neo firing a machine gun out of a helicopter to his climactic fight with the Agents in the subway station.

RELATED: The Matrix Trilogy's 5 Best Characters (& 5 Best Action Sequences)

But arguably the greatest set piece in this movie is the lobby shootout. It’s just as intense today, utilizing slow-motion and unlimited ammunition to create John Woo-style “gun fu” a la The Killer or Hard Boiled.

2 Hugo Weaving’s Unsettling Turn As Agent Smith

While the cast of The Matrix is anchored by the trifecta of Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving gives a brilliantly unnerving turn as the villainous Agent Smith.

As a sadistic computer program, the little unnerving inflections in Weaving’s monotonous voice make all of his line deliveries both chilling and captivating.

1 The Cyberpunk Visuals

Not only does The Matrix fit neatly into the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction - it just might be the quintessential work of that subgenre. The Wachowskis’ movie packs every great idea from the history of cyberpunk fiction into one definitive narrative.

All-in-all, the Wachowskis masterfully visualized the gritty, tech-savvy worlds that fill readers’ imaginations when they thumb through the pages of a William Gibson novel.

NEXT: 10 Ways Terminator 2 Still Holds Up Today

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