Back in 1999, The Wachowskis unleashed The Matrix onto the world, and the sci-fi action genre was never the same. Featuring iconic performances from Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, and Hugo Weaving, the film effectively fused characters like Neo into our brains whenever we think of ’90s cinema. It also had a hand in instilling some pretty terrifying existential crises in its audiences.
There are few first movies in a franchise which set up such a distinctive tone and palette as The Matrix does — aptly switching between the green-tinged code of the matrix and grim yet clear reality to demarcate the two worlds. The fight scene choreography also helps give the film such a specific flavor, with martial arts and cyberpunk aesthetics being masterfully combined. These persist throughout the rest of the franchise, distinguishing it as one of the most unique film series of all time.
More than just a pop culture phenomenon, the inceptive film is still able to stand tall in 2019 as the perfect combination of action film technique and sci-fi storytelling prowess. But at the heart of The Matrix also lies a fairly involved discussion about human existence. This without a doubt was the cause of the millions of simulation theories that permeate the internet to this day, making everyone question — what is “real”?
There’s certainly something very profound-feeling about the protagonist being given a no-take-backs opportunity to change their perception of the world forever. The idea that the world as you know it may in actuality be something entirely different is an insidious one, for sure. Fear of an unseen and unstoppable god, who could pull the (literal) plug at any moment, lurks throughout the film as well.
The Matrix has something for everyone, from dreamy existentialists to rabid “wire-fu” fans. Not to mention my fellow Keanu enthusiasts. And when it comes to the cinematography, rife with impossible sunglass-reflection shots, it’s really the bread keeping the metaphysical sandwich together.
So, just in time for this quintessential film’s 20th anniversary this week, here are 20 of the best shots taken from The Matrix.