What Is the Film "The Matrix" About?

by James Green

"The Matrix" is a 1999 science-fiction fantasy film that was directed by the Wachowski Brothers and stars Keanu Reeves. The film, which was first in a trilogy, is generally regarded as one of the most important and influential science-fiction films of the 1990s. The movie combined high-paced action, martial arts and philosophy, and it introduced a method of filming known as "bullet time."

Introducing Neo

Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, is an office worker and a computer hacker. He is eventually contacted by a fellow hacker, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who arranges a meeting with a man regarded as a legend in the hacking world, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). His contact with these hackers do not go unnoticed by the authorities, and he is eventually captured by mysterious agents led by a man known as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). They inform Neo that Morpheus is in fact a dangerous renegade, and they ask for Neo's help in bringing the man to justice. Neo refuses this offer.

Leaving the Matrix

Neo is again contacted by Trinity, who takes Neo to meet Morpheus. He meets Morpheus in an old hotel, and Morpheus informs him that the world he lives in is just a made-up computer program known as the Matrix. Neo's actual existence is rather different. Morpheus offers Neo the chance to wake up from his perpetual dream-state by offering him a pill, which Neo accepts. Neo "awakens" from the Matrix to find that his existence is actually that of a battery, used to generate electricity for a world ruled by machines. As he looks around, he sees millions upon millions of sleeping bodies linked to a large power-generating device.

The "One"

In the real world, Neo is retrieved by Morpheus, Trinity and the rest of the hackers, who have developed a way of patching into and out of the Matrix. Morpheus informs Neo that he is the "one" -- the chosen prophet who will eventually reclaim Earth from the machines. The film proceeds to show Neo's training as a prophet, where he learns how to control his actions in the Matrix. What follows is a philosophical action movie; Neo battles against the mysterious agents after one of the hackers betrays the group. By the very end, Neo has learned to control the Matrix so well that he has even knows how to fly.


"The Matrix" was the first installment of the Matrix trilogy, and it dealt primarily with themes of personal discovery, the interaction of the mind and the physical world and the meaning of existence. The film's plot is heavily influenced by the ideas of Buddhism. Neo's "awakening" from the Matrix is seen by many as a metaphor for achieving a state of nirvana. Other interpretations include the philosophical view that people are willing to accept the existence of things they see. This concept stems from the teachings of Plato, and specifically that of the allegory of the cave: until people cross a certain threshold, they only see shadows of life rather than life itself.