The Matrix, Ranked

The Matrix oil painting

In 1999, The Matrix, written and directed by the Wachowski Sisters, was released and instantly became a cultural phenomenon, thanks to its ground-breaking visual effects and thought-provoking philosophical themes. The film launched an entire media franchise, and since then, three direct sequel films, an animated anthology film, three video games, a comic book series and numerous books have been released.

While none of the subsequent films admittedly quite live up to the quality of that first film, a couple of them come damn close, even if the worse films in the franchise leave a lot to be desired. Here is my ranking of the four main films from The Matrix series, as well as The Animatrix:

1. The Matrix

The Matrix screenshot

Year: 1999 | Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I could have sworn that I had seen The Matrix back when I was a kid around the time that it came out, but seeing as I have absolutely no recollection of having seen anything in this film before, I’m gonna go ahead and assume that this was a false memory. Weird.

Anyway, what could I possibly say about this film hasn’t been said before? It’s simultaneously thought-provoking and absolutely ridiculous, philosophical and hilarious, plausible and stretching the limits of suspension of disbelief even within its own universe.

But ultimately, it’s just a fully engaging, wildly entertaining blockbuster the likes of which they just don’t make anymore. Given the drop-off in quality with the other two films in the original trilogy, it’s a breath of fresh air that The Matrix Resurrections brought it back.

Language: English
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 2 hr. 16 min.
Rating: R

Director: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

2. The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections screenshot

Year: 2021 | Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Without delving into spoiler territory, the first part of The Matrix Resurrections, with all its meta-ness and side winks to the audience, is absolutely incredible. Truly some of my favorite sequences of the entirety of 2021.

As the incredibly convoluted plot gets going, it’s quite hard to follow exactly what’s happening and — more importantly — why exactly it’s happening, resulting in a film that is forced to succeed purely on its aforementioned meta-ness, and themes, and, for lack of a better term, “vibes.”

And you know what? For the most part, The Matrix Resurrections does just that. It doesn’t always make sense, but who cares? It’s impossible not to admire what Lana Wachowski has pulled off here, and this is maybe the most fun I’ve had with a movie all year. More than that, Resurrections just may surpass the original as the best film in the series. After thinking about it, I do think that I give the first film the nod over this one thanks to the amazing fight sequences and, y’know, actually comprehensible plot. But as far as straight up fun goes, I don’t know if the first one beats this.

I will say, however, that a major disappointment with this film — and what might be the only thing keeping me from rating it a full five stars — is that the action scenes absolutely pale in comparison to those from the first two films in the series. Here, the fight scenes are edited erratically in the style that has become popular in modern blockbusters, making it impossible to follow the action and giving off a truly fake quality. The magic of the kung fu fights from the original films is almost completely lost here, which is a real shame.

Other than that, though, Resurrections is just a blast.

Language: English
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 2 hr. 28 min.
Rating: R

Director: Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff

3. The Animatrix

The Animatrix screenshot

Year: 2003 | Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Going into The Animatrix, I was very worried that the shorts were going to be super heavy on Matrix lore and that they were going to be overly-convoluted and boring, so I was surprised by how much I actually ended up enjoying this.

I do think that that shorts start out strong (the first 5 or 6 are super interesting and fun), then really lose steam toward the end (the last 3 definite kinda lost me). I really enjoyed ProgramKid’s StoryWorld Record and Beyond, while A Detective Story and Final Flight of the Osiris are definitely the weakest of the films. The rest are all interesting enough, and I think that this collection does a great job of adding thematic depth to an already thought-provoking concept.

Gotta give credit where credit is due: The Animatrix is better than both Reloaded and Revolutions, so props for that.

Language: English, Japanese
Genre: Animation Sci-Fi
Runtime: 1 hr. 40 min.
Rating: Unrated

Director: Koji Morimoto, Peter Chung, Andrew J. Jones, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, Mahiro Maeda, Shinichiro Watanabe
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Clayton Watson, Pamela Adlon, Melinda Clarke

4. The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded screenshot

Year: 2003 | Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The Matrix Reloaded isn’t nearly as good as the first film, mostly because it gets really, really dull through most of the second act. It’s also an extremely horny movie, which would normally be fine, except that it’s a sequel to a movie that was not that at all, which makes it kinda weird. I’m also not a huge fan of the very shoehorned-in romance between Neo and Trinity. “Love conquers all” isn’t a very good theme when the literal fate of the entire human race is on the line.

There’s still some pretty awesome action scenes that significantly increase the enjoyment of this one, though. The entire sequence on the interstate, in particular, is just tremendous.

All in all, The Matrix Reloaded definitely doesn’t tow the line between profound and silly as well as it’s predecessor, but it’s still a fun enough watch.

Language: English
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 2 hr. 18 min.
Rating: R

Director: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith

5. The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix Revolutions screenshot

Year: 2003 | Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

To say that The Matrix Revolutions is the worst movie in the original Matrix trilogy would be a huge understatement. Almost everything that made the first film so good has completely been phased out by the third installment, leaving Revolutions to be a muddy mess of exposition and soulless action. The attack on Zion scenes are way too long considering they add nothing to the story, and the climatic fight scene feels generic and dated, compared to the amazing fight scenes from the first two films.

Thank goodness that The Matrix Resurrections was a return to form for the series and not a continuation of…this.

Language: English, French
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Runtime: 2 hr. 9 min.
Rating: R

Director: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith

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