The Matrix: Questioning Reality (2023)

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The Matrix: Questioning Reality (1)

Last update: 06 August, 2020

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“What is the Matrix?” is the question that Neo, the main character of this film, often asks himself. In all honesty, when people watch The Matrix for the first time, they also ask themselves this. This movie trilogy is well-known nowadays. There have been countless analyses of these films and, in fact, teachers often use them to complement their philosophy classes.

In this article, we’re going to be talking about the first movie. This might be the most significant and curious one. It’s very difficult to summarize in a single article every analysis-worthy aspect of this film. Because of that, we’ll simply focus on making a global analysis of some of the things people usually feel after watching the film.

How can we know if we’re awake? What is real? What isn’t real? I’m sure that, if you’ve ever watched this film, you’ve asked yourself this at least once. It’s possible that you had done it even before watching The Matrix. Many of us have had the sensation of not being able to act on our own free will. Some of us have thought that our actions are predetermined or very influenced or that we live in a very Nietzsche-like world. Sometimes, we might even think we’re being manipulated and controlled and that we might be inside a dream. The Matrix gives an answer to all of these questions. It’s kind of like a contemporary myth, a solution to some of the dilemmas of humanity.

The Matrix: Questioning Reality (2)

The technological advances that came up ended up enslaving us. Those machines that keep on getting more and more intelligent have acquired a willpower of their own. They’ve reached and exceeded human intelligence. However, resources have become scarce and these machines need to be fed. That way, after a war, machines will end up enslaving human beings, turning them into food sources. Humans are forced to live a dream; to sleep for a lifetime while being connected to machines that feed on them.

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This is a dystopian and terrifying future that’s becoming less absurd each day. Some humans have managed to resist and live in Sion, the only free city to which they access the Matrix with the intention of releasing more humans and starting a fight to get out of slavery. A very science-fiction kind of discourse, but that’s also full of criticism and power. It has the ability to make us question our own reality. How do I know if I’m not living in a dream? Am I the owner of my decisions?

What is The Matrix?

The first thing we’ll try to do is explain what the Matrix is. Morfeo himself is the one who answers this. He says, “It’s the world that’s been placed before your eyes to hide the truth from you.”What this means is that the Matrix is a lie to our senses: it’s not real but we perceive it as real.

Plato said that our senses were deceptive and not reliable. If you don’t remember what this myth is about, it basically talks about humans whose feet and hands are tied and observe the bottom of a cave. Behind them, a lit fire projects shadows in the background, which they contemplate. For these humans, the background is their reality because it’s the only thing they know. It’s the only thing they have access to and the only thing their senses perceive.

If one of these humans got to escape, they’d have access to the real world, to knowledge. At first, the light would blind their eyes, they’d feel pain and would have to adapt. When they returned to the cave, their friends would probably think they’re lying and would try to kill him. Those friends only know one reality and, as a consequence, they’ll try to protect it no matter what.

This is something that reminds us of old times like Galileo or Copernicus. In Matrix, Neo has a suspicion, an idea he can’t get out of his mind. Just like in Alice in Wonderland, Neo follows a rabbit that’ll take him down the burrow. However, this time, Neo won’t be accessing a fantastic, unreal place; instead, he’ll be accessing the real world, the world of the ideas that Plato proposed.

The Matrix: Questioning Reality (3)

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The interesting thing about The Matrix is the way it gives a response to reality. It takes mundane things like a déjà-vu and gives them a sense and adapts it to the proposed system. The Matrix is a kind of virtual reality where we’re all asleep and which we live as if it were real. Isn’t it true that, when we wear virtual reality glasses, despite knowing it isn’t real, our senses interpret it as such? That’s precisely what happens in The Matrix. We perceive sensations as real and, consequently, we stop questioning whether we’re awake or not.

On the other hand, the questions that Neo asks about his reality reminds us of Descartes. He solved the problem by talking about an evil genius who manipulated and deceived us, just like the machines in the Matrix do. Descartes doubts everything and the Matrix makes us doubt our senses.

Also, all of this makes reference to Hilary Putnam. She talked about something similar to the evil genius. How can we know we’re not brains in buckets? How can we know we’re not living in a shared dream? These questions that Putnam raised could also be seen in The Matrix. It’s like a situation everyone shares without noticing the nature of what we’re living.

Are we free?

If we live in a shared dream, meaning that the dream isn’t even ours, we must ask ourselves if fate really exists and if our actions are actually ours. One of the most interesting characters related to this is Oracle. He’s the one to tell Neo that he’s able to decide, that he’s the only owner of the decisions he makes. It’s curious because the character of Oracle associates with fate. The film is constantly based on decisions: red or blue pill, knowing the truth or not. Some have also related this freedom of choice to Sartre’s existentialism.

The Matrix: Questioning Reality (4)

If fate doesn’t exist and nothing’s already been decided, then we’re the ones who create our own destiny with our decisions. However, the movie also shows the possibility of a destiny, of something that was already determined. But at the same time, it shows arguments that contradict it. At that point, Oracle is one of the most important characters, as well as Morpheus, whose position doesn’t negate any of the previous hypotheses. Morpheus believes in destiny, but he also believes in the power of decision.

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The Matrix also raises the issue of knowledge and happiness. We see that the real world they access when they leave the simulation is not a good one. They discover a terrifying truth and become immersed in a world of shadows. At that point, it’s valid to ask ourselves if knowledge is actually good and if it really leads to happiness. A lot of us see happiness as the ultimate goal.

Cifra is the repentant character of the film. He wished to access the truth and, when he finally got to it, he decided to go back to the unreal world. He wanted fantasy back and to just ignore reality. Cifra decided that he prefers to live an ignorant life than knowing the truth.

The amount of philosophical questions that The Matrix raises is really interesting. It makes us become temporary judges and observers. In addition, it makes us question our own decisions, happiness, and the world that surrounds us. Undoubtedly, The Matrix is a film thatprofessors should show in philosophy classrooms since it pretends to answer certain philosophical threads without prejudice. It allows us to open our minds and question everything.

“What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

-Morpheus, The Matrix

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What does the Matrix say about reality? ›

The key difference is that in the matrix, reality is created by the machines. In our lives, our reality is created by ourselves. Based on our beliefs about the world and about ourselves, we create our own responses, our own experiences, our own realities, and therefore our own lives.

What is the big question in the Matrix? ›

The movie begins with a computer hacker named Neo, who is compelled by the “What is the Matrix?” question. He finds Morpheus, someone who knows the answer and offers him an unusual choice: Take the blue pill and he'll wake up in his bed, none the wiser. Take the red pill, and he will learn the truth.

Is the Matrix less real than the world Neo chooses to enter? ›

Neo is pulled from a kind of cave in the first Matrix film, when he sees the real world for the first time. Everything he thought was real is only an illusion—much like the shadows on the cave walls and the statues that made the shadows were only copies of things in the real world.

What is the philosophical question for Matrix? ›

The Matrix leaves the audience with questions like “What is reality?”, “What makes a person?”, “Is it better to know the truth or is ignorance truly bliss?”, and of course, “Will you take the red pill or the blue pill?”

Is The Matrix real or an illusion? ›

The implication is that the Matrix is an illusion, a false world constructed by the machines to keep human beings sedated and docile while their bodies serve as batteries to power the Matrix.

What religion believes in The Matrix? ›

Matrixism or The Path of the One is a purported religion inspired by Lana & Lilly Wachowski's The Matrix film series.

Was Neo the 6th one? ›

Neo is The Sixth One to appear in the sixth Matrix iteration in which the trilogy takes place. In each iteration, The One is guided by the Oracle and then the Keymaker to a holding room of sorts where The One gains an audience with the Architect.

Why does the Matrix allow Zion to exist? ›

In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo learns from the Architect that the machines allowed Zion to be created as a method of coping with the problem of human choice, reducing but not eliminating the instability caused by those who rejected the Matrix.

What is the question that Neo is looking for? ›

Trinity ask Neo to tell her the question. Neo answers: "What is the Matrix?" Trinity says that the answer is out there and it will find Neo if he wants it to.

Did Neo ever destroy the Matrix? ›

All Neo wanted in exchange for saving the machine world was peace between the machines and humans. They agreed to his terms and sent him into the Matrix. There he allowed himself to be absorbed by Smith's program. Neo destroyed it from within, and in the process both he and Agent Smith died.

Was anyone else considered for Neo in the Matrix? ›

The sci-fi classic turns 20 years old this week.

Actually, Reeves wasn't even the film-makers' second choice, as the role was also offered to Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nic Cage, Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt, but the majority of them turned it down because they simply didn't understand the script.

What is the real life example of Matrix? ›

Matrixes are used in geology to conduct seismic surveys. They are used to create graphs, statistics, calculate and conduct scientific studies and research in a variety of subjects. Matrices are also used to represent real-world statistics such as population, infant mortality rate, and so on.

What is an example of a matrix question? ›

Matrix questions are commonly used in customer experience surveys. For example, to ask a respondent about their experience on a flight, the rows might ask the respondent about the service, food, or entertainment while the columns ask them to choose a rating response.

Why is the Matrix so philosophical? ›

The Matrix is considered a philosophical film that contains many existing philosophical and religious themes, like prophecy, love, truth, karma, the nature of reality, and living in a simulation. But there seems to be a particularly close connection between The Matrix and Plato's Allegory of the Cave.

Is the Matrix in the brain? ›

The brain's extracellular matrix (ECM) is a macromolecular network composed of proteins and polysaccharides that occupies the space in between neurons and glia, and accounts for approximately 20% of the total volume in the adult brain1.

Is the real world part of the Matrix? ›

The Real World is a term the redpills use to refer to reality, the true physical world and life outside the Matrix.

Is the Matrix reality? ›

While The Matrix movie franchise is decidedly fiction, some criminal suspects have used the metaphysical concepts put forth in the films to try to justify their crimes, and in doing so, have turned courtrooms into a cinematic arena of their own.

Was the Matrix inspired by the Bible? ›

While influences from both biblical motifs and pop mysticism are in evidence, the film references these sources — along with many other sources, including classical Greek culture, Lewis Carroll, and Star Wars — in a way that is of aesthetic significance, not religious.

Is the Matrix anti capitalist? ›

The Matrix is an allegory for the alienating forces of capitalism. “Modern industry has converted the little workship of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of laborers, croweded into the factory, are organized like soldiers.

Is the Matrix about mental health? ›

Methods: The authors propose is that "The Matrix" can be interpreted as an allegory for an individual's journey into spiritual and mental health, achieved by overcoming one's intrapsychic conflicts with the help of psychodynamic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis.

Is Neo human or a program? ›

At the start of the series, Neo is one of billions of humans neurally connected to the Matrix, unaware that the world he lives in is a simulated reality.

Is Trinity The One not Neo? ›

Neo and Trinity are both “the One.” It's important to remember that the entire idea/concept of the One was a result of a systemic anomaly; one which was necessary to continue the overall function of the Matrix in general.

Was John Wick Neo? ›

Neo and John Wick are the same person

Similarly, though not totally identical, John Wick is a former assassin who is forced to return to life as one of the most deadly men on the planet after someone steals his dog.

How does the Bible relate to the Matrix? ›

Neo is referred to throughout the Matrix trilogy as the One, that is, the chosen one, which also describes Christ—a messiah, sent to deliver salvation. References to Christianity proliferate in the films, and the Matrix films are an allegory for the Christian faith and that Neo is a modern-day Jesus.

Why did the machines need humans in the Matrix? ›

In the fictional movie universe of The Matrix, the humans are used as a power source. Morpheus states it this way in the first movie: “The human body generates more bioelectricity than a 120-volt battery and over 25,000 BTUs of body heat.

Do humans live underground in the Matrix? ›

The entire free population of Earth lives in Zion, an underground city roughly the size of Buffalo, New York.

What choice did the oracle give Neo? ›

During his first visit to The Oracle, she tells Neo that he would need to make a choice between saving himself or saving Morpheus from dying, with the other dying as a consequence of the action. Neo chose to save Morpheus and was killed by Agent Smith as a result.

Why did the Oracle tell Neo he wasn't The One? ›

The Oracle is acutely aware of this fact, as she is well-versed in the intricacies of the human mind. If she had, in fact, told Neo that he was destined to be the One, it would lead to feelings of complacency, due to which Neo might have ultimately failed to bring about balance and freedom in the world.

Why did Neo forget who he was? ›

It's also known that it's possible for people to be reinserted into the system and have their memories wiped, thanks to Cypher's detailed explanation of his deal with the Agents. Therefore, if Neo was plugged back into the Matrix by the machines, they could feasibly have erased all memory of who he really is.

Did Brad Pitt turn down Matrix? ›

Brace yourself: Brad Pitt turned down the role of Neo in 1999's "The Matrix," a role that went to Reeves. Whoooooa! Warned you. And it's all true, as Pitt confirmed during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Wednesday, where he was being honored for his long career.

Which actor turned down the Matrix role? ›

And just to drive home the fact that very few actors seemed to any faith in The Matrix, Will Smith also turned down the starring role. In 2019, Smith confirmed a long-standing rumour that he rejected the Neo part in favour of a far less adored movie.

Was Smith a virus in the Matrix? ›

Agent Smith is a former Agent of the Matrix and the main antagonist of the trilogy. After being initially destroyed by Neo, he became an Exile and manifested as a computer virus with the uncanny ability to copy himself over the minds of Bluepills, Redpills and programs alike.

Will the humans ever be free from the Matrix? ›

Neo did not end the Matrix nor freed all the humans. Instead, all he achieved at the end of the original Matrix trilogy was a truce between machines and humans – a scenario that did not change much in The Matrix Resurrections.

Why were Neo and Trinity kept alive? ›

The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) reveals that he revived Neo and Trinity to power a new version of the Matrix built on desire and fear — a desire for the things people don't have and fear of losing the things that they do.

Did Neo take the blue pill? ›

Once one chooses the red or blue pill, the choice is irrevocable. Neo takes the red pill and awakens in the real world, where he is forcibly ejected from the liquid-filled chamber in which he has obliviously been lying.

Who turned down the lead role of Neo in The Matrix? ›

Keanu Reeves is thankful to Will Smith for not taking the role of Neo in 'The Matrix. ' Reeves ended up featuring in the 1999 film by the Wachowskis, which is now regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction movies ever created.

Who was the first human in The Matrix? ›

Morpheus (The Matrix)
TitleCaptain of Nebuchadnezzar
Significant otherNiobe
9 more rows

Who was first choice for Matrix? ›

According to Don Davis, Johnny Depp was Lana and Lilly's first choice for Neo, but Warner Bros wanted Brad Pitt or Val Kilmer. After Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt said no, Warner Bros was willing to consider Johnny Depp, and then it came down to Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves, whom Warner Bros. was pushing.

What is the spiritual meaning of The Matrix? ›

The Matrix offers up a stew of aspects from other religious traditions, particularly Buddhism. Dailey says it's not surprising that the film combines aspects of Buddhism with Gnosticism. "They pose humanity's fundamental problem and solution in the same terms -- ignorance and enlightenment," she says.

What philosophy is The Matrix based on? ›

The Matrix is based on a philosophical question posed by the 17th Century French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes. One of Descartes's most important theses was intellectual autonomy, or the ability to think for oneself. For Descartes, this entails not just having a "good mind", but also "applying it well".

How does The Matrix relate to God? ›

Neo is referred to throughout the Matrix trilogy as the One, that is, the chosen one, which also describes Christ—a messiah, sent to deliver salvation. References to Christianity proliferate in the films, and the Matrix films are an allegory for the Christian faith and that Neo is a modern-day Jesus.

What is The Matrix theory about? ›

Matrix theory is a branch of mathematics that focuses on the study of matrices. It was initially a sub-branch of linear algebra, but soon grew to include subjects related to graph theory, algebra, combinatorics and statistics.

What is the hidden message behind the Matrix? ›

The Matrix trilogy suggests that everyone has the individual responsibility to make the choice between the real world and an artificial world. Though Neo is the exemplar of free will, fate plays a large role in his adventure.

Who is God in the Matrix? ›

While the character itself may be seen to serve the literary purpose of a deus ex machina, the name may be ironic, as Neo himself serves this purpose from the Machines' perspective: he is essentially a "god" of the Matrix, created by the Machines, and it is his sudden presence in the Machine City which allows the ...

Why does the matrix wear sunglasses? ›

The renegades and the Agents always wear sunglasses in the Matrix. Sunglasses hide the eyes and reflect those who are being looked at. The removal of sunglasses signals that a character is gaining a new or different perspective, or that he or she is vulnerable or exposed in some way.

Is the Matrix existential? ›

In the Matrix, Thomas “Neo” Anderson is that common man, haunted by this existential nihilism. Neo's life has no meaning. He works at a job he isn't excited about, organizes his free time around it, and is desperately searching for something to justify the existence of the world around him.

Is the Matrix a metaphor for capitalism? ›

The Matrix is an allegory for the alienating forces of capitalism. “Modern industry has converted the little workship of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of laborers, croweded into the factory, are organized like soldiers.

Who is Morpheus in the Bible? ›

He shaped and formed the dreams, through which he could appear to mortals in any form. This talent made Morpheus a messenger of the gods, able to communicate divine messages to sleeping mortals.


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