The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver. Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano, and as the first instalment in the Matrix franchise, it depicts a dystopian future in which humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality, the Matrix, which intelligent machines have created to distract humans while using their bodies as an energy source. When computer programmer Thomas Anderson, under the hacker alias "Neo", uncovers the truth, he "is drawn into a rebellion against the machines" along with other people who have been freed from the Matrix.
The Matrix is an example of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. The Wachowskis' approach to action scenes was influenced by Japanese animation and martial arts films. The film's use of fight choreographers and wire fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema influenced subsequent Hollywood action film productions. The film popularized a visual effect known as "bullet time", in which the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion. Simultaneously, the camera appears to move through the scene at average speed, allowing certain characters' sped-up movements to be perceived commonly. While some critics have praised the film for handling complex subjects, others have said its action scenes vastly overshadow the deeper themes.
The Matrix was first released in the United States on March 31, 1999, and grossed over $460 million worldwide. It received largely positive reviews from critics, who praised its innovative visual effects, action sequences, cinematography and entertainment value. It won four Academy Awards (Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Sound Editing) and several other accolades, including BAFTA Awards and Saturn Awards. The film is considered among the best science fiction films of all time and was added to the National Film Registry for preservation in 2012. The film's success led to two feature film sequels being released in 2003, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, which were also written and directed by the Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver. The Matrix franchise was further expanded by producing comic books, video games and animated short films, with which the Wachowskis were heavily involved. The franchise has also inspired books and theories, expanding on some of the religious and philosophical ideas alluded to in the films. A fourth film is scheduled for release on December 22, 2021.