The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction action film written and directed by the Wachowskis that stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano and the first installment in the Matrix franchise. It depicts a dystopian future in which humanity is unknowingly trapped inside a simulated reality, the Matrix, created by thought-capable machines (artificial beings) 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, and the film's use of fight choreographers and wire fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema influenced subsequent Hollywood action film productions. The film is known for popularizing a visual effect known as "bullet time", where the heightened perception of certain characters is represented by allowing the action within a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera appears to move through the scene at normal speed, allowing the sped-up movements of certain characters to be perceived normally. While some critics have praised the film for its handling of difficult subjects, others have said the deeper themes are largely overshadowed by its action scenes.
The Matrix was first released in the United States on March 31, 1999, and grossed over $460 million worldwide. It was well-received by many critics and won four Academy Awards, as well as other accolades, including BAFTA Awards and Saturn Awards. The Matrix was praised for its innovative visual effects, cinematography and entertainment value. The film has since appeared in lists of the greatest science fiction films, and was added to the National Film Registry for preservation in 2012. The success of the film led to the release of two feature film sequels in 2003, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, which were also written and directed by the Wachowskis. An upcoming fourth movie is in development.The Matrix franchise was further expanded, with the Wachowskis being heavily involved, through the production of comic books, video games and animated short films. The Matrix franchise has even inspired books and theories expanding on some of the religious and philosophical ideas alluded to in the movies.