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The Matrix movies, ranked worst to best

The Matrix movies, ranked - A still from The Matric Reloaded (2003). Neo (slicked back hair, black sunglasses, and a long black trench coat) standing in front of dozens of TV screens, all displaying him.
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Matrix movies are an iconic sci-fi franchise from the minds of the Wachowski sisters, Lana and Lilly. The twisted tale of the Matrix is complex and captivating: from the original movie in the late 90s introducing fans to the dystopian tale of a simulated reality that encompasses humanity all the way to the fourth film released in 2021 that picked up the story that was left behind almost two decades prior. But, how would the Matrix movies fare if we ranked them worst to best?

In this guide, we take a look at each movie, including the collection of animated shorts, The Animatrix, to shine light on what positives and negatives were brought to the franchise. One impressive thread that follows through 22 years of movies is the titular Thomas Anderson aka Neo, played by Keanu Reeves in each and every feature-length movie. Likewise, Trinity played by Carrie-Anne Moss returns in each to reprise her role. However, much like the Matrix itself, there’s a multitude of factors that build up a reality and we must take each into account.

Here we go then, The Matrix movies, ranked worst to best. And if you need to support your Matrix movie fix then we’ve got our The Matrix streaming guide, including The Animatrix, as well as our guide on how to watch The Matrix movies in order.

5. The Matrix Revolutions

A still from The Matrix Revolutions movie showing two men fighting in the rain. On the left we see Neo, wearing a black trench coat and sunglasses with this right arm outstretched in a punch. On the right is Agent Smith, wearing a suit and sunglasses, with his right arm outstretched in a punch. In the background you can see an army of Agent Smiths.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
  • Release date: November 5, 2003
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Originally meant to be the final movie of The Matrix trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions had a lot to tie up if it wanted to be classed as a finale. Unfortunately, whilst still a great addition to the franchise, it didn’t quite meet expectations as far as concluding the Matrix’s story to this point. It also followed mere months after The Matrix Reloaded, which was a phenomenal sequel to an already great start to the franchise.

Neo and Trinity team up once again to protect Zion against a threatened attack from the Sentinels and whilst the battle scenes are majestic, the storyline itself left viewers a little wanting, though there was still plenty of action, including the epic final showdown between Neo and Smith.


4. The Animatrix

A still one of the nine animated short films from The Animatrix series. A robot is blowing on a trumpet whilst riding a mechnical horse-looking creature, with a tatted red and white flag billowing out behind them.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
  • Release date: June 3, 2003
  • Cast: Kevin Michael Richardson, Pamela Adlon, John DiMaggio

Whilst it’s a little difficult to rank The Animatrix against four feature-length films, it has to be said that the animation shorts act as a wider expanse on the Matrix franchise. They offer side stories, prequels, endings, and deeper emotional connections to the characters.

Positioned above The Matrix Revolutions for its ability to offer something entirely unique to the franchise and for producing a clear vision from the Wachowski sisters, The Animatrix provides answers and fills in gaps in the history of the franchise.

The Animatrix also benefits from the use of a variety of art styles from anime to CGI when successfully depicting the relationship between humans and machines on a more emotional level. Each short having a different storyline can be seen as both a positive and negative, with some shorts like The Second Renaissance widely praised, and others like Beyond more criticized. The nine-film anthology is a blessing to the franchise that supports and expands on its beloved narrative.


3. The Matrix Resurrections

A still from The Matrix Resurrections movie. Here we see a close up of the faces of a gritty and dirt covered man (Neo) and woman (Trinity).

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
  • Release date: December 22, 2021
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff

With 22 years between movies, expectations were high for The Matrix Resurrections. Everything from storyline to special effects to the casting itself was be different as time and technology moved on and so seemingly had the Matrix, with an enhanced, more dangerous, and more intelligent simulated reality now posing a threat.

Despite these high expectations, The Matrix Resurrections does a lot right, It successfully weaves everything we loved about the old movies into a new and exciting story, backed up by the finest special effects that money can buy.

Let’s not forget though that the casting is a prime reason this movie happened. To get both Keanu Reeves back as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, it can offer a time passing storyline with literal time passing behind it. Not everyone plugged back into the Matrix though - Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus and Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith were no more, but that’s not to say that newcomers Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jonathan Groff didn’t serve as excellent replacements.

It’s a refreshing take on the franchise and one that could’ve been seen as a risk with so many years passing since the other movies. However, with such an iconic series and with Lana Wachowski, although solo, still leading the path, The Matrix Resurrections earns its spot third on our list.


2. The Matrix Reloaded

A still from The Matrix Reloaded movie. Here we see Morpheus, a man wearing a long black trench coat, green tie and reflective sunglasses, set out of a white, bullet-ridden car as he holds out a samurai sword.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
  • Release date: May 15, 2003
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

The fact that The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions are two sequels with not much space in-between their release dates does not mean that they should be judged as one. It was, and will always remain, to be seen as the middle of the trilogy. A movie that was expected to carry the baton on a little further, but not finish the sprint. And, it does just that.

It’s ram-packed with action scenes that show off what the Matrix has the ability to create. Most iconic is the battle for the Keymaker on the highway with Trinity and Morpheus, who break their rule to avoid areas with linear routes and few exits. Plus this movie furthered Agent Smith’s character dynamic, emblazoning him into the role of a rogue agent and the emblematic Burly Brawl scene that sees Neo take on multiple Agent Smiths. The Matrix Reloaded did genuinely expand the philosophies and mythology set up by the Wachowski sisters in the first movie to bring more depth to the franchise.

Sure, it’ has its issues, chief among them being that it feels too much like the middle movie, with no satisfying beginning or end, but it's still an excellent action flick. Despite its flaws, it carries The Matrix mythology further and set the scene for where the franchise went next.


1. The Matrix

A still from The Matrix movie. Set in a dirty and graffitied underground train station, there are two men flying towards each other, each man pointing a gun at the other. The man on the left is Neo, dressed in black jeans and a black long-sleeved shirt. On the right is Agent Smith, dressed in a suit.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)
  • Release date: March 31, 1999
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Enter the Matrix. The movie that started it all and asked questions of us that we’d never been asked before. It showed us a partnership between Neo and Trinity that wasn’t a power struggle. And, when it comes to the action scenes throughout this movie, the slow-motion shots, the twisted genre of Kung Fu and weaponry, it truly did something that hadn’t been seen before in 1999.

The Matrix was a pinnacle moment for the sci-fi genre. The Wachowski sisters created a storyline way beyond its time that even with time between the movie’s creation and the modern day, it becomes even more realistic. Whilst The Matrix benefits from its successors and its narrative deepener with The Animatrix, it couldn’t have continued if The Matrix didn’t give it a starting point.

To mix two realities – the world as we know it and a simulated reality that can trick us into believing we’re home – seamlessly on screen is an outstanding piece of cinematic history. Viewers are meant to watch and question their own existence and The Matrix provides such a landscape for this to happen in. It provided a legacy for any medium after it to continue and for that reason The Matrix will always be the one.

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Grace is a freelancer who started writing for Space.com since 2021. She's a huge fan of movies, TV, and gaming, and if she's not clutching her Xbox controller or scanning the streaming platforms for the next must-watch shows, you'll find her spending copious amounts of time writing about them on her laptop. Specialties include RPG, FPS, and action-adventure games as well as 80s sci-fi movies and book adaptations.