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The original Matrix film became a genre classic almost the second it hit theaters, and while fans are more divided on the existing two sequels, the Matrix trilogy as a whole has rightly earned a place of honor among the all-time great sci-fi franchises. Fans were understandably excited when a new installment in the Matrix franchise was announced in mid-2019, which would reunite original cast members Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss with original writer and director Lana Wachowski (working solo this time, instead of alongside her sister Lily, as she did on the first three Matrix films).
The global coronavirus pandemic that has had major repercussions on the film industry, significantly delaying numerous theatrical releases and shutting down various productions, including The Matrix 4 — but even before that, the film’s release date of May 21, 2021 seemed a long way off. Whether the film manages to hit its original release date or gets delayed remains to be seen, but either way, it’s a long time to wait for Matrix fans eager to return to the franchise. Fortunately, there are a number of films available to watch on Netflix right now that can help scratch that Matrix-shaped itch in one way or another while we anticipate the next installment in the adventures of Neo and Trinity.
Also known as Mutafukaz, the Japanese animated film MFKZ doesn’t look a lot like The Matrix at first glance, but the two have more in common than initially meets the eye. MFKZ follows a young man named Angelino who lives in the alien-occupied Dark Meat City, and throughout the course of the film, realizes that he has unique powers that will enable him to fight back against the evil forces that control his city.
MFKZ overlaps in a few places with The Matrix, with the most obvious intersection being in its reliance on the Chosen One trope, as both Angelino and Neo discover previously hidden abilities that mark them as special. But there are also echoes of Neo’s red-pill revelations, in which he’s awakened to the truth of the world in which he’s been residing. In MFKZ, Angelino doesn’t have to take any pills, but instead learns that his world is not all it seems after being hit by a truck. After his revelation, he and his mysterious female companion Luna wind up getting chased by men wearing black suits, another plot point that may feel very familiar to Matrix fans.
Always Be My Maybe
While The Matrix trilogy does indeed contain a love story, it’s far from what you’d consider a rom-com, so we wouldn’t blame you for wondering what the lighthearted Ali Wong and Randall Park film Always Be My Maybe is doing on this list. Look no further than the cameo to end all cameos: Neo himself, Keanu Reeves, playing a fictionalized version of himself.
Always Be My Maybe revolves around two childhood friends, Marcus (Park) and Sasha (Wong), who reconnect as adults and become friends, although Marcus hopes they might eventually rekindle the almost-romance that fizzled out when they were teenagers. Standing in his way, though, is Sasha’s new boyfriend, Keanu Reeves. Reeves seems to have a blast leaning into every ridiculous rumor and caricature about what he is "really" like, whether it’s basking in the slow-motion fawning of high-end restaurant patrons as he enters a room, to asking his server for an entree that plays with the concept of time (and subsequently weeping as he eats it), to getting absurdly intense in a game of Truth or Dare. It’s a far cry from his role as Neo in The Matrix, but it’s a great reminder of what a fun performer Reeves can be.
In The Matrix, Neo learns that his reality is merely an artificial construct created by machines to keep his mind calm while they use his body as a battery. Once Neo is awakened by a group of other humans, their attempts to overthrow the machines take them in and out of the Matrix, weaving between reality and their digital world. While the Matrix isn’t "real" in the traditional sense, one advantage of going inside it is that Neo and the other characters are able to upload various skills directly into their brains, much like installing a computer program, which they’re then able to utilize within the Matrix without having to spend time training.
This is similar to what happens in the sci-fi film MindGamers, which follows a group of brilliant young students after they create a wireless neural network which creates a collective consciousness for anyone connected to it. As a perk of connecting to the network, users can transfer motor skills, enabling anyone connected to the technology to access an almost limitless array of new talents. But of course, such an amazing breakthrough isn’t without its downsides, and the characters in MindGamers soon find themselves swept up in a plan much more sinister than they’d ever imagined.
While some of the films on this list only share tangential similarities with The Matrix, with Singularity, the likeness is easily observable. Starring Julian Schaffner and John Cusack, Singularity takes place nearly a century after a robotics company has invented a supercomputer that was programmed to end all war — and did so by attempting to wipe out humanity. The humans who have survived are constantly hunted by robots determined to exterminate them, and believe their only hope is a hidden human settlement called Aurora.
Of course, Matrix fans are no strangers to films about robots attempting to destroy the last remnants of humanity, or about small groups of hopeful humans doing everything in their power to attempt to find a safe haven in the midst of all the destruction. Additionally, the main character of Singularity is also a bit of a Chosen One, although the specifics of his story differ significantly from Neo’s. So if you’re a fan of the futuristic humans vs. robots premise of The Matrix — and you like jumping in on a story where the humans have already suffered major losses before it even starts — look no further than Singularity.
The Bye Bye Man
If your favorite character in The Matrix trilogy was Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, you may want to check out The Bye Bye Man, a supernatural horror movie in which Moss plays a detective determined to uncover the truth about a deadly curse. The Bye Bye Man follows a group of friends who decide to rent an old house, but soon begin experiencing a series of odd occurrences none of them can explain. Accidentally, they wind up summoning a malevolent entity called "The Bye Bye Man," whose curse causes its victims to lose their minds and eventually die.
Moss’ role in The Bye Bye Man isn’t one of the main leads who’s tormented by the curse, but the detective sent to investigate the strange happenings at the house. Sadly, she doesn’t have any of the vast array of skills she possesses in The Matrix as she conducts her investigation, but instead is forced to rely solely on her wits and experience. However, just like Trinity, Moss’ character in The Bye Bye Man is smart, resourceful, and driven to achieve her goals, making The Bye Bye Man a solid pick if you want to see Moss stretch her skills outside of punching and kicking.
While some of the picks on this list contain obvious parallels to The Matrix in either their cast members or certain plot points, others are more akin to tonal cousins, evoking a similar feel without necessarily lining up on any of the specifics. Such is the case with the 2018 film The Titan, which stars Sam Worthington, Taylor Schilling, and Tom Wilkinson, and centers around an attempt to adapt humans to the conditions on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Set in 2048, The Titan finds Earth increasingly uninhabitable, prompting scientists to explore outlandish new ideas in the hopes of preserving the human race. Worthington plays Rick Janssen, a pilot who volunteers to have his body modified to withstand Titan’s harsh atmosphere and extreme temperatures. Although the initial stages of the experiment seem to go well, Rick gradually begins to act out dangerously as a result of the procedure, frightening his wife (Schilling), while the doctor conducting the experiments (Wilkinson) pushes forward with a dark agenda of his own.
The Titan may not have much in common with The Matrix’s highly choreographed action sequences and existential digital themes, but it may be a good pick if you’re searching for more films about how humans adapt when faced with extinction — or if you just like stories about protagonists who finish the film with abilities they never dreamed of possessing at the beginning.
If you finished The Matrix hungering for more neo-noir sci-fi, but aren’t picky about how well the particulars of the story line up, then look no further than Mute, a 2018 film starring Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd, and Justin Theroux. Skarsgård stars as Leo, a man who was left mute as the result of a childhood accident. Leo works as a bartender, and works alongside his girlfriend, Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh), until she mysteriously disappears, prompting Leo to search for her. His search for Naadirah leads to Leo getting tangled up with a number of shady characters, including a pair of American doctors who perform black market cybernetic surgery.
The specifics of Mute may sound like a far cry from The Matrix, but the films both have slick visual styles, futuristic settings, and unsettling atmosphere. Additionally, while it’s not central to most of the plot, Mute‘s use of cybernetic implants and technological manipulation of the human body feels thematically adjacent to how The Matrix uses technology to artificially enhance the skills and abilities of its heroes.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny
The Matrix was groundbreaking in its story and effects, but it also ushered in a new era of Hollywood fight choreography. The martial arts-heavy fight scenes in The Matrix feel almost balletic, and the digital reality within the Matrix allowed the choreography to play with time and physics in a way that real-world fights typically don’t. Movie fight scenes in a post-Matrix world looked markedly different than those that came before, making The Matrix a true turning point in action filmmaking.
However, outside of Hollywood, Chinese wuxia films offered up beautiful martial arts choreography in worlds that play fast and loose with the laws of physics for many decades before The Matrix was even a glimmer in the Wachowskis’ eyes. In 2000, the wuxia film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon achieved mainstream critical and commercial success in the United States, leading to a sequel, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, in 2016. The story follows Yu Shu Lien, Michelle Yeoh’s character from the first film, and although Sword of Destiny didn’t manage to hit the heights of the original film, and drifts away from its wuxia roots by having the characters speak English instead of Chinese, it offers up plenty in the way of beautifully choreographed, physics-defying fight scenes, which may be enough to satiate Matrix fans searching for intricate, almost dreamlike martial arts action.
Although Keanu Reeves is the star of The Matrix trilogy, many of the supporting characters are just as interesting and compelling as Neo, and none is more fascinating than Neo’s mentor Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne. While the other humans who have escaped the Matrix are initially a little uncertain about the untested new guy Morpheus has brought into their midst, Morpheus never wavers in his belief that Neo is "the One," destined to save humanity from the machines. He is so steadfast in his certainty that he’s even willing to sacrifice himself, if it means that Neo gets a chance to survive.
There are any number of solid contenders for the best character in The Matrix, and if your favorite is Morpheus, then it’s worth checking out Fishburne in The Signal, which follows a group of MIT students who find themselves in a sterile underground research facility after seemingly being abducted by aliens. Guiding them through their experience is Dr. Wallace Damon (Fishburne), who tries to help them adjust to their new reality, which is not all that it seems. In The Signal, while Fishburne steps again into the role of all-knowing teacher, his character’s core drive is decidedly different from Morpheus’, making The Signal both an apt follow-up watch and a curious contrast to The Matrix.
Part of the brilliance of The Matrix is its complexity; it’s an entertaining action movie, a love story, and a thought-provoking sci-fi film all wrapped up in one mind-blowing package. Because The Matrix has so many layers to appreciate, what you want to watch after it depends in large part on which of those layers you most enjoyed. If it was the idea of an advanced artificial intelligence keeping humanity trapped, then you may want to check out the 2018 sci-fi thriller Tau.
Unlike Neo, who begins The Matrix unaware that he’s imprisoned by an artificial intelligence, Tau opens with Julia (Maika Monroe) fully aware that she’s been abducted. However, there’s a man, not a machine, behind her imprisonment, and the AI he initially used to torment her — Tau, voiced by Gary Oldman — winds up becoming Julia’s unlikely ally. As the film progresses, Julia and Tau work to gain her freedom, at great cost.
It’s almost a mirror version of The Matrix, in which the robots are keeping humanity trapped for their own purposes. In Tau, Tau initially helps keep Julia trapped, but it’s at a human’s behest. And as the machine becomes more aware, in a trajectory opposite that of Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), instead of becoming more sinister, it becomes more benevolent.
The Matrix may not be your typical superhero film, but in many ways, it feels formed out of the same mold as more traditional superhero fare: its protagonist starts the film more or less a normal guy, stumbles into a world of idealistic heroes fighting against a formidable evil, gets powers, goes toe to toe with an unbeatable supervillain, and emerges galvanized by his trials as a revered symbol of freedom and hope. He even flies and starts going by a cool new code name. Let’s face it; he may not wear tights or a cape, but Neo is indisputably a superhero.
If you loved Neo’s (super)hero’s journey in The Matrix, then you may enjoy Code 8, starring real-life cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell (who have both also played superheroes on the CW shows The Flash and Arrow), alongside Fast and Furious franchise fan favorite Sung Kang. The story of Code 8 takes place in a world in which people with superhuman abilities, known as "Powers," live in poverty and struggle to meet their basic needs. Robbie Amell stars as Connor Reed, a man with electrokinetic powers forced into a life of crime in order so that he can afford medical treatment for his dying mother, while Stephen Amell plays the Power who oversees his criminal activity. Plot-wise, Code 8 isn’t incredibly close to The Matrix, but if you enjoyed The Matrix’s non-traditional take on superpowers, you’ll likely enjoy Code 8 as well.
While The Matrix was groundbreaking for its special effects and mesmerizing action sequences, it was also innovative in its premise, which put a new spin on classic post-apocalyptic humanity vs. extinction tropes with its added layers of subjective reality. However, while you’d be hard-pressed to find many movies that offer perspectives as unique and mind-bending as The Matrix, there are a number of films that entertain using the same basic building blocks.
One example is the Chinese sci-fi film Shanghai Fortress, which takes place only a handful of years in the future, after aliens have laid waste to humanity in their efforts to seize control of Earth’s energy resources. Shanghai Fortress follows a group of brave souls who join together to make a final stand against the aliens, sacrificing everything in the hope of giving humanity a chance to survive. It differs from The Matrix in many of the specifics, not the least of which is that the existential threat in The Matrix is one of humanity’s own making, and not some sort of external invading force. However, if what you enjoyed most about The Matrix was watching groups of survivors nobly band together against overwhelming odds in the face of extinction, then Shanghai Fortress may offer up the same sorts of inspirational feels.