What is the best order to watch the Matrix movies?

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(Pocket-lint) - Get ready for a return to the Matrix.

The franchise that kicked off the new millennium over 20 years ago will be back in 2021 -- with its first sequel since The Matrix Revolutions released in 2003. The next installment, Matrix 4, is actually one of the movies WarnerMedia plans to premiere on HBO Max and in theaters at the same time on 22 December 2021, though the official name of the flick is still a mystery. 

A recent trailer suggested it might be called Matrix, although eagle-eyed watchers on Reddit and Twitter have been sharing screen captures of a now-deleted Instagram post that purportedly reveals the new Matrix film will be called Matrix Resurrections. It will see Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss reprise their roles as Neo and Trinity from the original Matrix films. 

Lana Wachowski is returning to direct the new film. Lana, with her sister Lilly, wrote and directed the original film. (Lilly won’t return to help with Matrix 4 due to pre-existing conflicts with a TV show she is producing.)

Either way, we’re excited to watch Matrix 4 or Matrix Resurrections or whatever it’s called when it premieres on HBO Max later this year. To help get you up to speed with the franchise, so that you can binge it the correct way, we’ve rounded up all the Matrix films, including the animated shorts. We’ve listed them chronologically, too, so you can follow events as they happen. 

It's really quite obvious, considering the release date order is chronological, but we tell you where to slot in the animated shorts. Skip to the bottom if you don't want any spoilers - we have a bulleted, glanceable version there.

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Matrix movies in chronological order

NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.

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The Matrix (1999)

The original Matrix film follows Keanu Reeves, who plays a computer hacker named Thomas “Neo” Anderson. Neo begins to notice some things are not as they seem in his world, when suddenly he is picked up by mysterious agents who demand that Neo lead them to the location of a terrorist known as Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). However, Morpheus breaks Neo out and offers him a choice: Take the blue pill and wake up in your bed tomorrow thinking this was all a dream, or take the red pill and learn the truth. 

Note: Before you watch this film, check out the Animatrix collection below. It contains animated shorts, some of which are prequels to The Matrix, though many occur after. We have an order below arranging them chronologically with the films.

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Optional: The Animatrix (2003)

The Animatrix is an animated movie - or, rather, a collection - of nine shorts (four of which were written by the Wachowskis) that tell different stories set in The Matrix Universe. It was originally released between the second and third Matrix feature films.

The nine different stories take place at different points in The Matrix Universe, making it difficult to place in our timeline. The reason we've placed them here is that the first short in the Animatrix serves as a direct prequel to the events of The Matrix Reloaded, the next film on our list. The other shorts might not fit in perfectly with the timeline here, but it's easier for first-time viewers to understand the Universe with background knowledge of the first Matrix film.

For instance, there are shorts that feature Keanu Reeves' Neo and two others that show the war between man and machine that eventually destroys Earth. Both are fun watches but are improved by knowing some of the source material.

If you're just dying to watch every bit of the Matrix in chronological order, the list below orders the animated shorts chronologically. We've included another list at the bottom of this guide that shows where each of the Animatrix shorts fit into the movie timeline.

  • Program
  • The Second Renaissance part 1
  • The Second Renaissance part 2
  • World Record
  • A Detective Story
  • Kid's Story
  • Beyond
  • Matriculated
  • Final Flight of the Osiris

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The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Two sequels to the original Matrix film were released to close out the original trilogy, and they both premiered in 2003.

Reloaded debuted in May 2003 and picks up six months after the events of the first film. It revolves around the machines’ attempt to destroy Zion, the last human city. Meanwhile, the bad guy from the first film, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), is not only still alive but has undergone major changes following his confrontation with Neo in The Matrix.

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The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

The original Matrix trilogy concluded with The Matrix Revolutions, which released in December 2003. It’s written and directed by The Wachowskis - just like the other two films. 

It picks up immediately following the events of Reloaded. Agent Smith, who had his connection to the Matrix severed by Neo, has become even more powerful and found his way into the real world by assimilating the body of Bane (Ian Bliss). Neo, meanwhile, has been trapped in the Matrix’s version of purgatory, which leads to Trinity and Morpheus attempting to free him. 

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The Matrix Resurrections (22 December 2021)

If you’ve made it this far on your rewatch, you now know that the end of The Matrix Revolutions sees (SPOILER ALERT) the two main heroes of the franchise both dead. Neo and Trinity sacrificed themselves to help ensure freedom for humanity and to end the war between man and machine. Well, we already know Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss will both reprise those roles for a fourth entry in the series. Plus, the leaked title for the film, Matrix Resurrections, suggests the two characters come back to life somehow. 

In addition to the two stars, Jada Pinkett Smith is slated to reprise her role as Niobe from the original films, and Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, and Priyanka Chopra are among those expected to join the series as new characters. Other than that, little else is known about the plot. The film is confirmed to be set after the events of the original trilogy, however.

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The complete Matrix timeline at a glance

Every Matrix film in chronological order

OK, so here is the spoiler-free, glanceable version of the guide above:

  • The Matrix (1999)
  • *Optional: The Animatrix (2003)
  • The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
  • The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
  • The Matrix Resurrections (22 December 2021)

*The Animatrix is optional. It contains animated shorts, some of which are prequels to The Matrix. 

Matrix films + Animatrix shorts in chronological order

The Animatrix shorts are in bold below and arranged chronologically with the live-action Matrix films:

  • Program (Animatrix - 2003)
  • The Second Renaissance part 1 (Animatrix - 2003)
  • The Second Renaissance part 2 (Animatrix - 2003)
  • World Record (Animatrix - 2003)
  • A Detective Story (Animatrix - 2003)
  • The Matrix (1999)
  • Kid's Story (Animatrix - 2003)
  • Beyond (Animatrix - 2003)
  • Matriculated (Animatrix - 2003)
  • Final Flight of the Osiris (Animatrix - 2003)
  • The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
  • The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
  • The Matrix Resurrection (2021)

Did you like this?

Then maybe you'll like our movie order viewing guides:

We also have these rumour round-ups on upcoming movies:

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Originally published on 9 February 2021.

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