How “The Matrix” Influenced Culture: From Cinema to Fashion

In 1999, Keanu Reeves chose the red pill to descend into the rabbit hole – and modern cinema and pop culture would never be the same again.

Even against the backdrop of that unforgettable year in cinema, “The Matrix” was a very unique blend of cyberpunk sci-fi, superhero thriller, and mind-boggling existential drama.

The directorial siblings of the Wachowski went bankrupt with a dystopian nightmare about a hacker-hero named Neo (Reeves) destined to be a savior with the help of a rebel group led by the cyber-warriors Trinity ( Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne).

The ambitious storytelling was matched by lush visuals: dripping green lines of computer code, a post-apocalyptic field of human-batteries locked in pods, androgynous protagonists sporting S&M-tinted virtual wardrobes and defying the laws of physics to dodge bullets.

“The Matrix Resurrections” – released in theaters and on HBO Max Wednesday – is the fourth installment in the incredibly influential franchise.
NY Post Composite Photo

“The Matrix” also had its fair share of detractors, who scoffed at the notion of the stoned freshman of reality as an illusion. But whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that, like one of the film’s menacing mechanical octopuses, the creation of the Wachowskis has put its tentacles into just about every aspect of pop culture. It kicked off endless discussions, memes, and a visual vernacular both in film and in fashion that lingers over 20 years later. Recently, Kim Kardashian sported an outfit at the Matrix for an outing.

The stunts defying physics in the years 1999 "The matrix" led to a multitude of copiers and set a new standard for action scenes.  Above, Neo (Reeves) confronts Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in a famous subway scene from the film.
The physics-defying stunts in 1999’s “The Matrix” led to a multitude of copiers and set a new standard for action scenes. Above, Neo (Reeves) confronts Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in a famous subway scene from the film.
© Warner Bros / courtesy Everett C

The following franchise chapters that would follow in 2003, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” broadened the Wachowski’s view, though neither kept the original’s promise.

But hope is eternal. So, ahead of the release of the latest installment, “Resurrections,” in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22, we take a look at the sprawling matrix of influence of “The Matrix”.

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss reprise their iconic roles as Neo and Trinity for the fourth installment of the franchise, "Resurrections."
Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss reprise their iconic roles as Neo and Trinity for the franchise’s fourth installment, “Resurrections.”
© Warner Bros. / Courtesy of Everett C


Bullet time

Visual effects supervisor John Gaeta devised a shot in which Neo leaned back in slow motion to evade bullets. It became a very popular style in action movies after “The Matrix”. Benedict Cumberbatch lead actor “Sherlock” adapted the technique to highlight his hero’s analysis of a moment in time. The technique has also been parodied in countless comedies and animated films, including “Shrek”, “Deadpool”, “Scary Movie”, “The Simpsons” and “Kung Fu Panda”.

Unconventional superheroes

With his slender physique and laconic delivery, Keanu Reeves was not the idea for anyone of a typical hero figure at the time. In creating Neo, the Wachowskis opened the door for a more elegant and daring genre of character – think Christopher Nolan’s Batman, Marvel’s Doctor Strange, and Quentin Tarantino’s Beatrix Kiddo in “Kill Bill”, all of whom were also trained. martial arts.

Comic book adaptations

The Wachowskis have stated that “The Matrix” was inspired in part by a request to create an original comic, and the graphic novel aesthetic of the film can be seen in films such as “Kick-Ass” in 2010, “Wanted,” and “Sin City” and “V for Vendetta” from 2005 – the latter was adapted by the Wachowskis for director James McTeigue.

Keanu Reeves in "John Wick."
Keanu Reeves in “John Wick”.
Courtesy of Everett Collection

Virtual realities

“The Matrix” has spawned a virtual reality boon, from Cameron Crowe’s 2001 thriller “Vanilla Sky” starring Tom Cruise to Christopher Nolan’s classic “Inception” in 2010 to Steven Spielberg’s 2018 adaptation of Ernest’s novel Cline “Ready Player One”, on the near future. in which people leave the hellish landscape of a trash-filled Earth in the virtual game world.

The “John Wick” franchise

Nowhere is the influence of “The Matrix” perhaps more evident than in this successful Keanu headliner. ‘John Wick’ “gun fu” owes much of its style to “The Matrix,” and the franchise nodded to that connection in “John Wick 3”, in which Reeves’ character echoes to a line from the original “Matrix” in its weapon request: “Firearms. Lots of weapons.


After the film’s release, it boosted fashion trends on the streets and catwalks, including the 1999 Christian Dior collection. Vogue reported that Dior was “heavily influenced” by the film, with this season’s collection including trench coats and leather.

In 2017, “The Matrix” came back to life on the catwalks with long coats and skin-tight leather looks from Balenciaga, Vetements, Balmain and Alexander McQueen.

The resurgence continued the following year with the Alexander Wang and Off-White collections in “Matrix” hues and tight black leather.

FRANCE - JULY 15: Haute Couture Fall-Winter 1999 -2000 Fashion Show in Paris, France July 15, 1999 - Christian Dior.
Two models present “Matrix” inspired outfits for Christian Dior during the brand’s 1999 fashion show in Paris.
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Kim Kardashian in a "Matrix"-inspired set.
Kim Kardashian in a “Matrix” inspired set.
Kim Kardasian Instagram


Visibility trans

The success of the film series increased the notoriety of its directors, the Wachowskis. Both siblings became trans in the years after the initial film’s release, highlighting trans people. In 2020, Lilly Wachowski said in an interview that “The Matrix” was a metaphor for being transgender. “I love how meaningful these movies are to trans people and the way they come to me and say, ‘These movies saved my life,'” she said.

Lily and Lana Wachowski.
Lilly and Lana Wachowski
Getty Images

Simulation theory

The online chatter about the idea that our universe is in fact a computer simulation has intensified considerably since “The Matrix”. Philosopher Nick Bostrom postulated in 2003 that it was more likely than not that our reality was a simulation. Elon Musk also espoused the theory, saying he believes “there’s a one in billions chance” that humans aren’t in a simulation. Scientists have pointed out that there is no real evidence to support this theory. Last year, the documentary “A Glitch in the Matrix” explored simulation theory, including the profile of a man who killed his family after concluding the Matrix was real.

Keanu Reeves as Neo "The matrix."
In the 1999 film, Neo (Reeves) is presented with a choice between ignorance or enlightenment, represented by a blue pill and a red pill. He chooses the red pill and is awakened to the true reality of his world.
© Warner Bros. / Courtesy of Everett C

The sentence: “A glitch in the matrix”

“The Matrix” is full of moments worth quoting – “I know kung fu”, “There is no spoon” – but “a problem in the matrix” has become a popular shorthand for something that seems odd or oddly familiar (take a look at the Glitch in the Matrix subreddit).

A photo from the now iconic film,
A still from the now iconic film, “The Matrix”. The film’s visual vernacular continues to influence film, fashion and culture more than 20 years after its release.
© Warner Bros / courtesy Everett C

The expression “red pilling”

This “Matrix” inspired term for awakening to reality has been co-opted by alternative right circles to describe the process of “realizing” the error of progressive concepts. In 2020, he had a moment in the spotlight when Elon Musk tweeted “take the red pill”, without further explanation, to which Ivanka Trump replied: “Take!” Lilly Wachowski thereafter responded, “Fk you two.”

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