The Matrix order: how to watch The Matrix movies the right way

From The Animatrix and 1999's The Matrix, to The Matrix Resurrections, this is how to watch sci-fi movies in chronological and release order.

The Matrix order: The Matrix, The Animatrix, and The Matrix Resurrections

How do you watch The Matrix in order? In 1999, we were all woken up to the war against the machines in The Matrix, with Keanu Reeves as Neo being our salvation. Since then, Neo, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and the rest of the human resistance have stood strong against Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and the sentinels in Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s science fiction movies.

Three action movies kept Neo’s story relatively neat, but the artificial world doesn’t end there. The Animatrix, an animated movie anthology of short films, expands the universe in various directions, from the founding of the simulation, to ways the agents have interfered in human life, to glitches that have broken our reality. Between those and the cinematic trilogy, The Matrix timeline can be an unruly thing to understand.

No matter, because while we’re not the Oracle, we know our way around false realities. We’ve broken down the exact order you should watch The Matrix, from The Animatrix through to The Matrix Revolutions, all in service of The Matrix 4, and whatever that’ll bring to the overall timeline. Watch out for the agents – time to jack in and boot up.

What is the right way to watch The Matrix?

  • The Animatrix: ‘The Second Renaissance Part 1’
  • The Animatrix: ‘The Second Renaissance Part 2’
  • The Animatrix: ‘A Detective Story’
  • The Matrix
  • The Animatrix: ‘The Kid’s Story’
  • The Animatrix: ‘Final Flight of the Osiris’
  • The Matrix Reloaded (and Enter the Matrix)
  • The Matrix Revolutions
  • The Animatrix: ‘Beyond’
  • The Animatrix: ‘Matriculated’
  • The Animatrix: ‘Program’
  • The Animatrix: ‘World Record’
  • The Matrix Resurrections

How to watch The Matrix in chronological order

The Matrix order: The Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘The Second Renaissance Parts 1 and 2’ (2003)

These sci-fi series episodes serve as a more in-depth version of Morpheus’s explanation of the downfall of mankind in The Matrix. Over the course of the two parts, set in 2090, humans use artificial intelligence to serve every need imaginable, but eventually, the AI gets wise and starts rebelling.

Nuclear war ensues – however, as you can surmise, it doesn’t go well for us. Robots, being all over every industry, build stronger, better war machines, while choking our supplies. Eventually, we’re whittled down, and in order to keep us captive, our bodies are held in metallic wombs as our subconscious is fed into a vivid, realistic reconstruction of the world circa the late ’90s, so we don’t realise a thing.

The Matrix order: The Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘A Detective Story’ (2003)

Trinity’s reputation when we first meet her is well-earned, as private investigator Ash finds out. She’s an elusive hacker, and any that try to sniff out her trail have suffered a dark fate. Undeterred, Ash seeks her out, becoming embroiled in subterfuge against the Agents.

A bleak ending demonstrates the harsh reality of what Trinity, Morpheus and the other humans are up against in battling the machines. Human bodies mean nothing to our cyber overlords, and all some of these people can do is survive, cutting their losses as they keep moving.

The Matrix order: Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity in The Matrix

The Matrix (1999)

Neo (Keanu Reeves) enters the picture, the messiah that heralds the end of the war. Trinity and Morpheus and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar guide him, all the while trying, and failing, to keep Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith at bay.

What is reality? Best thriller movies

Reluctant at first, Neo accepts his fate and eventually learns to control and alter the code of the Matrix to his own ends in one of the all-time great third acts. Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s landmark sci-fi action movie uses cinema to bend what’s real and what’s plausible in ways that filmmakers are still catching up to.

The Matrix order: The Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘The Kid’s Story’ (2003)

A bridge between The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded that has Neo and Trinity helping Kid, a lonely teenager, awaken to the real world. Well, “helping” might be too strong a term, because Kid goes through the process of getting out of the Matrix himself, without explicit nudging from those already free.

It’s an affirmation of finding kindred spirits, and following your gut if you have a deep-seated belief that something about your world isn’t right. Transformation is always possible, and there are others who can help.

The Matrix order: the Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘Final Flight of the Osiris’ (2003)

Nothing in this franchise is by half-measure. Not only does the action-adventure game Enter the Matrix cover an entire subplot from The Matrix Reloaded, this segment covers the information Niobe receives right as Enter the Matrix starts. How’s that for an ambitious crossover?

The ship Osiris and its crew are attacked by Sentinels, and in trying to escape notice the robots are drilling towards Zion, the last human city. Frantic, and fearing the inevitable, crewmates Thadeus and Jue make a last-ditch effort to warn other rebels before the Sentinels get them.

The Matrix order: Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, and Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded (and Enter the Matrix) (2003)

Six months after The Matrix, and everyone is called to Zion for the news that the Sentinels are drilling down to their location, and they have three days to avert a genocide. Neo has to find the Source, a mission that involves meeting the Keymaker, and the Architect, and learning about why this is all happening.

A new cyber world: Best adventure movies

People die, Trinity gets hurt, and Neo finds out he’s just the One for this generation – there have been five others. Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), commander Lock (Harry Lennix), Ghost (Anthony Wong), and many others join Morpheus and the Nebuchadnezzar in the struggle to defeat the machines. The world-building is convoluted and unwieldy, and some sequences are let down by the CGI of the time. A quick cutaway from Niobe is filled in by Enter the Matrix. All the same: thrilling.

the Matrix order: Keanu Reeves as Neo and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith in The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

The closing part of the trilogy builds into an effects-driven crescendo where Neo and Agent Smith duke it out for who decides the fate of the Matrix, and the human race. In the meantime, the people of Zion rage against the coming of the night as best they can.

Neo barters peace to stop the rogue Smith, ultimately sacrificing himself for the greater good. The Jesus analogue comes full circle. Ostentatious and certainly not the sequel you’d expect from The Matrix. But then, was The Matrix what anyone expected at the time either? The Wachowski sisters have always been disinterested in playing by other people’s rules, and that remains evident. A closing epilogue plants the seed for The Matrix 4.

The Matrix order: The Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘Beyond’ (2003)

A smaller tale, less directly tied into Neo’s story, is about kids finding strange anomalies within the Matrix. While trying to find her cat, Yoko joins a group of youngsters playing inside an abandoned house, rife with physics-bending glitches.

It’s all fun and games until they get into a spot of bother with an endless supply of rodents, and Yoko finds an endless void hidden away behind one of the doors. Agents storm in to clean the place up, replacing it all with a car park before long. Another glitch cleaned up, but this small band has seen behind the curtain now.

The Matrix order: The Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘Matriculated’ (2003)

Human scientists tried all sorts to turn the tide against the machines. One such notion was building a homemade Matrix to trap a robot’s consciousness, in order to make the case that there’s hope for humanity.

In ‘Matriculated’, Alexa manages to make this work, however, it’s all for nought when Sentinels raid the lab. Disparaging and downtrodden, this segment could be an episode of Black Mirror.

The Matrix order: The Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘Program’ (2003)

In the world of The Matrix, human cognition has to discern what’s real and what isn’t. This requires training, and testing, and one such exam involves genuine emotional manipulation.

Drawn stories: Best anime movies

During some combat training in feudal Japan, Cis encounters an old partner of hers, Duo. He claims to have invaded the program and wants her to rejoin the Matrix with him. She’s having none of it, and his efforts turn violent, for which she kills him. And then it’s revealed it was a ploy to see if she’d consider leaving the real world. Ooft.

The Matrix order: The Animatrix

The Animatrix: ‘World Record’ (2003)

This carries the implication that these short films are all stories kept by the people of Zion, cautionary tales or strange anecdotes. ‘World Record’ holds that escaping the Matrix, and evading Agents, can be done by people who push themselves beyond the boundaries set by their virtual prison.

Record-holding runner Dan Davis intends to prove naysayers who say he’s using performance-enhancing drugs wrong by setting a new time for himself. By doing so, he starts tearing his body apart, freeing his mind from the Matrix. He’s eventually subdued by Agents, who make it so he can’t walk to eliminate any further threat, but Dan’s seen the light now. The last part of the established Matrix timeline before Resurrections.

The Matrix order: Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity and Keanu Reeves as Neo in the Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Trinity is alive, and Neo is going back into the Matrix to save her. Morpheus and Agent Smith are reborn. The Matrix apparently exists as a movie within this artificial universe.

We know this is the latest entry in the timeline, we just don’t know what any of it means just yet. Keep an eye here once we’ve successfully jacked in.

The Matrix order: Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix Reloaded

How to watch The Matrix in release order

  • The Matrix
  • The Matrix Reloaded (and Enter the Matrix)
  • The Animatrix
  • The Matrix Revolutions
  • The Matrix Resurrections

After The Matrix in 1999, the Wachowski sisters filmed both sequels back-to-back, making it a few years before we got any sequels. The result was a windfall of releases, with The Matrix Reloaded, Enter the Matrix, The Animatrix, and The Matrix Revolutions arriving within months of each other in 2003.

From then, the franchise lay dormant until 2021, when The Matrix Resurrections brought it all back. Neo and Trinity return, but they’re surrounded by new faces like Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Or are they really old faces, made unrecognisable? We’ll update you when we know more.

That’s how to watch The Matrix in order. For more sci-fi timelines, you can check out our guides to Star Wars, and Star Trek. And for now, you can check out The Matrix Resurrections, in theatres on December 22, 2021.