the rabbit hole

10 Movies to Plug Into After The Matrix Resurrections

From left: Ghost in the Shell, The Animatrix, Dark City.
From left: Ghost in the Shell, The Animatrix, Dark City. Photo: Lionsgate; Warner Bros.

When it first debuted in 1999, The Matrix pulled a neat trick: It looked like nothing else anyone had ever seen before despite sampling and remixing a raft of pop-cultural source material. That’s a compliment, not a demerit, and several films later, with Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections now out in the world, fans have spent hours upon hours with a fictional reality that packages anime aesthetics, Hong Kong cinema’s wire fu action, and cyberpunk’s high-tech lens on low culture into kick-ass stories about rebellion against authority and self-actualization. At their best, the films transcend these influences and common reference points, while continuing to be defined by them.

This curated queue is for anyone eager to spend more time in similar plugged-in worlds, whether they’ve just seen Resurrections or have yet to watch any Matrix film at all. Not all of them are “influences,” but they are all must-watches if you want to better understand how The Matrix was born. We’ve also divided the guide into the two categories that felt most appropriate.


Because, in some ways, The Matrix owes more to anime than it does to live-action Hollywood movies.

The Animatrix

If you liked The Matrix and want to dip your toes into action anime, there’s no better crash course than The Animatrix — an anthology of short films made by respected anime directors. The results are a visual bounty, a format that was mimicked earlier this year to almost equal effect in the Star Wars: Visions anthology. Shorts like “The Second Renaissance” (directed by Mahiro Maeda) flesh out the backstories behind the plot of the Matrix movies, while standalones like “Program” (Yoshiaki Kawajiri) and “A Detective Story” (Shinichirô Watanabe) use the setting as a creative sandbox to try out fresh characters and scenarios.

Available to stream

Ghost in the Shell

Without Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, we arguably wouldn’t have gotten The Matrix. The Wachowskis’ film so closely borrowed from the 1995 anime classic that they actually showed it to producer Joel Silver in the earliest pitch meetings for the film. Frame by frame, the influences are there, from how the action is choreographed to visual homages, like how shots of Neo waking up and Trinity leaping into a lit-up cityscape mirror scenes of the anime. (Oh, yeah, while we’re here: Avoid the Scarlett Johansson remake.)

Available to rent

Megazone 23

Racing along many of the same narrative checkpoints as The Matrix — AI, conspiracy theories, and robots, robots, robots! — Noboru Ishiguro’s Megazone 23 exploded onto the Japanese direct-to-video market in the mid-’80s. Though it was originally planned as a TV series, plans were scrapped when sponsors pull out, leading Ishiguro to release the completed episodes as an 80-minute standalone segment that followed the story of a motorcycle-riding rebel hero Shogo Yahagi. It became such a video-store hit that three more segments were made. When asked in an online chat if it influenced The Matrix, the Wachowskis replied with: “Never seen it. But send us a copy, it sounds good.”

Available to stream for free

Ninja Scroll

Alongside Akira and Ghost in the Shell, director Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s film Ninja Scroll wove its way into the ’90s anime cult fandom in the United States, so much so that not only were the Wachowskis influenced by it — they invited him to direct sequences of The Animatrix. “The way they edited their scenes was very similar to the way I edit my scenes, but when you do it in live action it has a totally different feel,” Kawajiri once pointed out. “It made me think, What sort of steps do we have to take to achieve such fabulous imagery? And it made me feel a little insecure,” he joked.

Available to stream

Serial Experiments Lain

Yes, okay, this is a 13-episode series and not a film, but in an alternate universe, director Ryūtarō Nakamua and writer Chiaki J. Konaka’s show about a disaffected teen hacker could be Neo’s story. Instead we get Lain, a junior high-schooler who falls deep, deep into the dark recesses of the internet, known in the show as “the Wired.” Without spoiling too much, Lain’s existentialist character arc and isolation echo much of Neo’s, a vibe accentuated by the show’s ’90s alt-rock soundtrack and trippy, almost psychedelic take on cyberpunk imagery.

Available to stream


Because The Matrix was far from the only ’90s cyberpunk movie. Hell, it’s not even the only ’90s cyberpunk movie starring Keanu.

Blade Runner

The granddaddy of dystopian cyberpunk cinema, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner introduced a ton of visual iconography and existentialist ideology that would reappear in The Matrix films. As a film re-cut and re-released in several forms over the years, you could also draw a comparison to how its (unintentional) mystique also mirrored the Matrix saga’s “viral” approach to marketing — a long strategy of leaking plot points and character details through websites, games, and hidden DVD extras. In 2014, Resurrections director Lana Wachowski name-checked it again: “That one beautifully weird world is still tinting sci-fi movies being made today.”

Available to stream

Dark City

Filmed on the exact same Australia sets a year earlier, director Alex Proyas’s neo-noir homage to films like Metropolis and Akira, Dark City has been compared to The Matrix since the latter’s came out in 1999. The plots differ, as Dark City is more steeped in film noir than it is in science fiction, but the themes of identity and isolation persist. Roger Ebert loved it, praising its imagination and calling it “a film to nourish us” in his original four-star review and writing about its view of human nature seven years later, after the first two Matrix sequels had run their course.

Available to rent

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee, more than perhaps any other single individual except maybe Jackie Chan, made Eastern martial arts cool as hell in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century, and this film is one of his defining roles. The fighting itself is spectacular, but it’s hard not to also love and quote back practically every badass one-liner in this movie. “I know kung fu,” Mr. Anderson? Try: “Boards don’t hit back.

Available to stream for free

Hard Boiled

The greatness of John Woo’s seminal Hong Kong action film is hard to boil down (sorry, not sorry!) to a few sentences, but its influence on The Matrix is easy to trace. Just watch the hospital scene.

Available to stream for free

Johnny Mnemonic

In Johnny Mnemonic, the year is 2021, society is nearly fully consumed by a viciously capitalist internet, and a man named Neo sorry, Johnny, played by Keanu Reeves, is tasked with trafficking memories in his cybernetically enhanced brain. Adapted by cyberpunk writer William Gibson from his short story of the same name and initially conceived as an art film by director Robert Longo, Johnny Mnemonic is more “cult” than classic. Its dialogue is campy, its production design is garish, and its CGI looks absurd by any modern standard, but it’s also charming to watch knowing what the Wachowskis and Reeves would do with another movie about technology in just a few short years. I can’t knock it.

Available to stream

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10 Movies to Plug Into After The Matrix Resurrections