7 movies like The Matrix for more thoughtful Sci-Fi action

The matrix is both a unique film and a mix of countless pieces of pop culture influence. Published in 1999, on Wachowskichanging piece of available-popcorn-blockbuster-cum-tight-hard-science-fiction-stars Keanu Reeves as a man who realizes that the world is not real, and Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss as key players in the resistance force trying to wake us all up. Balls dodge in reality-bending slow motion, kung fu knowledge is downloaded via dirty technology, and white rabbits are chased as far down the hole as they can go. The matrix is one of our large, original, culture-changing pieces of mass culture.

If you are in the mood for more works like this, we have you covered. Grab the nearest phone, watch out for any annoying agents, and enjoy seven movies like The matrix offering similar pockets of genre mixing, inventive action, sci-fi philosophizing and cyberpunk cool.

RELATED: ‘The Matrix 4’: Trailer, Release Date, Cast, Story Details and Everything We Know So Far


A still image from Akira

Image via Streamline Pictures

A basic work of cyberpunk, science fiction and anime films, Akira is an important watch. With a bold, terrifying visual language, thematic explorations of human corruption through technology, and some out-and-out-and-out-and-out-as-fuck-style, it’s not hard to see the DNA in Akira not only in The matrix but in many other pieces of postmodern pop culture since its release in 1988. Tension up and enjoy the wild ride.

Dark City


Picture via New Line Cinema

Published only a year before The matrix, Dark City is short-term consciousness that explores the ideas and aesthetics that were later calcified to a bonafide hit by Wachowski the following year (or: Dark City is the underground mixtape; The matrix is the big label debut). Combines a mix of influences from noir to German expressionist horror to harsh sci-fi, Dark City states the frightening idea that we have no control over our own destiny and that life is merely a simulated toy that an unseen shadowy class can dictate. Can you let go and find the truth? And what will happen to your mind along the way? Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, and Kiefer Sutherland all give startling performances in this understated thunderstorm of a movie.

Fist of Legend

Jet Li and Fist of Legend

Image via Golden Harvest

Jet Li‘s Fist of Legend, in itself a remake of a former iconic martial artist’s vehicle (Bruce Lee‘s Fist of Fury), were so influential on Wachowskis while they conceptualized The matrix that they paid tribute to a sequence wholesale – The Neo / Morpheus training sequence in a Matrix-coded dojo refers directly to a similar Fist of Legend order. In addition, combat choreographer Yuen Woo-ping was hired to The matrix on the strength of his work in this film, making this film directly responsible for the spread of intense wire-fu martial arts sequences in the mainstream cinema. Come and give your respect to the altar in Fist of Legend, an incredibly influential work on the history of The matrix (and a smart action flick in itself).

Ghost in the Shell (1995)


Image via Kôdansha

Another major work in cyberpunk, sci-fi and anime, Ghost in the shell is such a direct influence on The matrix it per Animatrix special feature, Wachowskis pitched it to producer Joel Silver by telling him they wanted to “do it right” (further invalidating the need for the gruesome, whitewashed live-action remake). In just 82 minutes (must love a shortie), masterful animation instructor Mamoru Oshii finds astonishing imagery, dope action sequences, intriguing neo-noir influences, and philosophical muckraking views on the convergence of humanity and artificial intelligence. Just a strong piece of work.



Image via Warner Bros.

And it’s not just because the two share a bwwwwaaaamp-heavy score. Christopher Nolan‘s thoughtful Beginning is yet another postmodern genre-blending masterpiece that fuses the troops of robberies, secret agents, and science fiction images to create some cool, entertaining, and yes, reality issues. The one who infamous scene where Joe Pantoliano‘s Cypher decides that the Matrix’s fake world is better than the real world because a tasty steak tastes like a tasty steak, regardless of whether its “truth” is basically the philosophy behind Beginning‘s infamous final shot, a jolt of brainwashing ambiguity in a genre usually based on hard clips and lessons. From its surrealistic action sequences to its characters’ ability to bend “reality” to their will, Beginning takes the relay off The matrix and runs down the ever-rotating aisle with it.

strange days

Angela Bassett and Ralph Fiennes in Strange Days

Image via 20th Century Fox

Another hum of ideas and genres, Kathryn Bigelow‘s strange days is a strange but devastatingly effective trip. Ralph Fiennes and Angela Basset tear the screen apart while our heroes are eager to survive and even change a dystopian, technocratic nightmare version of Los Angeles all the way into the future 1999 (the year of release for The matrix, do not know). Bigelow’s visual language and sense of tactile production design feels like her own Close to Darkness With the help of Blade Runner; a pleasantly dirty, burnt earth rendering of what can happen to our environment if uncontrolled technological advances trump any other facet of basic, habitable humanity. If you’re in the mood for a politically radical, action-packed, noir-soaked, hard-hitting sci-fi film from prominent female directors, strange days, The matrix, and … uhh … yes, they really stand alone, these two pictures.


The cast of the throne

Image via Buena Vista Distribution

Like The matrix, 1982s Tron had such a very specific vision that its filmmakers had to revolutionize special effects just to get the film finished. Manager Steven Lisberger spent many Disney dollars on unprecedented computer-generated images whose effects were combined with live-action elements and traditionally hand-drawn animation to bring the dangerous, wild world inside a video game to life. Besides Tron‘s mutual status as a benchmark for special effects in cinema, it shares The matrix‘s concerns with the architects behind “reality”, the perception of machines that want to harm us humans, and the fundamentally boring idea that one person can change what feels immutable. Hov, actually.

Keep reading: The cast of Keanu Reeves and ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ reflects on the legacy of the original film in new video

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