The Matrix trilogy was released in chronological order, but several additions to the story, like The Animatrix start to hop around the timeline, throwing The Matrix viewing order into question. The four feature-length films many people know about are The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions, The Matrix Resurrections but The Animatrix and several canon video games expand the world and story in big ways. With so much content, fans can be confused about how best to watch The Matrix franchise in its entirety.
The Wachowski siblings kicked off their Matrix franchise with 1999’s The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves as Neo, a young hacker who discovers the world he is living in is merely a fabrication cooked up by machines and is prophesized to be the one to free the human race. Sequels, animated films, video games, and comics have since deepened the lore, expand the world, and continue the Matrix story. Determining the exact chronological order can be pretty confusing, considering the depth and width of the franchise’s worldbuilding. The Wachowskis have created a wholly unique and unmissable world that blends elements of action, philosophy, religion, and technology. Whether a repeat viewing of the series or diving in for the first time, finding the best Matrix viewing order makes the experience even better.
The Matrix Release Date Viewing Order
One way to dive into the Matrix viewing order is to go by the release dates. The Matrix franchise has tons of materials, including comics and movies, which make for a more inviting experience. While the comics are a rich textual archive, the films, animated shorts, and video games provide more than enough content to cover. The release date viewing order goes like this:
- The Matrix (March 1999)
- The Matrix Reloaded (May 2003)
- Enter the Matrix (May 2003)
- The Animatrix (June 2003)
- The Matrix Revolutions (November 2003)
- The Matrix Online (April 2005)
- The Matrix: The Path of Neo (November 2005)
- The Matrix: Resurrections (December 2021)
The Matrix begins after key events have occurred, including the timeline of the machine rebellion and how they exerted control over humans. Despite this in media res feeling that comes with watching it, The Matrix is essential to view first if to give audiences an introduction to the real world and the simulation of the Matrix. However, if one requires an in-depth look into the sociopolitical aspect of the world of The Matrix, one can have a look into The Matrix Comics, a collection of pin-ups and shorts that inform the wider world in interesting ways.
As Neo is the audience surrogate and is new to the framework of the matrix, he learns lots of the rules and the basic backstory in the first film. This is similarly essential for the viewer to also know as they go deeper down the Matrix rabbit hole. Even while watching The Animatrix, which goes hard on the backstory of the world events that led to the humans being taken over by machines, the stakes don’t hit in quite the same way unless fans understand just how extensive their control is, as seen in The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded.
The Matrix Chronological Viewing Order
Another Matrix viewing order option would be to watch the feature-length films, the animated short films, and the stories underpinning each of the three video games in chronological order. Fans will have to make sure to break up The Animatrix specifically because the films do not follow a chronological order as they are presented nor do they neatly fall before, during, or after the events of the feature-length films. Because of this, The Matrix chronological viewing order looks like this:
- The Animatrix: The Second Renaissance, Part I and II: Takes place in the mid-21st century and focuses on the events of the war between machines and humans. The story is narrated by The Instructor, an interpreter of the Zion Archives where all of the pre-machine history is stored.
- The Animatrix: A Detective Story: Follows a detective named Ash who receives a phone call asking him to look into a hacker known as “Trinity.” The events of the film imply Ash’s investigation takes place shortly before The Matrix.
- The Matrix: The first movie in the franchise takes place in the Matrix’s version of 1999 but in reality, all of the events are happening closer to 2199.
- The Animatrix: Kid’s Story: Kid’s Story occurs shortly after Neo learns about the Matrix from Morpheus. A blue-pilled kid has dreams about Neo and tries to figure out if what he’s saying about the Matrix is true.
- The Animatrix: Final Flight of the Osiris: A direct prelude to both Enter the Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded. This story tells the events of the ship Osiris as it works to evade being captured by Sentinels and prevent the last human city of Zion from being destroyed.
- Enter the Matrix: The events of the game Enter the Matrix overlap slightly with Final Flight of the Osiris and The Matrix. The story parallels The Matrix Reloaded.
- The Matrix Reloaded: Takes place six months after the events of The Matrix.
- The Matrix Revolutions: Revolutions begins almost immediately after the events of Reloaded, meaning it takes place approximately six to seven months after The Matrix.
- The Matrix: Path of Neo (runs concurrent to films from the moment Morpheus offers the pill): Path of Neo‘s story runs concurrent to all three feature-length Matrix films, so fans can read the story or play the game after fans have watched them. Interestingly, Path of Neo does offer an alternate ending.
- The Matrix Online: The Matrix Online centers around the race to gather up the fragments of The One (Neo) following the events of Revolutions. No specific time period is mentioned but it does take place after the feature-length trilogy wraps.
- The Animatrix: Beyond: Beyond takes place sometime after the feature films. It focuses on a group of teenagers in Japan who find glitches in the Matrix they exploit for their amusement.
- The Matrix: Resurrections: Takes place roughly 18 years after the events of Revolutions, opening up the universe in a meta manner, continuing the saga of Neo and his purported role in the future of humankind.
- The Animatrix: World Record: WorldRecord is difficult to place because there are no discernible events that link it back to another place in time. However, this short is narrated by The Instructor, who also narrates The Second Renaissance, providing at least a link to a familiar character.
- The Animatrix: Matriculated: Matriculated‘s time period is difficult to place because it features no clear hints about when its events are happening.
- The Animatrix: Program: Program is similarly tricky to place in the Matrix chronology for the same reasons as World Record and Matriculated.
Tackling the chronological Matrix viewing order is a beast of a task. This viewing order is only recommended for those who have either seen at least the films before or are looking for a pleasantly challenging way to engage with this world.
The Recommended Matrix Viewing Order
While watching the events of The Matrix movies in order can straighten out the narrative a bit better, it can be a bit unwieldy if fans are relatively new to the world of the Matrix. It’s best to have a baseline understanding of what the Matrix is and what the rules are before fans can even attempt to dive deeper into the mythos.
At the same time, it is important to note that the structure of the simulacrum is forever changing, making it difficult to chronologically map the events in a coherent manner, as space-time is fluid. So, it might prove a bit daunting to watch two films from The Animatrix first before exploring the live-action movies, as the chronological order suggests. For this reason, it’s recommended to watch the Matrix films, short films, and reading up on the Matrix video games based on the date they were released in. As a refresher, the viewing order looks like this:
- The Matrix
- The Matrix Reloaded
- Enter the Matrix
- The Animatrix
- The Matrix Revolutions
- The Matrix Online
- The Matrix: The Path of Neo
- The Matrix: Resurrections
How The Matrix 4 Fits Into The Viewing Order
As The Matrix: Resurrections succeeds the events of Revolutions from a temporal perspective, it should ideally be watched right after the official trilogy. Resurrections not only continues Neo and Trinity’s tale while delving into a meta-narrative with shifting symbology and semantics but also offer an insight into how the very nature of the matrix has evolved in the postmodern era.
As the present era is overrun with technological advancements and a mounting reliance on projected selves, it will be interesting to see how the world of The Matrix behaves in accordance with these alterations. In essence, The Matrix franchise is a complex world that is steeped in lore and has been developed into one of the more narratively rich worlds offered by a franchise. Hence, getting the viewing order right is key if fans want to make the most out of experiencing it.
Where Could The Matrix 5 Fit In The Timeline
Placing the Matrix movies in order could become even more complicated if the franchise continues. As fun as it was to see all the characters return for The Matrix Resurrections, it is no secret that the movie didn’t live up to the expectations of fans. The ambitious plans for the long-awaited follow-up seemed too much for the movie to hold together, therefore, fans are hoping there is a better Matrix sequel to come. While there have been no announcements for The Matrix 5, there are a number of ways a new movie could fit into the current timeline.
With the failure of The Matrix Resurrections, it doesn’t seem likely that there will be another movie that deals with Neo and Trinity as the main characters. However, it is possible that the franchise follows the legacy sequel route by bringing in some new characters for a new story and featuring Neo in a supporting role. Another avenue to explore with new characters is a prequel series. This would avoid interfering with the stories in the four Matrix movies, and there is so much history in this mythology worth exploring, from the first humans to escape the simulation to the adventures of a young Morpheus. With such a compelling timeline to deal with, it feels as though there are more Matrix stories to come.