The Matrix (Wachowski, 1999)

Discussion Questions

North Seattle Community College, HUM 110: Introduction to American Film, JC Clapp


Some questions to consider to begin the conversation . . .  of course, you’re not limited to these, but these should give you an idea of the types of things you need to discuss. 


  1. This is a science fiction film as well as an action film. How does The Matrix fit into particular genres? How does it break away?
  2. Outline the narrative structure of this film by doing a scene outline. How is this film put together? How does the narrative structure influence your understanding of the film?
  3. Look at the fight scenes and how they are executed. What makes these fight scenes unique in terms of filmmaking? Choose one fight scene and point out how it is edited, filmed, and choreographed. What visual effects do you notice in your chosen fight scene?
  4. Where do you see animation and CGI-rendered characters, locations, events, and other special effects at work?
  5. How is sound (both diegetic and non-diegetic) used in this film? Notice when there is non-diegetic music used and how it functions. What about the sound in this film is unique?
  6. The mise-en-scene of this film draws attention to itself partly because it changes so often. What are the major “settings” of this film, and how have the Wachowski brothers used the mise-en-scene to communicate location, mood, safe/unsafe space, “reality,” and the like? How is the mise-en-scene predictable (as part of a science fiction film) and in what ways is it surprising?
  7. How is color (or the lack of color) used? Do you see any colors used symbolically? How do the colors of black, white, green, and red function in this film? What about other colors?
  8. This film is loaded with religious imagery and symbolism, specifically Christian (biblical) motifs. Point out all of the religious imagery and symbolism you can find and what those might be communicating to the audience.
  9. In addition to the religious motifs, there are also literary references. What literary references can you find?
  10. What does this film say about race? Gender? Point to specific scenes or characters to support your assertions.
  11. One of the many themes explored in this film is reality or the perception of reality or of what is real. Of course, this theme of reality is communicated explicitly via the dialogue between the characters, but in what other ways is this theme communicated? What other, more subtle, themes do you see developed in this film? (What’s the deal with the blue and red pills?)