From 'Bound' To 'Jupiter Ascending,' We Rank The Films Of The Wachowskis

No matter how old you are, you remember the moment you were introduced to The Wachowskis. For me, it was February 1999. I was sitting in a screening of what I figured was some dumb new Keanu Reeves movie with about 1,000 of my fellow college students. A girl in black leather started to get into a fight and as she jumped in the air she froze. The camera spun around her, and she delivered a bone-shattering blow. Every single person in the room cheered wildly at the iconic visual moment at the beginning of The Matrix and, for the next two hours, we continued to be amazed at what was unfolding on screen.

The Matrix went on to gross almost $500 million worldwide and spawn two hugely anticipated sequels. More importantly, it supercharged the careers of Lana (then Larry) and Andy Wachowski. The filmmaking siblings have since gone on to make several films that are technical marvels and intellectual thrill rides. This past weekend, their latest film, Jupiter Ascending, finally hit theaters, so we saw a perfect opportunity to rank the films of The Wachowskis.

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The Wachowski Films Ranked

7. The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

I'm going to be honest. I have very few memories of The Matrix Revolutions. I remember a lot of it takes place in the underground city of Zion. There was a big battle with mech suits. Beyond that, there's nothing. I figure that says a lot about the film, a conclusion to a trilogy that meant a lot to me when it was released.

I, of course, went back and refreshed myself on Revolutions before ranking it. Revolutions is simply a disappointing end to a trilogy. There's big, impressive action, some really good ideas and even a kind of bold and surprising ending. But the power of the first film and the energy of the second film both were drained by this point. It feels almost like a means to an end. Watching, you almost get the vibe the Wachowskis are working in a world they were, by this point, very done with and happy to be rid of. There's simply nothing in the movie that takes the story or the filmmaking to the next level, two things that The Wachowksis do so well in so many of their other films. Still, even though this is their "worst" movie, it's not "terrible." Just subpar.

6. Jupiter Ascending (2015)

There's honestly a lot to like about Jupiter Ascending. As they've done time and time again, The Wachowskis build a very unique world with the film. Basically, a woman born on Earth is revealed to be the reincarnated mother of a galaxy controlling royal family who owns Earth. A lone soldier is sent to Earth to protect her, and then there's lots of awesome action. Visually, Jupiter Ascending is right up there with some of the best sci-fi in recent memory. All the technology, weapons, ships, planets and more are gorgeous. The music is epic, the scope of everything is insane, all the elements are there.

However, when you really boil down the story of Jupiter Ascending, it's really kind of a weaker rehash of the ideas in The Matrix. It's the same basic story twisted and turned to includes planets, aliens and the galaxy. The script is incredibly repetitive with the characters getting into the same situation over and over again, and the dialogue is filled with jokes and asides that totally feel out of place. Jupiter Ascending is a movie that you'll enjoy a little watching it in the theater, never turn it off when it starts airing on TV, but mostly think of ironically.

5. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Four years after blowing people minds with the original Matrix, the Wachowskis returned with not one, but two Matrix sequels in one year. You've already read about the third one, but this was the first follow up. One of the most hyped and anticipated films of the early 2000s. There's no denying the action and visuals of The Matrix Reloaded lived up to the hype. Neo versus the hundreds of Agent Smith's. The Twins. The jaw-dropping, ground breaking scene on the highway. It's a really good action movie.

Where the film loses things a bit are how deep the Wachowski's go with the mythology. No one will forget the first time they saw the scene with The Architect, an incredibly interesting, but equally frustrating scene that simultaneously gave the story more meaning and no meaning. The Matrix Reloaded starts strong, gets stronger, but ends on a down note and never reaches the expectations of the first film. Still, it's better than the third for those reasons.

4. Speed Racer (2008)

In terms of pure visuals, The Wachowskis outdid themselves in 2008 with Speed Racer. A live-action adaptation of a classic Japanese franchise, the movie is like jumping into a rainbow. Every single frame sparkles with color and chrome. The race scenes are jaw-droppingly beautiful and exciting as are the designs from the cars, to the outfits and everything else you see on the screen.

The problem with Speed Racer is it almost felt like a reaction to criticism from The Matrix sequels. This time around the story and characters were a little too on the nose. Things never get too deep, plus the story never matches the fun of the visuals. This vibrant, exciting manga adaptation degenerates into a story about the politics behind racing and the two things feel diametrically opposed. Still, the simple sports movie structure provides a suitable amount of the thrills and the action and visuals never stop entertaining.

3. Bound (1996)

Bound was the Wachowskis first movie and is unlike everything they did after. Where even their best movies sometimes feel cold, Bound is electric. Sexual. Tense. Funny. It's a modern-noir crime thriller about a young woman (Jennifer Tilly) who hooks up with an ex-con (Gina Gershon) and the pair scheme to steal from a mob boss (Joe Pantoliano). The film is filled with all the twists and turn of a classic film noir, but with the hip, independent, raw sensibilities of the Nineties.

Visually, there are glimpses here and there of what The Wachowksis would become but they've probably never written a better screenplay. The ideas in their other movies are obviously way more complicated and intriguing, but Bound is just tight. Good characters, smart dialogue, interesting story, it's the kind of debut any filmmaker would love to have. History tends to underrate Bound but it's definitely one of the Wachowskis best.

2. Cloud Atlas (2012)

There are almost no words to describe my love of Cloud Atlas. The Wachowskis, who co-write and co-directed with Tom Tykwer, contributed to one of the most epic and under appreciated films in recent memory. Cloud Atlas tells the story of several souls spanning multiple times and generations. Not only are the characters connected, the stories are connected, the actors playing them play multiple roles, and each section of the film has a wholly unique tone.

Somehow though, the Wachowskis and Tykwer link them together masterfully. Every single jump in stories is both a comment on what was just seen and a foreshadowing of what comes next. There's humor, tragedy, action, comedy, and it all works together in an inspiring, almost unfathomable way. Cloud Atlas is a trio of filmmakers working on such a elevated plain, it's almost too much for most people to comprehend. Hence the general malaise surrounding the film. Nevertheless, much like the themes of the movie, time will shine a positive light on the masterpiece that is Cloud Atlas.

1. The Matrix (1999)

Was there every any doubt? Of course not. While I personally feel like Cloud Atlas is a better movie than The Matrix, The Matrix tops this list for a number of reasons. First, it was undeniably groundbreaking. The "bullet time" action innovated by the Wachowksis here was used and copied for years after. Second, this movie is all them. It's not an adaptation, there was no co-director, this movie is straight Wachowski.

Then there's the movie itself. A commentary on humanity wrapped in an unbelievably kick ass action movie with so many A+ moments, it's almost unfair. Shot after shot, scene after scene, The Matrix is as exciting and cool a film as has probably ever been made. Yet it all feels somehow effortless. The sweeping story, combined with the huge surprises, love story, a ton of complicated yet fascinating exposition, as well as that insane action are all just perfectly in time with each other, creating a movie that will be watch and rewatched until the end of time.

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