Here's Where You Can Stream Every Matrix Movie

(Welcome to Where to Watch, which provides a clear and simple answer to the question, "Hey, where can I watch this thing?" In this edition: the Matrix franchise.)

The recent trailer for "The Matrix Resurrections" has stirred its fair share of reactions both positive and negative, including our own staff's mixed-positive opinion. Whichever way you went with it, if you're a fan of the over two-decade-old series it no doubt stirred some memberberries, and perhaps put you in the mood to enter The Matrix once more. Here is where you can stream all the previous "Matrix" movies before the new one drops in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22.

The Matrix

Where to stream: HBO Max

The one that started it all was actually quite the Hail Mary pass. It took Lana and Lilly Wachowski alongside producer Joel Silver several years and lots of hoops to convince Warner Bros. to invest the $60 million necessary for what was an oddball mixture of martial arts, special effects and college-level metaphysical philosophy. Armed with Keanu Reeves (replacing their first choice of Will Smith), who had already bombed in his previous cyberpunk venture "Johnny Mnemonic," it ultimately took an extensive 600-page storyboard to finally give the film the greenlight to shoot in Australia. 

Fortunately, the heady mix of hard-R comic book violence and existentialism paid off handsomely at the box office. The prophecy narrative involving a lonely computer hacker named Neo (Reeves) who has the veil lifted into "the real world" by the enigmatic Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and falls in love with a kickass, leather-clad babe named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) only to realize his "chosen one" potential struck a major chord with audiences worldwide. The fancy shmancy, Oscar-winning "Bullet-Time" effects by John Gaeta (actually lifted from a Rolling Stones video by Michel Gondry) gave the movie eye-candy appeal, but it was the clever blend of influences that gave the movie its backbone: "Star Wars," "Metropolis," "Ghost in the Shell," "Fist of Legend," William Gibson's "Neuromancer," Jean Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation," and pretty much the entire output of author Philip K. Dick are owed a debt of gratitude from "The Matrix." 

Pulling in $463 million, the film's success all but assured that there would be sequels. Despite a brief sojourn attempting to mount a new "Conan" movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Wachowski's set to work on mounting an insanely ambitious transmedia epic spanning two theatrical sequels, an animated anthology, video games, and comic books. 

The Animatrix

Where to stream: HBO Max

After The Wachowskis blatantly "homaged" so many anime films in the first "Matrix," in typical fashion those same Japanese animators wound up lining up to work with the American gaijins. A murderer's row of the finest anime directing talent were lined up for this 9-part anthology, including Kōji Morimoto ("Akira"), Shinichirō Watanabe ("Cowboy Bebop"), Mahiro Maeda ("Kill Bill Vol. 1"), Peter Chung ("Æon Flux"), Yoshiaki Kawajiri ("Ninja Scroll") and Takeshi Koike ("Redline"). With The Wachowskis in tow to produce the film as well as penning four of the segments, "The Animatrix" gives detailed background on both the historic events leading to the machine takeover of the planet ("The Second Renaissance Part I & II") and even introduces key new characters from the sequels ("Kid's Story").

Arguably, the highlight of the film is "The Final Flight of the Osiris," directed by visual effects master Andrew R. Jones ("Avatar") and developed by now-defunct animation house Square Pictures ("Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within"). It details the doomed hovercraft as it navigates the machine world only to uncover them boring down to get to Zion. A brave crew member named Jue (Pamela Adlon) is dispatched to the Matrix to deliver the message to Zion before the entire ship is blown apart by sentinels. This segment is not only visually stunning, but feels of-a-piece with the other movies in a way none of the other segments do. The Osiris is even referenced at the very top of "The Matrix Reloaded." It was such a standout that it was the one segment to actually get a theatrical release, paired with Warners' absolutely bananas Stephen King adaptation "Dreamcatcher." 

The Matrix Reloaded

Where to stream: HBO Max

While the image of a newly-empowered Neo flying like Superman was a thrilling button for the end of the first "Matrix," seeing him flying for minutes on end proved to be less exciting, and at times downright silly. This is the "fundamental flaw," as The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) might say, of the final two films in the Matrix Trilogy. By going the "more is more" route, The Wachowskis were clearly able to enact every grandiose sci-fi fantasy they'd ever dreamed of over the 300-day shoot for the two sequels, but the convoluted nature of the plotting that bogs the proceedings down in many minutes of baffling exposition sucks any emotional connection we many have had the events that unfold, which include the death and (first, but not last) resurrection of Trinity. 

As standalone set pieces, sequences like the martial arts battle with the Merovingian's henchmen and the big freeway chase battle (for which an actual 1.5-mile freeway was constructed) are still very cool. Embarrassments like the near all-digital-double brawl between Neo and hundreds of Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving) are even more laughable two decades later than they were the day the film opened, which is saying something. Overall, "Reloaded" is a frustrating experience because it feels like there's a movie missing between this and the first "Matrix" (especially if you hadn't absorbed other material like the "Enter the Matrix" video game). Then, to add insult to injury, it ends on a truly unsatisfying cliffhanger that leaves you scratching your head as opposed to primed in anticipation for the final act.

The Matrix Revolutions

Where to stream: HBO Max

"I got nothing, sir." Never has an opening line been so indicative of what's in store for the movie to follow. A major action sequence doesn't occur until 15 minutes in. The untimely death of Gloria Foster forced the recasting of The Oracle with Mary Alice, and despite her great performance the casting change breaks the investment we had in the character. Endless squabbling and debate between the characters makes this outing feel more like a UPN-era "Star Trek" soap opera, and a final battle between Neo and Agent Smith is so bombastic and over-the-top that it ceases to be anything but numbing spectacle. 

Are there any redeeming aspects of the film? Absolutely. The magnificent design work of comic book stalwart Geof Darrow is on full display here, even more so than in the previous two films. The mid-point battle set in Zion's shipyard between an endless swarm of sentinels and Captain Mifune (Nathaniel Lees) along with his squad of APU mechs is a visual marvel. A moment when the ship Trinity is piloting bursts above the clouds and she sees the sun (the real sun) for the first time in her life is stunningly transcendent. Ultimately, rather than giving us a satisfying conclusion to the series it merely achieves what all modern franchise filmmaking does and promises an eventual end to peace and a return of the hero you thought was dead. Let's hope "The Matrix Resurrections" can do like good machines do and turn a minus into a plus.