Almost immediately upon its release in 1999, The Matrix changed pop culture forever. Red pills, blue pills, and bullet time entered our vocabularies almost instantaneously. The Matrix’s impact was so great that, invariably, its influences seeped into some of our favorite movies and TV shows, too.
From playful jabs to full-on parodies, The Matrix has been referenced endlessly across the 21st Century’s entertainment landscape. Netflix mega-hits, British cult comedies, and one of Keanu Reeves’ other big action heroes have all had The Matrix in their sights – and we’re here to count down 20 of the very best Easter eggs, homages, and references to The Matrix from the world of movies and television.
‘Leaning back’ in Squid Game
Even Netflix’s surprise sensation squeezed in a reference to The Matrix. After the fifth episode’s climatic tug-of-war, Player 212 asks The Old Man how he managed to get the upper hand. Player 212 makes pointed reference to the way The Old Man leaned back during the game. In her mind, at least, it’s a reference to something from pop culture, but she can’t quite put a finger on where from.
Ali, helpfully, pops up with the answer: it was reminiscent of Neo’s slow-motion ducking and diving to dodge bullets in The Matrix, specifically the scene on the rooftop with Trinity.
The Office’s alternate series finale
You might have memorized every scene from every episode of The Office, but you might not have seen this. The Office’s series finale has a cut opening scene all based around Dwight’s love of The Matrix – and acts as one of Jim’s most elaborate pranks.
It begins with a callback to The Matrix’s black cat déjà vu and spirals out into a grab bag of Easter eggs and references, from Neo’s office escape to Hank playing Morpheus’ ‘brother’. In a surprise – and hilarious twist – Dwight opts for the blue pill because he’s just been promoted to manager.
Scary Movie’s 360 kick
For a certain generation, Scary Movie was the poster child when it came to keeping its finger on the pulse and skewering pop culture’s hottest acts.
Predictably, given it released a year prior to Scary Movie, The Matrix ended up on its hit list. This extended fight sequence sees Cindy take down Ghostface with a series of moves plucked from The Matrix, including a 360-degrees kick and… a Bullet Time Riverdance. You do you, Scary Movie.
It also features one of the movie’s best visual gags, as Ghostface leans back and dodges a dish thrown at him by Cindy – only to pull out his back and remain frozen in the excruciating position.
The Simpsons aren’t N-Sync
Springfield’s favorite family has lampooned The Matrix multiple times since the 1999 classic’s original release, but no moment is quite as funny as N-Sync’s guest appearance on The Simpsons’ “New Kids on the Bleech.”
In the season 12 episode, the N-Sync lineup help motivate Bart’s new boy band to help save the day with their own dance routine. It all ends – this being 2001 – with a Matrix freeze-frame. But there’s a hitch: band member Chris Kirkpatrick can’t defy gravity for long and falls flat on his face. D’oh.
Fiona’s hard-hitting Matrix homage in Shrek
You seemingly couldn’t head to the cinema in the early 2000s without a movie spoofing The Matrix’s iconic fight scenes – and Shrek is no different.
Towards the end of their journey home, Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona are badgered by a sleazy Robin Hood. Fiona, though, has no time for the all-singing, all-dancing shenanigans of the archer and his Merry Men, taking them all out in a sequence that sees Fiona ape Matrix’s Bullet Time. As the camera pans 360 degrees, Fiona finds time to flip her hair back in mid-air before delivering the final blow. Neo, eat your heart out.
John Wick needs guns. Lots of guns.
Aside from Neo, Keanu Reeves’ most trigger-happy hero is undoubtedly hitman John Wick. While the two – thankfully – won’t ever get into a shootout, John Wick 3 includes a pretty unsubtle nod to one of Neo’s most iconic lines.
During the siege on The Continental, Ian McShane’s Winston asks John what he needs. His reply? “Guns. Lots of Guns.” There’s a reason why that line is delivered with almost a knowing wink from Reeves; it’s echoing the exact same line Neo said to Trinity in The Matrix’s lobby scene.
Spaced’s Agent fight
Spaced was a cult classic British comedy written by and starring Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson as a pair of down-on-their-luck twentysomethings who pretend to be in a relationship so they can share a flat. The series, directed by Edgar Wright, was filled with so many Easter eggs that pop culture obsessives would often wear out their VHS tapes after going frame by frame.
One of the more on-the-nose nods comes when a pair of Agents asks Daisy to come with them. It escalates into a Matrix-esque fight scene, including Daisy pulling out Neo’s cheeky ‘come and get me’ hand gesture.
Duke Kaboom’s Woah in Toy Story 4
If there’s one thing Keanu Reeves is best known for saying through his career, it’s ‘Woah.’ It’s Neo’s own mind-blown inflection, though, that gets the parody treatment in the end-credits sequence of Pixar’s Toy Story 4.
There, Reeves voices Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom – and asks Ducky and Bunny whether they really have laser eyes. After all, the plushy duo have a knack for embellishing their tall tales. When they reply that they do have laser eyes, out comes Keanu Reeves’ iconic line. This scene mirrors Neo’s ‘woah’ in The Matrix after he sees Morpheus leap a building in a single bound.
Agent Smith in Joker’s gang in the Lego Batman movie
Batman’s nemesis has been around for 80 years and, in that time, has thrown together a motley crew or two to take on The Dark Knight. But all pale in comparison to the gang brought together by the Crown Prince of Crime in the Lego Batman Movie.
Joker helps break several villains out of the Phantom Zone to help with his sinister schemes during the movie’s runtime. Chief among them is Agent Smith, who accompanies the likes of Sauron, the Daleks, and Voldemort in Joker’s misadventures. Talk about bad influences.
Neo ain’t got nothing on Speedy Gonzales in Space Jam: A New Legacy
Space Jam: A New Legacy was a slam dunk for Warner Bros. fans, remixing and reworking some of the studio’s most famous properties as a backdrop for an all-star basketball game like no other. When LeBron James is forced to reform the Tune Squad, he and Bugs Bunny chance upon Granny and Speedy Gonzales in The Matrix. I can’t believe I just had to type that sentence.
As law enforcement closes in, Granny and Speedy Gonzales – as Trinity and Neo respectively – whip out a few of The Matrix’s most gravity-defying moves, while Speedy Gonzales declares that “Neo ain’t got nothing on me.”
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist’s Matrix cow fight
Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is a martial arts parody that spoofs some of the greats of Hong Kong cinema. It also finds time to have fun at The Matrix’s expense during a fight scene between the movie’s lead The Chosen One and… a cow. Yes, you read that right.
Following a hilariously brutal bovine beatdown, the cow gets the upper hand and shoots milk out of its udders. The Chosen One, sensing danger, suddenly channels Neo and dodges the dairy in trademark Bullet Time fashion. Udderly wonderful if we do say so ourselves.
Coincidence or callback? Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’ amazing Matrix Easter egg
This Easter egg in a galaxy far, far away has been hotly debated ever since it was uncovered in 2015. While on the hunt for Zam Wesell, Obi-Wan and Anakin find themselves at a bar and Ewan McGregor’s Jedi Master is offered some death sticks. It’s here where things start getting very weird.
The actor of the death stick-dealing character is Matt Doran, who also plays the man who built the iconic Woman in the Red Dress Program in The Matrix. Incredibly, the woman who plays the Woman in the Red Dress – Fiona Johnson – appears seconds after the death sticks scene in Attack of the Clones, trying to get Anakin’s attention in the same way she grabs Neo’s attention. Fans believe it’s an extremely deep-cut nod to The Matrix by George Lucas, but you’re free to go down the rabbit hole yourself and make your own minds up.
Neo’s introduction gets a callback in Westworld
When we first see Neo sleeping at his computer in The Matrix, a song can be heard blaring from his headphones: Dissolved Girl by Massive Attack. That also plays during the party Dolores attends during the season three premiere of HBO’s trippy sci-fi series, Westworld.
Immediately following that moment, a man in a tuxedo is seen talking about how the entire world could be a simulation. Sound familiar? While the show’s creators have never outright confirmed the Easter egg, it’s almost certainly a cute homage to a franchise in The Matrix that helped pave the way for high concept shows such as Westworld.
Jeff Winger’s Matrix blind spot in Community
Community is a hotbed of pop culture references, Easter eggs, and deep cut sight gags that only diehard fans would get. In true Dan Harmon fashion, Community’s Matrix mention comes within an episode that is a full-on parody of G.I. Joe.
Here, “Wingman” – AKA cocky lawyer Jeff Winger, now in ‘80s animated form – compares his power to that of The One: “I am Neo in the third act of The Matrix. I’m also Neo in the first act of the second Matrix,” Winger said. In typical Jeff fashion, he admits he “didn’t get around to seeing the third one.” So we have no idea if Wingman has the ability to jump into someone and kill them a la Neo at the end of Revolutions.
Chidi’s childhood poster in The Good Place
Chidi is, as the kids say, a ‘big mood’: a swirling pit of anxiety and indecisiveness with a crush on Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity. When the philosopher meets his idol, Hypatia of Alexandria (Lisa Kudrow), he freaks out and says he says that he had a poster of ‘her’ on his bedroom wall in high school. Except it was a poster of Trinity – which Chidi saying that’s how he imagined ‘Patty’ would look like. Even in the afterlife, Chidi is clearly a massive Matrix nerd.
Bender’s binary dream in Futurama
The Matrix’s analog-heavy technology and use of green text/code on black screens is now pretty much accepted as pop-culture shorthand for hacking or jumping in and out of a simulation.
It’s no surprise, then, to see it make its way into Futurama, a sci-fi series set in the year 3000. In the episode “A Head in the Polls,” Bender has a nightmare – in binary, naturally. The numbers 0 and 1 fill the screen in Matrix-esque green code, before the bending robot wakes up screaming that he “thought he saw a two.” Fry reassures him that there’s “no such thing as two.” Some hardcore Matrix fans might well wish that was the case.
There is No Spoon in Dog Soldiers
This is probably the most shoehorned-in Matrix reference on this list. In this 2002 action horror, Spoon (Darren Morfitt) has a last stand against a pack of werewolves alongside his fellow soldiers. He manages to take one down in the kitchen, throwing literally everything but the kitchen sink at the beasts.
Spoon is eventually killed and his carcass ripped to shreds. Upon discovering him, the soldiers remark that “there is no Spoon.” Brilliant.
Hey, Will and Grace: The Matrix called, they want their coat back
The Matrix may not have revolutionized fashion in the way we hoped – indoor sunglasses and leather coats have gone the way of the fashion dodo since 1999 – but its sartorial impact still lives on through jokes such as these.
When the eponymous Grace (Debra Messing) walks into Will’s office, he jokes that “everybody from The Matrix called. They want their coat back.”
Stop Trying to Hit Me and Hit Me (Team America)
Samuel Jackson shows up in Team America: World Police (voiced by Fred Tatasciore) and attempts to stop Chris and the other members of Team America from storming Kim Jong-Il’s peace conference.
During the ensuing fight scene, Samuel L. Jackson tells Chris to “Stop trying to hit me and hit me,” a knock-off of Morpheus’ line to Neo while he’s attempting to teach him kung-fu. Chris duly obliges, splitting his head open and killing him, a joke that only Trey Parker and Matt Stone could get away with.
Cartman as Morpheus in South Park
After Cartman’s prank on Butters (who believes he’s playing on a VR headset but is instead committing crimes in real life), he shows up in Butters’ hospital room dressed as Morpheus to convince him that he’s still in the VR world. The parallels to Morpheus taking Neo down the rabbit hole are obvious – except only one of them is a foul-mouthed 10-year-old from Colorado.
Need a catch-up on everything that’s happened in The Matrix so far? Then be sure to check out our The Matrix explained recap. And for something new to watch, check out our picks of the best sci-fi movies of all time.