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John Wick Fan Theories That Could Actually Be True

The world changes, and we change with it. Or, in the case of Keanu Reeves, the world changes back to realize that he's always been an underrated actor with a genuine talent in performing action scenes. For anyone who scoffed at The Matrix, missed Man of Tai Chi on release, and considered Reeves indistinguishable from the "whoa" memes that pervaded his career for the last couple of decades, John Wick was like a slap in the face.

The film was a gleefully balletic action drama with some of Reeves' finest acting in years, and contained a story that oozed cool from every bullet-ridden corpse. One film wasn't enough — John Wick 2 came out to similar rave acclaim, and a franchise was born. It's easy to see why; even beyond Reeves himself, the world of John Wick is stylish, mysterious, and built on intriguing traditions surrounding the furtive assassins in the films. While fans have waited for another sequel, they've been plenty busy sketching out theories about possible crossovers, coming up with explanations for confusing moments in the films, and discussing the imagined history of the world. Here are some of the best fan theories about John Wick.

John Wick is in The Matrix

It seems like there's no more common type of fan theory than the one in which an actor's past role is connected to another role in their career as part of a combined storyline. Theories abound to try and connect Steve Buscemi's Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs and his role as Carl Showalter in Fargo for example, and you can find dozens of other theories for dozens of other actors and roles.

John Wick is no different, although there's a surprising amount of convincing evidence to connect it to The Matrix in this fan theory. The theory imagines that John Wick is an identity given to Neo years before the events of The Matrix in an attempt to balance and correct for Neo's underlying desire to "get out." In The Matrix, that's obviously getting out of the computer world; in John Wick, it's getting out of the criminal world. By putting obstacles in John/Neo's way, the Matrix is able to keep his focus on escaping his "reality" — that is, the reality of his criminal lifestyle, instead of his computerized life. 

It's also worth noting that the connection between the two franchises isn't just Keanu Reeves. One of the two directors for John Wick, David Leitch, actually worked as a stunt coordinator on The Matrix Revolutions. Are we grasping at straws here? Maybe. Or maybe this rabbit hole goes even deeper. All we're offering is the truth... nothing more.

The assassin coins have specific values

If there's one detail in the John Wick films that has left fans puzzled, it's the value of those gold coins. When John digs up his stash of weapons and coins, he's got an impressive amount, but it only costs one coin to get a room in the hotel, one coin to get rid of a single body, and one coin to buy a drink in the bar. Those are services with very different values in the real world, so why does John only use a single coin for each? It kind of seems like the bar is overpriced if one drink costs the same amount as getting rid of a body.

Well, one fan has an explanation: the coins don't actually have a standardized value. Instead, there are different values attached to different coins, the details of which aren't obvious to the non-assassin moviegoers. It's a decently convincing explanation, especially considering how massive and powerful the assassination world seems to be. Why wouldn't they have their own currency, the rules of which don't make sense to outsiders?

Each coin represents one favor

That's not the only fan theory regarding the coins, though. Another intriguing explanation holds basically the opposite view: that the coins have no actual value at all, and instead represent one favor each. When you do a favor for someone in the criminal underworld, you get one coin. When you need a favor done, you give one coin. The explanation also does a nice job of underlying how impressive John's stash is in the first movie, since he must have done an absurd amount of favors to accrue that many coins. It's certainly a bit more impressive than it just being $10 million dollars in Assassin Bucks that could presumably have been paid out for a single job or two.

What's more, it also hearkens back to mythology in a way that deepens the world of John Wick. Traditionally, Greeks needed to place a coin on their dearly departed so that their souls would be ferried across the rivers Styx and Acheron by Charon. The symbolic value of coins and currency is that you have an equivalent power proportionate to your wealth. Like a dragon hoarding his gold, John Wick's vault filled with gold coins isn't meant to give an accurate number of how much wealth he has. It's meant to underline the power and influence that he's stored away. In other words, yes, a single drink really does cost that much. It must be a good drink.

The Continental death squad is ceremonial

Since the moment the first John Wick introduced viewers to its world, that world has been heavily dependent on rules. There's a game that John and his fellow assassins have to play in order to accomplish their assassinations without coming into conflict with the Continental or the mysterious organization that bankrolls the assassination business. We see what happens to assassins who break those rules when Ms. Perkins goes against the Continental's policy of no violence within its walls by trying to kill John and successfully killing another assassin, Harry.

By the end of the film, Ms. Perkins is solemnly put to death by a firing squad of four people who surround her in all directions. It's a quick scene meant to illustrate the price paid for going against the established norms, but the air of tradition around it intrigued fans. One fan theory supposes that the death squad is largely ceremonial, based on centuries of tradition. Their reasoning is that it makes no sense to surround someone on all four sides and shoot them. There's a reason that actual firing squads don't fire on multiple sides of a person, so the only way the scene makes sense is if it's actually based on assassins using blades. If the death ceremony was based on surrounding a target with four swords, it's an easier leap to imagine it getting reformulated to use guns instead. Plus, it hints that the John Wick movies take place in a centuries-old assassination tradition. Maybe someday we'll have John Wick: 1776.

John Wick takes place in a video game universe

If you felt like you were playing a video game while you were watching John Wick, we don't blame you. You certainly weren't the only one. Nearly every review and article since the movie's release has mentioned the film's obvious video game-inspired action. But what if it goes beyond just visual inspiration? One fan argues that John Wick literally takes place in a video game universe.

Similar to The Matrix fan theory that we discussed above, the purpose of this theory is largely to explain why there can be so much violence on screen with minimal to no actual reactions from regular bystanders or real cops. The idea does have some legs — John Wick does actually make an official licensed appearance in a video game, Payday 2, and an actual John Wick video game was released in 2019. If this fan theory is true, that pretty much automatically makes John Wick the first legitimately good video game movie. Sorry, Doom.

John Wick takes place in a neo-feudal society ruled by assassins

Most of the action in the John Wick franchise takes place in seedy locations owned and operated by mobsters, assassins, or some combination of the two. In that case, it makes sense that the criminal element would have a disproportionate amount of power over what happens within their walls. Still, there are some pretty big action set pieces in the films, and it's a bit surprising that no actual police or government official seems to care about a centuries-old organization of criminals and assassins.

A popular fan theory holds that there's a very good reason for that: there aren't any actual police or government officials. Instead of taking place in the "real world," the John Wick films actually take place in a dystopian alternate present/near future in which John Wick and the rest of his assassination pals are basically the ruling body. Criminals run the world, and assassins have enough political sway to push away largely symbolic organizations like the police or the FBI. Of all the theories on this list, this one is the closest to getting confirmed. The films already show John and the Continental as having enough power to get rid of cops. The only real question is how high up the ladder that power goes.

Winston calls John "Jonathan" to underline the surrealism of the universe

Never let it be said that fans aren't dedicated to explaining strange details in their favorite movies. For proof, look at one fan's investigation into why Winston, the owner of the Continental, calls John Wick "Jonathan." John, you see, is not short for Jonathan. Only Jon is short for Jonathan. So why does Winston call John by a different name?

The fan has a couple of intriguing guesses: that the purposeful bastardization of John's name is meant to show the level of influence and power that the Continental owners have over John. Another possibility is that in the John Wick universe, Jonathan actually is short for John, part of a mix of strange and intentionally jarring details meant to show that the universe of John Wick is distinct from our own. It's certainly a lot more interesting than the easy answer that the writers of John Wick just didn't realize that John isn't short for any longer name.

The Continental is a trade union

If you found yourself wondering how a high-rise hotel in New York City made its money while catering exclusively to assassins who pay in mysterious gold coins, you might just have a future in hotel management. Or you might be one of a few dozen viewers who realized that the Continental, cool though it might be, can't just be a hotel for assassins. After the release of John Wick, one fan came to the conclusion that the Continental is actually a trade union for assassins, outfitting, training, and assigning clients.

This actually seems to be the path that the franchise is going down. John Wick 2 sees John traveling to a Roman equivalent of the Continental, and their influence over nearly every assassin in the world seems to imply that it's a lot more than just a regular hotel chain; later, in John Wick: Parabellum, the hotel ends up being stricken from the world assassin records.

Assassins use old computers because they're less easily hacked

One of the many strikingly strange moments in the John Wick franchise is the revelation of secretaries typing on absurdly outdated computers. It could just be an old school flourish to add some flavor to an otherwise boring scene, but what's the fun in that? One fan argues that the assassin world uses outdated tech to make their information virtually unhackable.

With the rest of the world on the fastest and newest tech, it would be an absurdly difficult proposition to use a MacBook to hack a Commodore 64, especially when the latter isn't even connected to the internet. Although it's never been explicitly confirmed in the films, that definitely seems to be the implication of an information network that relies on older tech. It's exactly the sort of thing you would expect of a secret society of assassins — everyone spends too much time learning to shoot and fight, but no one actually wants to sit down and learn C++.