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The Best Bullet Time Scenes In The Matrix Quadrilogy

In 1999, fans and teens everywhere were mimicking the iconic back bend scene where Neo narrowly escapes a hail of bullets in slow motion. The moment was even parodied countless times in movies like "Scary Movie," where the film's version of Ghostface pulled off the maneuver to avoid receiving a tray to the throat. Bullet time wasn't an entirely new concept when "The Matrix" hit the silver screen, but the film certainly popularized it. The concept of bullet time is that the speed at which events are occurring is decelerated at a pace that can visually depict the movement of objects that are otherwise unable to be captured on film — like speeding bullets.

While bullets are among the fastest objects to be depicted in a bullet time sequence, filmmakers often want to allow audiences to savor the fancy footwork and combat artistry at play between a film's major characters. Often, epic moves that require stunt-level work or even CGI are slowed down to emphasize the spectacular visual feat at work on screen. Otherwise, an audience member might sneeze or cough and miss the entire ordeal. Indeed, giving a choreographer's work room to breathe underscores a film's most dramatic moments and grips audiences with anxious excitement. 

Bullet time became an instant staple of the "Matrix" series, where wirework and CGI visual effects are employed to demonstrate the reality-bending power within the Matrix. Let's take a look at some of the best and most iconic bullet time sequences throughout the Matrix Quadrilogy.

Trinity's introductory jump-kick

Neo finds not just a loving relationship with Trinity but also an equally skilled partner whose gravitas knows no bounds. Without Trinity, Neo most certainly wouldn't be The One. In essence, the couple should've been designated "the chosen two," which "The Matrix Resurrections" seemingly implies.

"The Matrix" kicks off with a bang as Trinity is cornered by police and agents inside the Matrix. Constantly underestimated, Trinity manages to show all of her opponents just how outmatched they truly are. As a police officer attempts to subdue her, she quickly retaliates and performs her iconic jump kick in a slow-motion sequence. The scene lets viewers pan around the entire moment and absorb the action as if it were solidified in statue form before she lands the critical blow. Much like other famous bullet time sequences, Trinity's introductory moment has inspired countless parodies and new interpretations of her famous jump kick. It would have been criminal to not include the earliest moment of bullet time glory in "Matrix" history on this list.

The iconic back-bending rooftop scene

Of course, "The Matrix" is known for Neo's iconic scene on the rooftops as he prepares to save Morpheus from his tortured fate at the hands of Agent Smith. The moment was made possible by Cipher, a former crew member of the Nebuchadnezzar who betrays Morpheus and the team in order to earn himself a cozy life within the Matrix. His betrayal results in Morpheus' capture, but thankfully, Tank recovers enough from his wounds to kill Cipher before any more damage can be done to the Nebuchadnezzar crew in the real world.

Neo and Trinity both resolve to rescue Morpheus. The Oracle shakes Neo's confidence by proclaiming that he isn't the "chosen" one that Morpheus thinks he is and says that if he enters the Matrix to rescue Morpheus, it will be at the cost of his own life. This dour glimpse of the alleged future doesn't stop Neo's heroic notions, and he engages the agents regardless. The iconic bullet time sequence displays Neo's true power and grasp of Morpheus' teachings. Furthermore, his speed and reflexes are likened to that of the agents, which indicates that Neo is something special. While the visual effects of the scene may not hold up well by today's standards, the moment isn't one that "Matrix" fans would ever soon forget.

The foyer shootout

Grand entrances are important to any great third-act action sequence, and Neo and Trinity don't disappoint. It all starts when they head into the lobby of the building where Morpheus is being held and interrogated by Agent Smith for the codes to Zion. While going through a security checkpoint, Neo opens his trench coat to reveal an array of lethal firearms. With the cat out of the bag, Neo and Trinity waste the security guards, but not before being ambushed by an armored unit.

The real fun begins as the pair go their separate ways to divide and conquer. The bullet time deceleration sinks in as the two trade bullets with the armored security force. Cement, dust, and shards of stone and tile explode from bullets colliding with walls and pillars. Trinity runs along walls while Neo cartwheels between pillars to grab guns on the floor and simultaneously shoot his opposition during the acrobatic maneuvers. The entire scene is chaos, and with slow-motion in effect, it's almost as if gravity doesn't exist or is faintly enforced at best. It's a thrilling sequence that was likely painstaking to film.

Showdown with Agent Smith

"The Matrix" wouldn't have stuck a proper conclusory landing without a climactic battle with the film's biggest foe — Agent Smith. As an agent of the system, Smith is bound to protect the world that the machines have created by eliminating any individuals who have broken free of the Matrix's grasp. Smith, however, laments his own prison as an agent of the system and seeks freedom. After freeing Morpheus, Smith confronts Neo in a clash that both fulfills the Oracle's prophecy and establishes Neo as the chosen one.

The fight begins with a bullet time sequence for the ages as Smith and Neo lunge at each other while firing multiple rounds that zip by the screen. The two manage to empty their clips before engaging in hand-to-hand combat that is punctuated by moments of bullet time engagements, including Agent Smith's barrage of punches and Neo's backflip to safety out of the careening subway's path. Neo then flees the agents after realizing they're seemingly unstoppable, only to meet an untimely demise at the hands of Agent Smith. As the Oracle predicted, Neo dies. Miraculously, thanks to his connection to Trinity, he is revived. As the agents all fire upon the newly resurrected Neo, bullet time begins once again as the chosen one bends the Matrix to his will and brings the flying rounds to a halt. Needless to say, a climactic "Matrix" finale wouldn't be a climactic "Matrix" finale without being peppered with a healthy dose of bullet time sequences.

The tussle with the Agent Smith copies

Fans of "The Matrix" were chomping at the bit to see what the next level of the film franchise would look like after the announcement of "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," which were filmed back-to-back. Lucky for them, "The Matrix Reloaded" certainly upped the ante in the combat department. When the film comes to mind, most are likely reminded of the showdown with countless Agent Smiths in the park. Today, the sequence's video game-like CGI stands out like a sore thumb, but the concept was basically a crowd-pleasing steroid injection. So, you liked Neo's conflict with Agent Smith in the first film? Well, now watch Neo fight a thousand Agent Smiths!

Because of Neo, the rogue agent broke free of the shackles that tied him to the Matrix programming. He can now roam free and live by his own rules. However, because his world is the Matrix, Neo's aggression to the overall plan for humanity is a bit of a deal-breaker for the former agent. Smith wants everything and won't stop acting as the virus that he's become until he's recreated the entire Matrix in his own image. That means he can copy his template onto other programs and people, therefore creating new versions of himself. Neo finds out just how frightening this new world order could potentially be when he has to fend off a swarm of Smiths in the park. And of course, bullet time enters the mix on multiple occasions and gives us a glimpse of the crazy, over-the-top fighting scenarios that are employed by the film's hero just to keep his head above water. If you can get past the horrible CGI moments, it's a scene that'll surely have you on the edge of your seat.

Neo fights with the Merovingian's guards

The Frenchman — also known as the Merovingian — poses an obstacle for Morpheus, Trinity, and Neo. He is a very old program who has secured a lot of power within the system through his trade of dealing in information. One of his prized assets is the Keymaker — a program capable of bringing the trio to the Source. Once the heroes obtain the Keymaker, the Merovingian doesn't take too kindly to the trespass and sends his rough-and-tumble security detail after them. Neo manages to distract a majority of the Merovingian's crew, taking them on single-handedly while Morpheus and Trinity attempt to secure the Keymaker.

Once again, the fight reaches absurd heights, as the "Matrix" films are known to do. Once Neo nullifies the use of firearms, the scuffle transitions to melee combat with the use of swords, spears, a pair of sai, and even a battle ax. Despite the threat that the Frenchman's guards pose, Neo manages to hold his own. And in one thrilling maneuver, time once again decelerates as Neo evades attack to flip across the room and obtain more weaponry. The scene is almost picturesque as Neo's enemies spring in slow motion to pursue him amidst a once decadent foyer in shambles from the battle. Despite the show of strength, the Merovingian's guards are no match for the chosen one — Neo ultimately dispatches them before aiding in the pursuit of the Keymaker.

Morpheus' fight with the agent during the highway chase scene

Perhaps one of the most explosive scenes in "The Matrix: Reloaded" is the freeway pursuit. The Merovingian's ghostly twin assassins pursue Morpheus, Trinity, and the Keymaker and vigorously attempt to take them down. The pursuit draws a lot of attention, however, and the agents of the system also join the fray. To make their presence known, one of the agents climbs on top of his moving vehicle and pounces on another in slow motion to make his way over to Morpheus and Trinity. This sends the vehicle flying and causes a massive vehicular pile-up.

A short while later, Morpheus finds himself atop a speeding semi-truck with the Keymaker in tow, and an agent boards the semi to challenge Morpheus. The action is intensified by the fact that the fight takes place on top of a speeding vehicle on a busy freeway. This doesn't stop Morpheus from pulling off some rather insane moves that are accented by the use of bullet time, including a lunging blow with a height that'd put a pole vaulter to shame. After Morpheus topples over the side of the truck, a heroic Niobe shows up in the nick of time to catch him on the hood of her car. She then positions him in front of the vehicle so he can leap to the Keymaker's rescue and kick the agent off of the truck in another spectacular slow-motion ride. The most explosive moment of them all, however, is when the agents of the system collude to collide a semi-truck into the one that Morpheus and the Keymaker are standing on. Praying for a miracle, Neo grants Morpheus' wish and swoops in like Superman amid the explosion to nab the pair out of the air and whisk them to safety. A nail-biter indeed.

Seraph, Morpheus, and Trinity fight with the Merovingian's men

At the onset of the third film, Seraph, Morpheus, and Trinity are attempting to find Neo, who has been trapped by the Merovingian within the Matrix. The trio approaches the Merovingian to strike a deal, but before they can confront him, they must deal with his security detail. As they descend an elevator heading into the Merovingian's club, they prepare for the inevitable — a fight. As the doors open, the trio opens fire on several of the Merovingian's goons.

Instantly, bullet time kicks into gear, and the baddies begin running up walls to evade the hail of bullets. The enemies further defy physics beyond what we've seen before as they touch down on the ceiling and begin combat upside down. The scene is reminiscent of the foyer assault with Neo and Trinity in the first "Matrix" film as dust, cement, and particles float through the air at a decelerated pace and bullets careen into pillars and walls, utterly destroying the place. The players in this fight cartwheel on the ceilings and leap from wall to wall in an effort to evade death. Ultimately, the heroic trio gets the better of the Merovingian's loyalists and manages to find Neo.

Neo's final showdown with Agent Smith

Much of "The Matrix Revolutions" actually takes place in the real world as the people of Zion prepare for the machine onslaught and potential destruction. While much of the film's climax is rooted in the war between man and machine, everything truly hangs in the balance once Neo strikes a bargain with the machines to fight for Zion's survival. If he can eradicate the virus known as Agent Smith, the machines will leave Zion in peace. Naturally, no expense is spared for the dramatic clash between Agent Smith and The One, Neo.

The filmmakers seemingly learned a thing or two about CGI after "The Matrix Reloaded" and realized that the worst blemishes of the animation tool are concealed under the cover of darkness. Add a foreboding dash of rainy weather, and we're looking at one of the most gripping set pieces in the entire series, akin to the terrifying T-Rex attack scenario in "Jurassic Park." Neo and Smith square off in a final duel to the death that's rife with bullet time sequences that show off the dazzling display of martial artistry employed by the pair as they float in the air above the city. That's right, Neo and Smith completely fracture the "physics" engine of the Matrix. What is ground anyway but a construct making us feel like we're not just floating around in space? Ultimately, the showdown results in the end of both the hero and the series villain — or does it?

Neo and Bugs' fight with the new Agent Smith and the exiled programs

"The Matrix Resurrections" placed the heroes in a new world many decades removed from their own. Though Neo and Trinity haven't aged (much), Niobe has aged, and the rest of the prominent characters in the film series — including Morpheus — have all but passed with time. Now, Neo is confronted with one simple truth: Trinity is being held hostage by the machines, and without her, his passion, drive, and power within the Matrix are gone. In a bid to rescue Trinity, Neo and his newfound friend Bugs are confronted by Agent Smith as well as former acquaintances in the form of exiled programs like the Merovingian.

In order for these programs to resurface and reclaim their life, they must get rid of the obstacle standing in their path — Neo. A fight breaks out in a remote warehouse where Neo, the newly created program named after Morpheus, and Bugs must hold the line and ensure their own survival. As fate would have it, the brawl begins with the dodge of a bullet from Smith's gun executed in glorious bullet time fashion. Eventually, Neo and Smith are separated from the rest of the group and return to their cyclical ways, locked in a seemingly eternal battle. Once again, the fight is accented with bullet time sequences that highlight Smith's might as he punches Neo through a wall, and Neo's subsequent reprisal when he blasts Smith across the room in a finishing blow.

Neo and Trinity's escape from the Analyst and the swarm

It wouldn't be a "Matrix" film without putting everything on the line in the end with a gut-busting scene of adrenaline, actions, and consequences, and "The Matrix Resurrections" most certainly meets that demand. Once Trinity finally makes the choice we've all been waiting for — one where her life path is destined at Neo's side — Neo blasts away all of the Analyst's guards that are holding him down in a death-defying gesture to be with his soulmate once again.

In a move that shocked us all, Smith saves the day and enables Trinity and Neo to escape via motorcycle. The fast-paced nature of a high-speed chase lends itself perfectly to countless moments of bullet time effects as Trinity drifts into crowds of swarm-controlled Analyst acolytes and sends them sailing through the air. Cars are commandeered by the swarm and target the couple, causing explosive collisions as Neo uses his "force-ability" powers to defend against projectiles of all kinds. The destruction is palpable and surreal as fire and particles fly through the air like dandelion seeds caught in a breeze. Ultimately, Neo and Trinity make their escape and live to fight another day.