At an abandoned hotel within a major city, a woman (later revealed to be Trinity) is cornered by a police squad but quickly overpowers them with superhuman abilities. She flees, pursued by the police and a group of mysterious suited Agents capable of similar superhuman feats. She answers a ringing public telephone and vanishes an instant before the Agents crash a truck into the booth.
Computer programmer Thomas Anderson, known in the hacking scene by his alias “Neo”, feels something is wrong with the world and is puzzled by repeated online encounters with the phrase “the Matrix.” Trinity contacts him and tells him a man named Morpheus has the answers he seeks. A team of Agents and police, led by Agent Smith, arrives at Neo’s workplace in search of him. Despite Morpheus’s attempt to guide Neo to safety via telephone, Neo is captured and coerced into helping the Agents locate Morpheus, whom they regard as a “known terrorist.” Undeterred, Neo later meets Morpheus, who offers him a choice between two pills; red to show him the truth about the Matrix, and blue to return him to his former life. After Neo swallows the red pill, his reality starts falling apart, and soon he awakens in a liquid-filled pod among countless others attached to an elaborate electrical system. He is retrieved and brought aboard Morpheus’s hovercraft, the Nebuchadnezzar.
As Neo recuperates from a lifetime of physical inactivity in the pod, Morpheus explains the truth. In the early 21st century, there was a war between humans and intelligent machines. When humans blocked the machines’ access to solar energy, the machines responded by harvesting the humans’ bioelectric power, keeping them pacified in the Matrix, a shared simulated reality modeled after the world as it was at the end of the 20th century. While the machines have taken over the world, the city of Zion still remains as the last refuge of free humans. Morpheus and his crew are a group of rebels who hack into the Matrix to “unplug” enslaved humans and recruit them; their understanding of the Matrix’s simulated nature enables them to bend its physical laws, granting them superhuman abilities. Morpheus warns Neo that death within the Matrix also kills the physical body, and that the Agents he met are powerful sentient computer programs that eliminate threats to the system, while machines called Sentinels search to destroy rebels in the real world. Neo’s prowess during virtual combat training lends credibility to Morpheus’s belief that Neo is “the One”, an especially powerful human prophesied to free humanity and end the war.
The group enters the Matrix to visit the Oracle, the prophet who predicted the emergence of the One. She suggests to Neo that he is not the One and warns that he will have to choose between Morpheus’s life and his own. The group is ambushed by Agents and tactical police, tipped by Cypher, a disgruntled crew member who seeks to betray Morpheus in exchange for a comfortable life in the Matrix. Morpheus allows himself to be captured so the rest of the crew can escape. Cypher exits the Matrix first and murders several crew members as they lie defenseless in the real world. Before he can kill Neo, Cypher is killed by Tank, a crewman whom he had only wounded.
In the Matrix, the Agents interrogate Morpheus to learn his access codes to the mainframe computer in Zion. Tank proposes killing Morpheus to prevent this, but Neo resolves to return to the Matrix to rescue Morpheus, as prophesied by the Oracle; Trinity insists she accompany him. While rescuing Morpheus, Neo gains confidence in his abilities, performing feats comparable to the Agents’. Morpheus and Trinity exit the Matrix, but Smith ambushes and kills Neo before he can leave. As a group of Sentinels attack the Nebuchadnezzar, Trinity whispers to Neo that he cannot be dead, because she loves him and the Oracle told her that she would fall in love with the One. She kisses Neo and he revives with newfound power to perceive and control the Matrix. He effortlessly defeats Smith, and leaves the Matrix just in time for the ship’s electromagnetic pulse to disable the Sentinels.
Later, Neo makes a telephone call inside the Matrix, promising the machines that he will show their prisoners “a world where anything is possible”. He hangs up and flies into the sky.