Today is the tenth anniversary of the theatrical release of The Matrix. The movie is pretty amazing for a number of reasons.
1. The revolutionary visual style: Sure, we'd seen bullet time, liquid metal effects, cyberpunk dystopias, sci-fi noir, sci-fi messiah movies, Keanu Reeves, and wire-fu. But never in such an elaborate and well thought out combination. The result is a mind-blowing and mind-bending experience on the first viewing. I remember seeing it opening night and then going again that Sunday. It is the one and only time that I saw a movie twice on opening weekend. The movie is just amazing to watch.
2. Science fiction with substance: Science fiction is generally considered a second-rate genre. As if it is meant only for teen-age boys and adult males who are still that age. The Matrix provides a lot of philosophical questions to grapple with. What is the nature of reality? Are we just minds in a vat (a popular philosophical conundrum)? Is there Fate with the capital F? Does it really work? Could Keanu Reeves really be our messiah?
3. Action film credibility: Finally, after more and more ridiculous action films, someone came up with an excuse why a person can be a perfect shot all the time or fight of one or a dozen bad guys without being hurt. Being able to download combat skills or anything you need (like becoming an instant helicopter pilot) is a lot more realistic than someone who can just do everything.
I could go on and on about other things like cultural impact, etc. but you get the idea why this is probably the greatest film of the 1990s (except for maybe Shawshank).