In March 1999, The Matrix forever changed action cinema. The Wachowskis' mind-bending science-fiction epic mixed heart pounding action set pieces with a thought-provoking story asking: what if the world we lived in was a simulation? How would we know? What would a person do if they found out? The movie was both a critical and commercial success. Thoughts on the second and third films are mixed, but the first entry is universally beloved and stands the test of time.
It's a fantastic movie you can watch over and over again, but even the best movies grow tiring after a while. What if you're fatigued from Neo's first adventure, but want more cerebral action films? The sequels are reasonable, but don't give the same thrills. Well, fear not, dear reader, for the next ten entries will present several films woven from a similar cloth. Everyone loves watching people fight with a side platter of food for thought, and the ten films presented below will do just that. The older ones were even direct influences on The Wachowskis, so they bear some visual similarities to The Matrix.
10 Ghost In The Shell
This is, of course, referring to the 1995 anime classic, and not the universally panned live-action adaptation. Ghost in the Shell is dense, covering a breadth of topics relating to this gloomy cyberpunk future in a run time just shy of ninety minutes.
How much does cybernetic augmentation take away from one's humanity? What effect does technology have on the soul? When the characters aren't on philosophical rants, they are chasing down leads and engaging in intense combat. The 2004 sequel, Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, delves even deeper into these subjects.
9 Edge Of Tomorrow
Every time Tom Cruise bites it on the battlefield, his day starts over. With each reset, his skills improve as he slowly becomes a supersoldier.
This Hollywood film is based on the manga, All You Need Is Kill, and has been through some strange title-changing shenanigans in its time, going from Edge of Tomorrow to Live.Die. Repeat.
8 Source Code
Jake Gyllenhaal possesses a man's body in a simulation in order to discover who blew up a train earlier that day. Every time the bomb goes off, he goes back to the real world and is sent back into the simulation to try and find the perpetrator once more.
Each time he enters, he gets closer to unraveling the mystery, but further, darker truths are unraveled about the main character. Source Code was directed by Duncan Jones, and while it is not as overtly cerebral as Moon, it still raised some interesting questions about bleeding-edge technology.
In Looper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hitman hunting down a future version of himself, played by Bruce Willis.
Rian Johnson directed it, and seeing the impressive set design and practical effects makes it easy to understand why he was chosen to write and direct a Star Wars movie. It's a fascinating, creative and ambitious adventure, one that isn't as impenetrable as some movies of its type can be.
6 Total Recall
Total Recall poses the classic question: did any of this movie actually happen? In this beloved and iconic movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a normal working class guy - as normal as a muscle-bound Austrian millionaire can be - who takes a virtual vacation.
After exiting the simulation, his life turns into an action thriller that has him going to Mars. The short story on which it is based was written by Phillip K. Dick, and Paul Verhoeven, known for other thought-provoking action movies like Robocop and Starship Troopers, was the director.
5 Minority Report
In Minority Report, an experimental police force of the future have the ability to stop crimes and arrest people before the crimes even occur. Things spiral out of control, however, when a police officer is accused of a future homicide.
Steven Spielberg brought this short story to life with great results, being a far cry from the wholesome science-fiction for which he is known.
Inception is an epic two-and-a-half-hour journey into dreams. By the end of it, many audience members had no idea what happened.
Even the people who left theaters in confusion were still thoroughly entertained by the impressive action sequences and stellar performances by a cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tom Hardy. Few directors are allowed to craft such original ideas with hefty budgets, and it's a good thing Christopher Nolan is one of them.
3 District 9
Aliens land in Johannesburg, South Africa, and are treated as second class citizens. When an officer tasked with relocating the aliens is sprayed with a mysterious substance, he slowly starts transforming into one of them.
District 9 was Neil Blomkamp's debut feature, and its narrative draws parallels to brutal systems of segregation that have existed in our society over human history. It is analogy for an important civil rights issue AND features people getting gibbed like they were fragged in Quake. What more could a movie fan ask for?
2 Snow Piercer
Snowpiercer is a post-apocalyptic action film set on a train. People are stratified by social class, where the rich at the front live in luxury and the poor are considered filth.
A revolution sparks and the lower class citizens fight their way to the front. A simple analogy for class struggle, but an effective one that makes for a fantastic film. Again, it's a movie that may seem simple on the surface, but it has a lot more to say than you might think.
Akira is a cyberpunk masterpiece, transcending its genre to become one of the greatest pieces of media ever made. The world in which the story takes place is magnificently crafted, feeling more fleshed out and developed in two hours than most long running series do with their settings over several seasons.
Currently, Taika Wattiti is set to direct a live-action version. As hard as this is to pull off, The New Zealand born film-maker just may be talented enough to do it justice.