Neo (The Matrix)

Neo (The Matrix)
Thomas Anderson / Neo
The Matrix character
Neo in The Matrix Reloaded
First appearance The Matrix
Created by Wachowski Brothers
Portrayed by Keanu Reeves (films),
Voiced by Andrew Bowen (The Matrix: Path of Neo)
Nickname(s) The Anomaly (name for him given by the machines)
Mr. Anderson (Agent Smith calls him by his Matrix name)
Aliases Neo
Species Human
Gender Male
Occupation Hacker, The One (warrior)/software engineer(in Matrix simulation)
Title The One
Family Michelle McGahey-Anderson (mother)
John Anderson (father)

Thomas A. Anderson (alias Neo, also known as The One or The Anomaly) is a fictional character and the main protagonist in The Matrix franchise, as well as having a cameo in The Animatrix short film, Kid's Story. He was portrayed by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Trilogy and The Animatrix. Andrew Bowen provided Neo's voice in The Matrix: Path of Neo. In 2008, Neo was selected by Empire as the 16th greatest movie character of all time.[1] Neo is also an anagram of One, a reference to his destiny of being "The One" who would bring peace.


Character Background

A record from Agent Smith's file on Anderson displaying basic facts about Anderson including his birthday and his early history.

Thomas A. Anderson was born on March 11, 1962 in "Lower Downtown, Capital City, USA" according to his criminal record seen in the film. His mother was Michelle McGahey (the name of the first film's art director[2]) and his father was John Anderson. He attended Central West Junior High and Owen Patterson High (named after the film's production designer). In high school, he excelled at science, math and computer courses, and displayed an aptitude for English and History. Although he had disciplinary troubles when he was thirteen to fourteen years old, Anderson went on to become a respected member of the school community through his involvement in football and hockey.

The Matrix

At the start of the series, Thomas Anderson[3] is one of billions of humans neurally connected to the Matrix, unaware that the world he lives in is a virtual reality. In his legitimate activities, he is a quiet programmer for the "respectable software company" Metacortex; but he is also a computer hacker who penetrates computer systems illicitly and steals information under his hacker alias "Neo". During his time as a hacker, Anderson has learned about something known only as "the Matrix". It is described by Morpheus as a vague notion that Neo has felt his whole life that "there is something wrong with the world".

During the years prior to the events of The Matrix, Anderson has spent his time trying to find the one man who he thought could tell him what the Matrix was: a supposed terrorist known only as Morpheus. Anderson is suddenly contacted by Morpheus via a cellphone mailed to his office, but is almost immediately captured by the virtual reality's Agents, led by Agent Smith. After refusing to co-operate with the agents, Neo has an electronic bug implanted within his Matrix-simulated body so that his actions can be tracked and those seeking to make contact from the free world can be traced and destroyed. He is then contacted by Trinity,[4] freed from the bug, and taken to meet Morpheus.

Neo is offered a choice to remain in his everyday life or to learn what the Matrix really is. Choosing to learn what the Matrix really is, he takes a drug (commonly called the "red pill") designed to disrupt his body's neural connection to the Matrix, and wakes up disoriented and alarmed to find himself weak, hairless, naked in a pod full of red liquid, and connected to many wires.

Neo is rescued and his body is healed of the effects of his atrophy suffered in the power plant. Once Neo regains consciousness and is able to walk around, Morpheus tells Neo the truth about the Matrix: that it is a simulated world to which humans are connected, and that humanity is used as a power source for machines. He also tells Neo about The One, a human with the power to manipulate The Matrix, who has been foretold to end the war between humans and machines, and says that he believes Neo is The One. The next day, Neo begins his "training", becoming knowledgeable in many forms of combat and ship operations by having various training programs uploaded directly into his brain. He also receives further instruction from Morpheus on subjects such as "freeing his mind" from the restrictions of the Matrix and the existence of its Agents.

After several days aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, Neo is taken to meet the Oracle, who has the power of foresight within the simulated world. She tells him that he has the "gift", but appeared to be waiting for something, and that in his present life he is not the one. The Oracle warns him that a situation will arise when he will have to choose between his own life or that of Morpheus.

On their way back to the hard line, which serves as the exit for "red pills" to leave The Matrix, the crew of Morpheus's ship is betrayed by Cypher, a "red pill" who seeks to return to the Matrix to escape the bleak, harsh life lived outside the Matrix. Morpheus is captured and held by Agents within the Matrix. Escaping death at the hands of Cypher, Neo and Trinity learn that the Agents seek to hack into Morpheus's brain, forcing him to tell them the access codes to the Zion mainframe. After refusing to sacrifice Morpheus to prevent this, Neo decides to attack the building where he is being held. He and Trinity proceed to fight their way to the roof level of the building, where they are confronted by Agent Jones. Neo unloads two entire magazines of ammo on Jones only to see every one of them dodged effortlessly. When Jones returns fire, Neo proves capable of dodging bullets himself, fluidly moving in a way that only an agent was thought to be capable of. Jones is then shot by Trinity at point-blank range. Using an armed chopper, Neo and Trinity successfully rescue Morpheus. Having just completed a successful rescue mission in a building protected by heavily armed guards and agents, a feat never before achieved, Morpheus takes this as evidence confirming that Neo is indeed The One, dismissing the Oracle's words by saying that she merely told Neo what he needed to hear.

Reaching the hard line, Morpheus and Trinity return to the real world, but Neo is trapped by Agent Smith. Rather than run, Neo stands his ground and fights Smith. Neo skillfully engages Smith in combat, almost seeming to be Smith's equal. In the end Neo is beaten and held by Smith as a subway approaches, but at the last minute Neo is able to get free from the tracks and Smith gets hit. Smith, however, possesses the body of the conductor and emerges from the train and Neo, realizing that he cannot win this fight, runs from the subway station.

Pursued by Smith and his fellow Agents, Neo is able to evade them and reach the location of the hard line, just to be ambushed and fatally shot by Smith. Trinity, seeing Neo die in the real world while his mind is still in the Matrix, tells his evidently lifeless body that the Oracle had foretold that she would fall in love with The One. When kissed by Trinity, he comes back to life as The One; when the Agents try to kill him again, Neo causes their bullets to freeze in mid-air and drop to the ground. It is then shown that he is able to perceive, interpret, and alter the computer code of the Matrix. Fully believing in his newfound powers, he effortlessly fends off Agent Smith before forcing himself into the agent's body and destroying it from within, causing the other two agents to run away.

Neo is then seen leaving a message for the machines via phone, a warning that he plans to oppose the machines by freeing as many human minds as possible. He then hangs up and flies into the sky.

The Matrix Reloaded

Approximately six months go by between the events of The Matrix and the second film, The Matrix Reloaded. Neo is now fully confident in his ability to manipulate the artificial world within the Matrix: he can fly, has immense strength and speed, telekinetic abilities, and is nearly invulnerable. He retains his ability to see the code of the Matrix, from which his other abilities stem. Not surprisingly, he no longer uses firearms - he doesn't need them- and instead prefers martial arts. He and Trinity are now lovers. Dispensing with the long black trenchcoat and black shirt he wears at the conclusion of The Matrix, Neo now prefers a cassock with a high-rise mandarin collar. Neo seeks more advice from the Oracle, unsure of his purpose, while Zion prepares for a massive attack by the Machines from over 250,000 Sentinels. The Oracle directs him on a quest to find the Keymaker, a personified program that has access to numerous backdoors within the system. The Keymaker will be able to lead Neo safely to the Source, the programming heart of the machine world, which contains the programs sustaining the Matrix.

As the Oracle leaves, Agent Smith (now known simply as Smith) appears, and it is revealed that Neo had separated Smith from the rest of the Matrix code by shattering him, giving him a life independent of the machine's systems, and now the two share a "connection" to each other. Smith is no longer an Agent of the Matrix, but has become more virus-like, able to insert his code into other systems and infect other programs and human minds to make copies of himself. Neo fends off hundreds of these Smiths and escapes. Later, he, Morpheus, and Trinity steal the Keymaker from his keeper, The Merovingian.

The Keymaker explains that two power stations elsewhere in the Matrix must be disabled in a short time window to successfully disable the security system of a building where the door to the Source will appear, allowing Neo to reach it. This task is accomplished; but the Keymaker is killed, a hovercraft is destroyed, and Trinity is put in jeopardy by Agents of the Matrix; a vision that Neo has seen earlier in his dreams. Entering the door, Neo finds himself confronted by the Architect, a program which created and designed The Matrix.

The Architect presents Neo with a radically different explanation of his origins and purpose, claiming that Neo is actually the sixth "One". He goes on to say that Zion has been destroyed by the machines five times before; faced with the dilemma of allowing humanity to be destroyed, or allowing the machines' preferred status quo to be reconstructed, Neo's five predecessors have helped reload, or restart the Matrix, before being allowed to rebuild Zion with a handful of freed humans. The productive output of the Matrix is based upon this repeated cycle of destruction and recreation, to keep the human minds which power it in a stable structure. The Oracle is as much part of that self-perpetuating design as the Architect, Neo is told, and the prophecy of The One is designed to ensure it runs smoothly each time.

The Architect warns of the annihilation of all human life in and out of the Matrix if he did not enter the Source door to reload the Matrix, but unlike his predecessors, Neo does not enter the door to the Source; he chooses not to believe the Architect's dire warnings of consequences, and to save Trinity instead. He saves her, just before she falls to the ground from the top floor of a powerplant. However, as she was shot before she fell, she dies of her wounds. It is at this point that Neo displays the ability to heal/resurrect a person, as he reaches into her virtual body and restarts her heart.

Together, they exit the Matrix and return to the real world. Neo tells Morpheus that the Prophecy was merely another system of control, and that Zion's destruction is imminent. A group of Sentinels begin to converge on their hovercraft, so that Neo and the others are forced to abandon it and flee. Neo, realizing that he can now sense the sentinel, stays behind, and is able to deactivate the Sentinels by a hitherto unknown ability. The effort of doing so renders him unconscious.

He and the crew are rescued by the hovercraft Mjolnir/Hammer, the crew of which are dealing with a mystery in the form of Bane, a crewmember from another ship, who is the only survivor of an ill-fated attack by the Zion fleet. Unbeknownst to anyone, Bane has become caught and infected by Smith.

The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix Revolutions begins immediately after the events of the second movie. As a result of his struggle with the Sentinels, Neo returns to consciousness to find himself caught in an isolated limbo only accessible by order of the Merovingian, from which his mind is unable to free itself. He remains trapped until freed by Trinity (assisted by Morpheus and Seraph), who threatens the Merovingian in a Mexican standoff unless Neo is freed.

Neo determines, through his new abilities of foresight, that in truth the Oracle's prophecy was correct in that The One was predetermined to return to the Source to stop the war. The Architect, however, altered the prophecy and forced Neo's predecessors to end their path with Zion's destruction and the reloading of the Matrix. After a final visit to the Oracle, Neo learns it is not the approaching Sentinels that he should fear, but Smith, whose clones are multiplying and threaten to destroy both the Matrix and the real world. Building on the Oracle's previous explanations about the nature of choice, Neo learns that the Architect's assertion that his choice to save Trinity would inherently lead to the extinction of humankind was incorrect, due to his nature as a purely mathematical being. Having told Neo that he now has the power to choose to end the war and defeat Smith, the Oracle then states "Everything that has a beginning has an end, Neo". Neo must now go to the heavily-guarded Machine City in hopes of stopping the Sentinels and Smith.

Neo and Trinity are given the Logos, a hovercraft commanded by Morpheus's former lover, Niobe, in what seems to others as a suicidal journey to the Machine City. Meanwhile, Captain Roland and the Nebuchadnezzar's surviving crew of Link and Morpheus in the hovercraft Hammer/Mjolnir return to Zion, which is now besieged and losing to the Machines. Neo and Trinity are ambushed by the stowaway Bane/Smith, who blinds Neo, but is killed when Neo discovers an ability to 'see' programs and Machines independently of his eyesight. Neo, with Trinity as pilot, guide the Logos past the Machine City's defenses, but in the effort the Logos crash-lands, and Trinity sustains fatal injuries and dies.

Neo encounters the Deus Ex Machina, a Machine construct, and offers Smith's destruction in exchange for a truce. The offer is accepted; Neo enters the Matrix to find that the Smith program has copied itself throughout the simulated world, and has turned it into a rainswept dark simulation. One of the copies of Smith, having assimilated the Oracle, has become Neo's equal and therefore becomes his opponent. Neo ultimately sacrifices himself to Smith and allows Smith to seize victory by finally infecting Neo with the Smith program and turning Neo into a Smith clone. Unaware that Neo is connected directly to the Source, the machines are able to delete Smith, as every clone is seen being destroyed afterwards.

Neo's body is respectfully taken away by the Machines in the Machine City, while below in Zion, the Machines stop their attack and retire in deference to the peace that Neo bartered. Neo then dies, his primary code being inserted into the Matrix which allows it to reboot.


Although the fate of Neo was never truly revealed in the MMORPG sequel, The Matrix Online, his influence nevertheless had a strong impact on several key events throughout the game.

In the beginning, scattered code fragments of Neo's "RSI" (Residual Self Image) were found on the bodies of the impostor Agents who appeared across the Mega City during Chapter 1.1 (later revealed to be Sentinels under the command of The General program). When held, these fragments echoed some of the final thoughts of Neo inside the redpill's mind. Each of the three main post-war political organizations inside the Matrix realized the possible significance of these fragments and began fighting amongst themselves to gather as many as they could.

The Oracle reveals a secret society of exiles known only as the Shapers, who are the only ones able to bring the Fragments together in any significant way and that they must be protected from the impostor agents' corruption. The redpills' distrust and organizational differences prove too much for any strong unity, so that a Shaper fell into the captivity of the false agents. His power was used to encode some part of The One's being onto themselves, creating the powerful, pale-skinned "N30 Ag3nts".

In Chapter 1.2, Morpheus states that though the Machines never returned Neo's physical remains (Neo's body in the real world) to Zion, they did not "recycle" them: a reference to the first film, in which Morpheus tells Neo that the machines liquefy deceased occupants of the Matrix to provide organic sustenance for its living inhabitants. This would be the driving force behind Morpheus' descent into fanatical terrorism against the System in an attempt to force the Machines to reveal Neo's fate, ultimately leading to his assassination.

The subject of Neo then fell to the side lines for other struggles until the arrival of The Oligarchs in Chapter 9. The original intruder, Halborn, was notably intrigued by the life of The One and was personally shocked about the implications of Neo's ability to affect Machines outside of the simulation had on his search for what he called "The Biological Interface Program".

After Halborn's removal in Chapter 10, little more was questioned until the revelation of the Trinity project, originally headed by The Oracle, in Chapter 12. It was revealed that both Neo and Trinity were actually the culmination of decades of Machine research into translating human DNA perfectly into Machine code, allowing them to interface directly with technology without the need for simulated interfaces.

The Matrix Comics

Sometime after the events of Revolutions, a comic book series takes place. After the deletion of Smith by Neo, the agents begin to uprise, rebuilding their program into the ASP, Agent Superplex, and rewrite programs to take control of the Matrix as they create a war with the Machines. With a new purpose in mind, the agents plan to take control of the Machine, The Matrix, and human world, and begin each again in accordance to their standards. From this new found conflict, Morpheus, Niobe, Ghost and several others return to the Matrix while the defenses of Zion attempt to reconcile with the Machines to join forces again and take on the ASP. Sometime into this conflict, it is discovered by Niobe that Neo's body has not been recycled, but is being held by the Machines, who have already attempted to restore his machine code, while his human code remained intact (because Neo had not followed the path the previous Ones, and was even mentioned by the architect that he was an anomaly of his predecessors, his human code remained in the process of using his machine code to reboot the Matrix. This saved Neo from ultimate and full death). Through various operations and assistance from the Oracle, including a mission to free Trinity's mind which has been cloned into The Matrix as well as collecting the ever elusive "code of The One", Neo's mind is restored and Neo is resurrected inside the Matrix. In order to return to his body, he must discover the path of THE ONE again. With the help of Morpheus and Niobe, Neo discovers The One's code wasn't just to bring peace in conflicts and keep the cycle going between the Matrix and the Human world being destroyed and recreated, but Programs of the One reveal The One is "remaker of the system and codes, and each anomaly thereof", concluding he is to protect and further see the progression of the Matrix, as well as concur with the Machines and the human world. The comic book series has remained unfinished in a conclusion, but it is known that Neo has been resurrected and regained all of his powers. Trinity's mind lives in the Matrix, allowing Neo and Trinity to make contact again and assist Neo, Morpheus and the rest of Zion's soldiers in deleting the ASP. The comics themselves have not been known as the actual aftermath of the revolutions, but have been regarded as "impeccably convincing" and most likely the outcome of the ending. In recent surveys on the comics, over 80% of participants chose this story line as what is to be considered the actual continuing story after the revolutions.


  1. ^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters/ 16. Neo / Empire /". Empire. Bauer Consumer Media. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ This name carries several homages to Christian theology/mythology. "Anderson" literally means "son of man" - which is how Jesus primarily referred to himself in the Gospels. "Thomas" is the name of Jesus's disciple who infamously doubted the truth of the risen Christ. In The Matrix, Thomas Anderson sheds his disbelief and comes to accept that the Matrix is real and he is thereby "born again," and is referred to as "Neo." He also comes to believe that he is the One.
  4. ^ a reference to the Christian doctrine of God as being understood as a Trinity composed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (or alternatively, as Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer)

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