Movie Audio: The Matrix (1999)

Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by Dylan Benson in Labels: , , ,

I was recently reading a forum thread in Gear Slutz about which movies have the best sound effects.  There were a few shared responses, and one of those was The Matrix (1999).  First off, let me say that this is one of my top favorite movies.  The concept, the graphics, the settings, and the sound were just stellar for the time, and even now.  Reading that people believed The Matrix had great audio gave me an excuse to watch it for about the hundredth time to do “research” for this blog.  Before I get into the audio, let me inform you readers that I DO NOT have surround sound.  The judgment of this audio is based off of my 2.1 system.

If you have seen the movie, you know everything action in the movie is digitally and electronically based (I don’t mean the way it was made, I mean the fact that the Matrix itself is a computer world.)  Also, everything action of the characters is based off of speed.  The audio reflects this very well!  There are TONS of whooshes and electrical sounds throughout the movie.  As you no doubt have guessed, I think Dane A. Davis did an amazing job as the sound designer for this movie.

There are a great amount of large sound effects in this movie such as the huge electric hover pads of the Nebuchadnezzar.  These were actually made by taking a six-foot Jacob’s ladder and running 60,000 volts of electricity through it.  Sounds like this, and the wicked sound of Neo’s voice being digitalized as the liquid mirror consumes his body, are some excellent sound designing.

This movie was actually the first movie that I noticed little actions sounding louder than normal as well.  For instance, when someone would take off sunglasses, or when Neo took the red pill from Morpheus’s hand, you could clearly hear a “tap” as the character’s fingers touched those objects.  There was obviously quite a bit of foley for this movie!

Courtesy of Hollywood Subliminals

When the Sentinels were first seen, there was an eerie digitally horrifying sound about them.  Dane A. Davis mentioned that those machines were a combination of fifteen raw sounds mixed together including screams, screeching bearings, and ratchets digitally altered with effects like pitch shifting.   

It’s really amazing all of the work that goes into the audio of movies.  I really cannot justify the work of Dane A. Davis in my words, so if you would like to hear it directly from him, please take a look at this article from 1998 where Dan A. Davis explains it all.  Click here to read it.

Now, I keep saying the full name “Dane A. Davis”, because when I want to talk about the emotion evoking music from The Matrix, this was the work of the amazingly talented Don Davis.  As writing this, I am listening to the soundtrack of The Matrix, and all I can say is “wow”.  I love movie soundtracks in general, but it’s works like this that just blow me away.  That same “electrical” aspect of the movie can be heard with the screeching of stringed instruments.  The deep drums and high pitched horns add to the mystery and suspense of the film.  If you are unsure what I mean, then listen to “Anything Is Possible” which I have embedded below.


The Matrix: a visually stunning and auditory stimulating film that will be a classic for the rest of time.  A movie that has spawned countless spin-offs, products such as action figures and toys, cartoons, and much more.  A movie that has gone down in history as a must see, and a must hear.