The Matrix franchise is full of visual signifiers — lines of green text, black trench coats, colorful pills — but one of the most notable is the sunglasses that seemingly every major character wears.
Designer Richard Walker at Blinde Design Project custom-crafted each style of eyewear for the movies’ leads, and every pair is different. So I watched every movie, including the new one, to rank every pair of sunglasses worn in the films in order of stylishness. I’ll try not to spoil the new flick, but all bets are off for the original trilogy.
We have to give a few points to Switch for being the one crew member of the Nebuchadnezzar who has her own look, wearing white instead of black in the Matrix. But her taste in sunglasses is extremely dire. During the scene where the crew jacks in to visit the Oracle, she’s seen wearing just an absolutely hideous, bulbous pair of orange wrap-around shades. The worst of a decade of rave culture in one piece of eyewear.
19. Friend of Choi, the weird guy buying code from Neo
When we meet Thomas Anderson in the first Matrix movie, he answers his door to sell a disk full of code to a sleazy looking guy named Choi who rolls up with a whole posse of dirtbags. One of those guys looks like WWE wrestler Edge and is wearing those late ’90s bubble goggle shades that were a big deal for a while. It’s kind of weird because we get all of these very intentional sunglasses-wearing characters in the movie and then there’s this guy who is never seen again.
The captain of the hovercraft Logos kind of came out of nowhere in the sequels if you didn’t play the tie-in video game, where Niobe was a key character. Unfortunately, her sunglasses epitomize the worst excesses of the franchise, angled lenses that for some reason float freely away from the bottom and side rims, leaving an awkward gap around them. They definitely seem like the designers needed a new idea and that was the best they could come up with.
Let’s be honest: Even for a piece of crap traitor, Cypher sucks. His whole style is chump. If we were ranking every beard in The Matrix — or even in film history — his awful facial hair would be at the bottom of the list. But the sunglasses he dons in the one scene where the whole crew jumps into the virtual world are just as bad. Sort of maroon-tinted, rectangular at the outside but rounded to ovals by the nose along with a tapered bridge. They really stink.
16. The Twins
Speaking of bad aesthetics, the albino twin vampire henchmen of the Merovingian are probably the most unsettling-looking characters in the whole franchise. That’s kind of a shame, because their scenes — especially the first fight, where they’re misting through things and cutting suckers with straight razors — are great. They wear narrow rectangular sunglasses that barely cover their eyes, featuring black lenses at a slight angle with rounded corners. If you saw somebody wearing these on the street, you could follow them all the way to a Goth bar.
15. The Merovingian’s goons
There are a lot of reasons to criticize The Matrix Revolutions, but for this list there’s a big one: only one new style of sunglasses are seen in the entire movie. When Seraph, Morpheus and Trinity raid the snotty Frenchman’s club they fight their way through first three bald bouncers (one does have a great catchphrase, “Only way you’re getting through this door is over my big dead ass”) and then some goons in various fetishy outfits. They’re all wearing the same style of shades: oval lenses, black plastic frames. Nothing terribly notable as far as Matrix movies are concerned.
There are two main schools of thought for sunglasses in the first Matrix trilogy: wire rims or chunky plastic. Apoc, the Nebuchadnezzar crewman who does most of the driving in the virtual world, sports rounded plastic frames around rectangular lenses. They don’t look bad by any means but seem pretty dated and a little corny.
The Neo fanboy in The Matrix Resurrections only jacks into the Matrix for one scene, so there’s not a ton to say about his whole aesthetic. His sunglasses are fine. They’re fine! He probably deserved better.
Carrie-Anne Moss is an absolute killer and most of Trinity’s looks slay. Her glasses are iconic but there’s also something about the size of them that looks vaguely insectoid. They feature oval lenses canted at a slight angle with a top frame that’s separated from them by a small amount. It’s a look that inspired a ton of knock-offs but doesn’t quite land. They work on Moss’ face, but I’m not sure there’s a pair that wouldn’t.
The comic-relief programmer of the first film has a pretty great death, going out in a blaze of glory fending off agents at the Lafayette Hotel. We only see Mouse in the Matrix once, and his sunglasses aren’t particularly dramatic or innovative, but they hit a sweet spot that’s nicely futuristic and minimal while not being absurd. Definitely one of the pairs on this list that you could wear in real life and not look too ridiculous.
The other protagonist of the Enter the Matrix game, Ghost didn’t get a ton of actual screen time in the movies. He did have a solid sense of style, though, especially when it came to his sunglasses. They’re sleek and rounded to fit the curve of his face, but angular enough to add drama. A very solid pair of sunglasses.
There are a lot of great little details to think about in Resurrections, but one of my personal favorites is how the new Smith, played by Jonathan Groff, tweaks expectations. While the aesthetic of the movies is unanimously future-forward, Smith sticks out by wearing a pair of Tom Davies “McCartney” shades that a finance bro would rock on his way to bet on some horses. It’s a smart and subtle way to establish him as being “outside” of the fiction’s narrative presentation.
The other female crew member in the new movie, Lexy’s glasses are kind of a mirror image of Niobe’s: angled upwards, with the frame separated from the lenses. In her case, though, they’re detached at the top, not the bottom. This makes a world of difference, as it gives her spare, angular face a pronounced aggressive nature while still signaling femininity.
7. The Agents
Every one of the Agents in the artificial world wears the same rimless sunglasses with rectangular lenses and steel arms. Specifically, they’re Blinde “Cube” 136005s, but those typically have wire arms so they were subtly customized. They’re actually the first kind of shades you see in the film, during the scene where they pursue Trinity. These are pretty solid — anonymous enough that they work with every face shape and immediately distinguishable from the other characters because of their straighter lines.
The first time you see Bugs’ glasses, they’re on Morpheus and they look … pretty ridiculous. I thought it might be a prank for a little bit. When they jack back in they look a lot better on Jessica Henwick. These are the most “Matrix-y” of the new film’s glasses. They’ve got a horizontal crossbar bisecting the circular blue lenses in a completely functionless flourish, but something about them really works. And according to the actor, she picked them out.
“The only thing which I got to be involved in was the choice of sunglasses,” Henwick tells Polygon. “I pushed for sunglasses so hard. I think it’s integral to the very fabric of The Matrix. They gave me like 50 different pairs of sunglasses to try on. And I mean, we all were on the same page immediately, but something I learned in that process is that one of my ears is slightly higher than the other because almost every pair of sunglasses sat crooked on my face. So we had we had to get it custom made so that it could counteract my misshapen face.”
5. Modal Morpheus
The casting of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II to replace Laurence Fishburne in the new movie definitely raised some hackles, but it’s pretty cool how Resurrections deals with it. The new Morpheus also gets a change in eyewear, keeping the circular black lenses but making them a little more practical with gold frames and arms. They look great, but they’re definitely not as striking as the originals.
4. Agent Smith
One of the cooler details in the original trilogy is that, after Agent Smith has his encounter with Neo and is freed from his programming, his glasses change. The corners of each are beveled off, turning them into rectangular octagons. It’s just enough to distinguish him visually from the rest of the agents, a great bit of visual storytelling that shows how thoughtful every aspect of these movies can be.
The Chosen One doesn’t don his trademark shades until pretty late in the first movie, but they’re solid: rimless oval lenses and a wire frame that’s bent inwards at a steep angle. The glasses changed a little bit in between the first movie and the sequels, adding a T joint where the arms and the lenses meet, but it’s pretty minor. These don’t look terribly comfortable to wear but they really complete Keanu’s look.
Played by Collin Chou, the sentient program tasked with guarding the Oracle has some of the better fights in the two sequels. His glasses are perfectly tuned to his aesthetic, resembling the classic circle-framed ’60s style worn by John Lennon, with steel bars connecting to the wire arms. They’re among the more conventional-looking pairs in the movie, which works with Seraph’s whole vibe.
There’s really no debate here. The tiny nose-clinging shades sported by Morpheus became a visual shorthand for the cyberpunk world, despite — or perhaps because of — their absurdity. Sure, armless glasses have been a thing for a while, but they’re typically the provenance of 18th century misers or frontier grannies. The ones in the film had to be held on with adhesive, so they’re not terribly practical, but they’re absolutely iconic.