In The Matrix it's fairly obvious to us the viewer that there is something wrong with the virtual reality. There is only one city (and it's surrounding area) that we know of and it doesn't even have a name:

According to the films' graphic designer Suzanne Buljan, companies and utilities in the city were uniformly given generic "City" names which are seen on signage and vehicles throughout the films, such as City Metro, City Waste, City Rail, City Post and City Power.

Some people do notice that there's something wrong but they still can't work it out:

Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Is there anything in the franchise that explains why people don't notice that their reality is not as real as they might expect?

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    Is the "single city" thing stated or implied in the first film, or just the sequels? ISTM watching The Matrix that it was supposed to be the entire world, whereas the sequels appeared to shrink that to just one City with a Highway. – Daniel Roseman Feb 9 '13 at 19:45
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    There may be internal discrepancy in the movies... – user11295 Feb 9 '13 at 19:50
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    They may actually notice them, but believing themselves to be in reality, assumed an explanation. Ever notice how when your blood is pumping and you quickly shift your eyes from side to side there is a lag, and sometimes some bright spots flicker in your vision? Or how sometimes there are funny visual effects when you look in the distance on a sunny day? There are biological explanations for these.. but it could also be limited video drivers / Processing time... Most people will assume the Bio explanation, since they assume this is reality... perhaps this is also true in the Matrix. – K-H-W Feb 9 '13 at 20:10
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    We have names for people who don't agree with the majority about the consensus reality. We say placating words to them until the burly men in white coats come and drag them away to mental institutions. Whether these people are raving in Arkham/Bellevue/Bedlam or turning wrenches in some virtual factory makes no difference to the machines. The probem is self-correcting. – Kyle Jones Feb 9 '13 at 23:03
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What discrepancies? As a citizen of the Matrix, I perceive all the reality I am able to, meaning all the reality the Matrix decides I need to know. What do I know about other realities?

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Looks like a regular helicopter shooting high caliber rounds into a building (as far as I can tell.) Maybe I should move?

  • If I profess an interest in astronomy, all the information the Matrix decides I need to know will exist. If I prove to be amazingly apt, the Matrix may provide me with an opportunity to develop their knowledge and mine, why would they do otherwise? Giving me the information or allowing me to develop such information with the virtual tools at hand. One hand manipulates the other.

  • Since the Matrix and the machine minds that run it, have knowledge the human minds don't, what is the problem with giving the humans the information that approximates reality? This only reinforces what the Matrix wants humans to believe. The reality you are participating in is real.

  • Since the Matrix is a virtual environment, there is no reason the Matrix could not replicate the entire planet. It's virtual, the parts the Matrix isn't using, aren't available and thus aren't using memory. Considering the Matrix is creating a life-like high-resolution virtual environment for millions of users, with apparently no effort, why not render whatever was necessary to complete the illusion. Everything there is information so everyone sees what they expect. Archaeologists find bones, Scientologists find converts, police officers find felons, the world is as expected.

    - If for some reason, a person IS able to penetrate the illusion that is the Matrix and started flexing their metaphorical muscle around the Matrix, things begin to happen:

    • If people see you fly (or leap from building to building, something everyone free of the Matrix could learn to do) news/tabloid articles are generated about the stunt being filmed in the location of the flying man, reinforcing the idea men cannot fly.

    • If there is a catastrophic accident on the freeway because agents are chasing down your dissident friends, they report it in the media as a fifty car pileup where no one can tell what really happened, and those that do, simply aren't believed. Would you believe a man in a suit landed on your car hood, crushed your car and simply bounced away to another truck, to engage in martial arts with a man standing on it, you may find yourself in an "I love me jacket" which ties in the back...

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"You saw what? I need you to step out of the vehicle, stretch out your arms and touch your nose for me, sir..."

  • Worse come to worse and a dissident chooses the red pill, the Matrix will simply flush you from the "Prime System" (and depending on who you ask, the higher level of the Matrix) and allow you to assume your life as a dissident someplace outside the Matrix where their superior technology keeps you on the run for the rest of your life as soon as someone says "It's an Agent."

-Unless you're The One, then the Matrix prepares itself for a reboot and the next generation of non-thinkers and militant dissidents who question the nature of a working virtual reality.

  • @user11295 If I saw a heicopter firing at a building, I'd probably want to move to another district myself. – Zibbobz Aug 5 '14 at 14:56

I think your starting point is not a stable one. I don't actually perceive it as there is only one big city, the Mega City. In Reloaded, Neo exits the Merovingian's castle five hundred miles due to south.


The Kid learns about a world map in the class, and there is a mission at an airport in Enter the Matrix. This implies that the simulation is basically for a whole world.


In Beyond, they live in a Japanese city.


The story World Record implies a world, too.

While the only direct proof about places elsewhere is the Merovingian's castle, which leaves space for speculation, the people in the matrix experience a normally continuous reality. If it weren't continuous for sure, the movies would feature characters who find this collective experience out, just like in Dark City.

There is no mention anywhere in the movies of any character, much less a collective experience of, talking about all their journeys beyond the city exclusively as ones which they cannot remember or which feel like they were a dream. So it is not enforced that there should be only one big city, and there are many hints to the contrary. On the other hand, there doesn't seem to be any easy to spot unambiguous evidence of 'rest of the world'.

I think the lack of easy evidence and the uneasy fact that it is seemingly set in one city is definitely a good way for a movie to build up tension and uneasiness about the Matrix as a Citadel of urban lifestyle with a closed and predefined values of importance. It implies that everyone in the world thinks that "all important things" happen in some Big City, but it doesn't necessarily mean that there is only one city.

To me, that means at least that it is left to the viewer to imagine the actual situation freely.

  • If that's the case why did the filmmakers deliberately choose to make the city anonymous? See the first quote and the link to the wikipedia article – user11295 Feb 11 '13 at 8:47
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    Why did they choose to name the main antagonist Smith? I think it is to imply that he could be "anyone". I think the anonymous city implies that it could be "anywhere". Wikipedia points out that Neo was born in Capital City - not Mega. – n611x007 Feb 11 '13 at 11:17

If it's all they've ever known, why is there any reason to question it?

I once knew a person from Hawaii. He had never seen snow before. Sure, he knew about it from books, TV, other people - but something that was a plain everyday fact to most of the rest of us, he had never experienced personally.

Now imagine you took away those books, movies, and hearsay.

He would never have known that it snows during the winter. After all, all his experience would tell him that winter never got cold enough for water to freeze. He may have this feeling that something is off, similar to what Morpheus describes, but because he would never have had the mental framework (nor heard the word "snow"), he most likely couldn't put it into words.

Likewise in the Matrix: All they know is the City. For the most part, they'd never have reason to leave. Never having heard of tourist locations or other cities, vacationing in another city wouldn't even cross their minds. Work and school keeps them close by. All their family and friends will also be in the City, so no reason to leave to visit them, either.

Both of these will break down if examined closely enough. The City one is much easier for us to break because it isn't the state of our world. The Hawaii/snow one is a little more difficult if you limit yourself to that framework, but a starting point would be differing temperatures in different parts of the islands.

Likewise, this is one of the reasons we have difficulty determining if we ourselves are living in a Matrix - if we were, we still have no real real reality to compare against and break the illusion.

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    Well said. I was going to propose something similar, along the lines of: How do you know this reality that you consider complete, really is complete? How would you — the real you, today — know that, for example, gravity can be overcome simply by squeezing your fists, allowing you to fly around, but we're in a fake reality where it doesn't work? The best you can ever do is to know the reality you experience, and at best have a feeling that you're not quite perceiving everything. – Matthew Frederick Feb 10 '13 at 1:10

If you ever had strange dreams, you might understand it as an answer. After you wake up, you realize the discrepancies in your dream, but inside the dream you usually don't question it, it seems perfectly normal. You don't realize it's a dream, or that something is unusual (even if you can fly, talk to animals, etc.), only after you woke up.

There might be people who are capable of lucid dreaming, but they are in the minority.

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    Oddly enough this seems like the most accurate answer - if everyone in The Matrix is in a kind of dream with it's associated 'suspension of disbelief', or if the machines have somehow discovered how to induce 'suspension of disbelief' then the discrepancies would all make sense. – user11295 Feb 10 '13 at 19:21
  • I wake up when i question things too hard in dreams, just like the humans in the older Matrices. – Cees Timmerman Mar 12 '14 at 10:00
  • Everyone is capable of lucid dreaming, just like playing guitar or speaking French anyone can pick it up with practice, though some may learn quicker than others. I gave up eventually because, like Cees, often questioning the dream would lead to waking up and I wasn't getting enough sleep. – Scott Feb 9 '16 at 1:12

You're forgetting that in the second movie, Neo is 600 miles north of the city when he's trapped in the chateaux. Obviously the extent of the matrix is much larger than a single city. It's difficult to believe that that expanse is unpopulated, what would be the point of simulating it? Rural areas, small towns and villages, perhaps even smaller cities exist there.

Additionally, in the very next scene, we see an interstate-style highway. This is far from deserted. Nor do the vehicles traveling on it seem to be piloted by cardboard cutouts, they seem to be driven by inhabitants of the Matrix. Do they drive 40 miles down this highway, turn around and return? This seems doubtful too. More than likely they're traveling to real destinations for real purposes (as much as anything in the Matrix is real, of course).

None of this tells us whether the Matrix simulates an entire planet, but it does hint at there being something as large as one of the mid-sized states in the United States. At least 3 or 4 cities, with areas in between of lower population density.

Also, I may be misremembering this, but in the first movie before Neo wakes up, he reads about Morpheus in some daring escape at an airport. Again, why an airport for it to be entirely a prop? If so, this hints at an even larger simulation, perhaps involving oceans.

  • Actually I was implying the nearby environs as well but didn't state it directly, will edit the question – user11295 Feb 10 '13 at 8:34
  • good answer, and a rather late +1. That 'trapped in the chateaux' scene has always bothered me though as he wasn't trapped, he never closed the door! so he could have just walked back into the chateaux and be only a few miles away at best - there was no reason to fly 600 miles at all – Matt Apr 11 at 14:15

The agents normally clean up the bystanders and other discrepancies in the Matrix. This is detailed in the Anime shorts.

One short episode has the agents cordoning a broken part of the Matrix. In another they deal with an olympic runner who accidentally sees the code.

Memories are adjusted as well. For example when Neo is being questioned by the agents and asks for his phone call. He wakes up thinking he dreamed it.

why people don't notice that their reality is not as real as they might expect?

Many if not all the people in the Matrix were grown. That is their own reality. It can only look off if you have another frame of reference to check it against.


I believe that what you are describing is exactly what that Architect means when he says that people in the Matrix are making a choice to accept the Matrix at a subconscious level. They see discrepancies, but they choose to ignore them.

An example that seems to back this up is in the first movie, with the concept of deja vu. We are told that people experience deja vu whenever the machines make an alteration to the Matrix. So, rather than see it as a discrepancy or glitch in reality, humans see it as a phenomenon of the brain.

It seems likely that other small glitches are also thus explained away by people not wanting to believe that they are not in reality. Even Neo had trouble adjusting, something the first movie blamed on him being older than most when he got out.

The other answers adequately explain the larger things.


This question is actually covered pretty well in the film scripts. The Matrix has dream-like qualities and the although the users do occasionally see discrepancies, they basically pretend to themselves that nothing is wrong.

Morpheus: Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

Those users who refuse to accept that the world around them is a true representation of reality suffer an condition that Morpheus refers to as a "splinter in the mind", where you instinctively feel the wrongness of the situation. Those individuals will often become alienated from the Matrix and eventually commit suicide, self-substantiate back into reality (where they'll tend to die) or, in a small number of cases get "freed" by Zionese commandos.

Morpheus: *I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?*

The Architect makes it abundantly clear that only around 1/1000 users will have problems accepting the Matrix as true reality. Users are presented with a choice (of remaining ignorant) on a regular basis. The act of choosing to accept the Matrix creates a mental blockage between seeing any problems (including glitches such as deja vu) and accepting the Matrix as reality

The Architect: Please. As I was saying, she stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly 99.9% of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level


I assume it is much like how while in a dream you cannot notice that you are dreaming unless you are lucid dreaming, and while lucid dreaming you have infinite freedom to control the dream.

  • I've summoned & beaten Freddy, but the most interesting things i remember recently were rudely interrupted by church bells. – Cees Timmerman Mar 12 '14 at 10:10

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