During the first meeting between Neo and Morpheus in The Matrix, Morpheus states that if Neo takes the blue pill, "The story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe." Does this mean that the blue pill acts as a selective amnesiac? A program to make Neo feel as though he dreamed the meeting, similar to his experience of having a bug implanted by the Agents? Would it include something that makes him no longer of interest to the Agents? Since, technically, all that Neo has to do, if he refuses Morpheus' offer, is get up and leave the room, why have a blue pill at all?

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    "git reset --hard HEAD^" and "git clean"
    – phantom42
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 17:41
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    Great discussion. The answer I chose was accepted due to its thoughtfulness on the symbolism of the choice, as some later research showed the parallel between the two pills and the Trees of Eden (specifically, the blue pill was the Tree of Life, one that allowed its consumer to continue in a state of innocence of the evils of the world. link Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 19:59

7 Answers 7


I seem to be in the minority here but I don't think the blue pill itself does anything remarkable. It's a placebo, or possibly an ordinary in-Matrix sedative.

I base this on two things.

First, there is an elegance to it. Why would it be necessary for the blue pill to do anything at all? And if it is just a placebo, it's a perfect symbol for accepting the irreality of the world inside the Matrix. By accepting the blue pill, Neo would be accepting the illusion both of the Matrix and the pill itself. And really, if the pill is going to wipe his memory why doesn't Morpheus say something like "You'll forget all about this"? But that's not what he says.

The second thing that leads me to believe this is Morpheus's statement:

The story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.

Breaking it down, "the story ends" simply because the rebels stop pursuing Neo. The "wake up in your bed" phrase can be interpreted literally (they're going to sedate him and deposit him in his bed) or merely a continuation of the dream metaphor Morpheus is using (the strange things that have been happening will stop).

But the really important thing is "believe whatever you want to believe." As he points out in the next line, Morpheus is offering Neo the truth. More than that, he is giving him a choice between seeing the world as it really is and rejecting the evidence. If Neo takes the blue pill Morpheus will leave him to make his own conclusions about his recent experiences and the world he lives in. Someone who takes the blue pill would probably want to conclude that Morpheus is lying, maybe the whole experience was a trick of memory caused by the blue pill, whatever. They can believe whatever they want to believe. But if their memory is wiped, they don't have the choice to draw their own conclusions, and this is not what Morpheus is offering.

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    I wonder about suitability of this answer because Neo have been unbugged, in my opinion it changed much, now agents never leave him alone, because them saw him being of special interest of resistance, if blue pill going to give him peace and calm, then it must somehow cheat on agents or erase his memory, but again erasing memory won't give him peace of mind, so I bet it's go deeper in change of his attitude into reality (plus cheating agents)
    – Qbik
    Commented May 10, 2014 at 20:56
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    @Qbik, the agents are an interesting complication, but since the agents have finite resources and Neo doesn't really know anything that can help them, if the rebels leave Neo alone, the agents eventually will too. Commented May 10, 2014 at 22:00
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    @Qbik: Keep in mind that Neo was considered "too old" to be unplugged (but since he was the One, they made an exception). Age factors into this, because an older person can't deal with the realization. Having Neo choose the pill (even if both are placebos) makes sense. Because if the subject isn't even able to say that they want to hear the truth, then how will they ever be ready to deal with it once presented? If Neo took the blue pill, he clearly must not have been the One. Maybe the agents would still stalk him, but Neo would be of no use to the resistance anymore anyway.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 14:22
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    I'm pretty sure there was a Matrix comic entry out there where Morpheus meets a guy who was living his life, but had always had that "feeling" that something was wrong, so one day he meets Morpheus who makes the same offer to him, but he opts to take the blue pill because he loved his life in the Matrix too much to take the red pill and "lose it all". Morpheus just says "I'm dissappointed to hear that <name here>. Good luck to you.", and the guy just goes on to live his life. He clearly remembers the encounter, though, as the whole story is him recalling his thoughts. Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 21:40

Within the film canon, the precise nature of the "blue-pill" isn't described although we can infer from the quote from Morpheus that it's a sedative;

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

In the canon Matrix Comic "A life Less Empty", the main character; Tiera took the blue pill. She clearly recalls discussing the nature of the Matrix with Morpheus but then returns to her normal life. The 'splinter' remains in her mind (causing fits of depression and suicidal tendencies) but without any possibility of escape. There's no indication that the pill had any other effect than simply knocking her out.

Blue Pill

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    +1 - an actual answer based not on speculation, but on in-canon facts!
    – user24069
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 18:33
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    @Vaxquis - Hmm. Just two years later and this answer is nearly outvoting the accepted answer :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 10:04
  • @Valorum Well, I just made it official. At least for a moment.
    – phyrfox
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 12:05
  • @phyrfox - Proof positive that the better answer will eventually outstrip the lesser, no matter how much later it gets answered (probably).
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 13:22

I don't think the pills are really explained in canon anywhere, but using computer science terminology they're rather obvious and easy to explain. I don't pretend to know these were their thoughts behind the whole scene, but it sounds believable to me:

The pills essentially represent bot programs. They can't insert them into Neo (like the Agents do with the squid/bug thingy), because they don't know where he is and they don't have access to him.

However, by taking and eating one of them, he essentially "downloads" it, which causes the included code to be executed (similar to how they inject memories to quickly learn things).

Based on the pill there'd be two "flavors":

  • The blue pill would erase all traces of the meeting, their faces etc., including itself pretty much like some browser history cleaning or similar actions. This has to be done from Neo's end, because the others don't know where he is and as such don't have direct access (i.e. the reason they need the pills).

  • The red pill would be something like a ping-back. It could be as easy as - using real ethernet/TCP/IP as an analogy - determining the public IP of a computer on the internet to determine its location and sending that information back to its control server.

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    They say the Red pill is a part of a "trace program" used to locate Neo's "carrier signal" in order to find his physical body in the real world. So your analogy to a ping-back is pretty good.
    – Monty129
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 20:59
  • +1 Love the computer analogies! Quite appropriate too when you think about it. Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 22:12
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    This would actually be analogous to the "Chocolate Cake" sequence where it's explained that the woman reacts without knowing why... "eating" the program.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 0:57
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    would erase all traces of the meeting this seems incorrect: "you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe." No mention of forgetting anything. On the contrary - if he would forget everything then there is no need to "believe whatever he wants". It only makes sense if he can remember what happened but doubts its "reality" (whatever may that be for him).
    – n611x007
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 9:54
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    Sounded to me like they'd remove any additional influence they've had on him, e.g. the meeting and telling him about the real world (as far as they've told him at that time) and proving that he's indeed right.
    – Mario
    Commented Aug 28, 2013 at 10:42

I don't believe that the Blue Pill's effects have ever been explicitely explained in official cannon, but from Morpheus's statement I believe that it does indeed make the recepient forget all about the meeting with Morpheus and probably any discoveries they might have made about the Matrix. Remember also that this is the state that Cypher requested from the Machines as part of his payment for betraying Morpheus.


I think the blue pill stands for "ignorance is bliss", as later quoted by Cypher. It's an easy out - Neo wouldn't have to walk away, looking back to see if Trinity was watching him go, or even debating whether to run back and say he's changed his mind. Once he took the blue pill, it was a final decision - he would know that his memories would be intact (i.e. he hadn't been messed with any further), and yet he could be "out" of the current dangerous spot.

The promise of the blue pill is, however, an illusion for Neo, because he'd already been arrested by the Agents, for crimes perpetuated within the Matrix, and thus even if it was for "vengeance", they wouldn't leave him alone after that - they would find a way to use him. It is perhaps this thought that propels Neo towards the red pill, even if his doubts still remain about Morpheus' dialogue.

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    Well, sure, that's the symbolism behind it but the question is asking what it actually does? Does it just put him to sleep?
    – Null
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 20:14
  • @Null is there actually "sleep" in the Matrix? Or is the Blue Pill a metaphor for the activation of a subroutine which alters the Matrix, just like subroutines download martial arts skills and create shelves full of guns?
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:23

I think the pills are placebos, and taking one or the other is expressing an irrevocable choice. The pills themselves do nothing; it is all Neo's choice to accept the artificial world of the Matrix or accept an as yet unknown world which transcends it. Morpheus' team begin performing a variety of activities after Neo swallows the pill. One could interpret it as them acting within a limited window of opportunity to locate and recover him - and nothing more. But, but they could also be performing actions to "wake him up" from the "shared dream" of the Matrix. In other words, taking the pill has the same function as marking a ballot or throwing a switch - an apparently physical but entirely symbolic manifestation of making and committing to a choice. Upon seeing that he has committed to a choice, the team sets to work to help him execute it.


To me it's short and dry. Mr. Anderson does not believe in faith. Why? He doesn't like the idea of not having control of his life. Morpheus offering him the blue or red pill gives him control. He has a choice. (Not really.) At least he feels he does. The choice was already made. No matter which pill he chose, his path was already set for him.

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    There's kind of an answer in here but it would probably be better if you could edit in why you think there was no choice. The movie is a bit too complex to just throw four lines of "he didn't have a choice" :)
    – Jenayah
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 16:14

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