Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Decoding The Matrix Exploring Dystopian Characteristics through Film

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)


Decoding The Matrix Exploring Dystopian Characteristics through Film

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Junius Wright

Junius Wright

Charleston, South Carolina


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



The Matrix is a fast-paced action movie with plenty of dazzling special effects. At its core, however, it is a dystopian work with many of the same characteristics found in dystopian novels such as Fahrenheit 451, 1984, and Brave New World. In this lesson, students are introduced to the definition and characteristics of a dystopian work by watching video clips from The Matrix and other dystopian films. They first explore the definition and characteristics of utopian and dystopian societies, and then compare and contrast the two using a Venn diagram online tool. Next, they identify the protagonist in clips from The Matrix and then discuss how the clips extend and confirm their understanding of a dystopia. Students then view additional film clips and identify which characteristics of a dystopian society the clip is intended to portray. Finally, they explore how they can apply their knowledge about dystopias to future readings.

back to top



Interactive Venn Diagram: Use this online tool to compare and contrast the characteristics of utopian and dystopian societies.

back to top



NCTE's Topical Resource Kit, Professional Communities at Work: Engaging Media-Savvy Students explains that exploring texts from popular culture in the classroom can open doors for students:

Because of their ties to students' world, these texts often result in a higher level of engagement and underscore the literacy skills that students bring to the classroom. Teachers can identify print, visual, and sound texts that students already read and compose; then, they can analyze and compose examples of such texts in class. Once students understand these reading, composing, and critical thinking concepts in familiar texts, teachers extend students' reading or composing practices to more traditional texts and additional examples and genres from popular culture. In this way, multimodal teaching practices provide a connection to more traditional literature and enable students to enhance and build sophisticated literacy skills that help them explore the cultural texts in the world around them. ("Framing Text" 6)

This lesson models precisely this move from familiar text to less familiar text-students begin with an exploration of a popular film that many will already be familiar with and then are ready to extend the analytical skills and new ideas to less familiar novels or other texts.

Further Reading

National Council of Teachers of English. 2005. Professional Communities at Work: Engaging Media-Savvy Students. Urbana, IL: NCTE.


Costanzo, William V. 2004. "The Matrix." Great Films and How to Teach Them. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Read more about this resource

back to top