‘Leave the World Behind’ Ending Explained

*Spoilers Ahead*

Leave the World Behind, a film adaptation of Rumaan Alam’s novel, starring Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la Jael Herrold, and Kevin Bacon, presents a distinctive and unsettling narrative in the apocalyptic genre. The story revolves around Amanda and Clay, portrayed by Roberts and Hawke, who, along with their children Rose and Archie, are vacationing in a remote cabin. Their tranquil retreat is abruptly interrupted by the unexpected arrival of G.H. and Ruth, the cabin’s owners, who have escaped from the city amidst an unspecified disaster.

The movie, much like Alam’s novel, delves into the increasingly tense and paranoid interactions among the characters rather than the specifics of the catastrophic event that has led to rapid societal collapse. Amidst this chaos, a theory surfaces suggesting that the disaster might be a deliberate coup, orchestrated to incite conflict and destabilize the nation.

As the narrative progresses, the focus shifts from the broader implications of the disaster to the personal experiences and survival of the characters. The film culminates in a cliffhanger, leaving the audience grappling with the fate of Amanda and Rose as they witness the distant bombing of the city. In a poignant scene, Rose stumbles upon an emergency message in a neighbor’s bunker, indicating the looming threat of a nuclear war. This revelation is juxtaposed with her discovery of a “Friends” DVD, which she plays, ending the movie with the iconic theme song “I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrandts. This choice of ending raises intriguing questions about reality, especially considering Julia Roberts’ cameo in “Friends” and her dual role as a producer and star in Leave the World Behind.

The film’s ending has sparked much discussion and speculation, particularly regarding the fate of the characters Rose and Archie. Author Rumaan Alam and director Sam Esmail have intentionally left their fates ambiguous, choosing to end the story with a question mark. This decision aligns with the novel’s original ending and reflects the film’s commitment to staying “emotionally faithful” to the story’s essence. Alam and Esmail’s choice to leave the ending open to interpretation has led to varied audience reactions, with some finding it humorous, others finding it frightening, and many questioning whether the story is truly over.

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Alam has expressed his satisfaction with the audience’s diverse responses to the ending, appreciating the emotional impact and uncertainty it creates. He emphasizes that Leave the World Behind is not a typical disaster movie that reassures viewers of a happy resolution. Instead, it’s a film that challenges its audience to confront the complexities of human nature and the unpredictability of life in the face of disaster.

Leave the World Behind offers a thought-provoking and emotionally charged exploration of human relationships and societal breakdown in the context of an apocalyptic event. Its ambiguous ending and the nuanced performances of its cast make it a compelling watch, inviting viewers to ponder the deeper themes of trust, survival, and the human condition.


Where is Leave the World Behind available to watch?
You can watch it on Netflix

What is the plot of Leave the World Behind?
It is an apocalyptic thriller with a story of two families as they fight for survival amid an inexplicable blackout.

Which book or novel is Leave the World Behind based on?
It is based on a 2020 novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam.

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