Leave the World Behind ending explained: Does the world really end?

LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND (2023) Ethan Hawke as Clay, Julia Roberts as Amanda and Mahershala Ali as G.H. CR: JoJo Whilden/NETFLIX
LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND (2023) Ethan Hawke as Clay, Julia Roberts as Amanda and Mahershala Ali as G.H. CR: JoJo Whilden/NETFLIX /

Netflix’s newest movie is the apocalyptic thriller Leave the World Behind based on Rumaan Alam’s book of the same name. Sam Esmail writes and directs the feature, which stars Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, Myha’la, and Kevin Bacon.

Leave the World Behind plays with ambiguity throughout its runtime, but especially during its climactic final act. We don’t find out exactly why anything happened and we don’t even learn the eventual fate of all of the characters.

Leave the World Behind ends on an ambiguous note

Instead, the film leaves us with Rose after she finds an underground survivalist bunker inside a neighbor’s house. Inside the bunker, Rose discovers a treasure trove of physical media, including multiple seasons of Friends. She takes comfort in finally seeing how the series ends and whether Ross and Rachel end up together.

Elsewhere, Clay and G.H. take Archie to G.H.’s contractor, Danny, a known survivalist who has been prepping for doomsday for years. Danny is unwilling to provide Archie with medicine until the guns get drawn and Clay pleads with him, father-to-father, to help his son. But we never find out if Archie gets better. The last we see of the three men is G.H. telling Clay his theory about how their entire society could be brought to collapse with a simple three-point plan, one they appear to be watching unfold in real-time.

In the forest, Ruth and Amanda continue searching for Rose and have a truly strange encounter with a herd of deer. After scaring the deer away, they look out through the trees to the city skyline, which is currently going up in smoke. They hold hands as they watch the city burn.

All in all, Leave the World Behind has a very somber ending that seems to leave our characters lost in a pretty dire situation. Will they survive? Is this really the end of the world? It’s left up to the audience’s interpretation, similar to the book’s ending. Ultimately, we can’t know what will happen, only that nothing will ever be the same for these characters moving forward, if they even get the chance to do that.

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