Leave the World Behind Ending Explained: The True Meaning of the Movie

By Aeron Mer Eclarinal Posted:
Leave the World Behind julia Roberts and Ethan hawke

Leave the World Behind's ending created tons of conversations that left fans wondering the true meaning behind the movie. 

Based on the novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, the hit Netflix movie starring Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, and Mahershala Ali revolves around two families trying to trust each other amid an ongoing series of weird events that the characters believe to be the start of the end of the world. 

Leave the World Behind left fans with many questions, such as the meaning behind the mysterious deer, the emergence of apocalyptic events, and its ending that involves the Friends TV show. 

What Happened in Leave the World Behind's Ending?

Julia Roberts, Leave the World Behind
Leave the World Behind

Leave the World Behind chronicles the perspective of two families as they witness what happens before the end of the world. Some would say that it's a pre-apocalyptic film. 

Several otherworldly events happen, such as unusual migration patterns of deer, planes crashing unexpectedly, and an oil tanker crashing into the beach. 

All of these events happen while the two families (the Scotts and the Sanfords) decide if they trust each other amid the weird stuff that is going on. It's like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. 

As George Scott (Mahershala Ali) contemplates whether his wife will return after seeing planes crashing, he flirts with Amanda (Julia Roberts) to distract himself from the whole ordeal while Ruth Scott (Myha'la Herrold) and Clay (Ethan Hawke) spend time with each other before a flamboyance of flamingos decides to take a dip in the pool. 

After the two families manage to find a common ground between one another, all hell starts to break loose. 

In the final part of the movie, Archie (Amanda and Clay's son played by Charlie Evans) starts to lose his teeth after being bit by a tick while in the woods the previous day. This is on top of the fact that Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) is missing. 

It is like the movie is implying that bad things will only get worse, and this is the beginning of the end for the characters involved. 

The characters then decide to split up, with Clay, George, and Archie going to survivalist Danny's (Kevin Bacon) house to get some medicine while the women set out to find Rose. 

After an intense stand-off between Danny and the protagonists, the survivalist eventually gives in and provides them with the medicine that they need. 

Clay and George's encounter with Danny leads to an important conversation about what's happening. George tells Clay about a "three-stage maneuver" that could topple a country's government from within that he learned from his client, and he's sure that this is what's happening in the United States. 

The said maneuver involves isolation, synchronized chaos, and civil war. It's scary to think that these events could happen in real life, and Leave the World Behind is the audience's front-row seat to the chaos. 

As for Amanda and Ruth, they fail to find Rose despite hoarding off a group of aggressive deer in the wild. 

But, where is Rose?

The movie ends with Rose coming across a well-supplied bunker in an abandoned house. The cherry on top of her discovery is finding a Friends DVD, with her finally watching its last episode. 

The reveal that Rose is the one who can find solace and peace amid the chaos is quite essential. Throughout the film, Rose has been hankering on the fact that she is about to watch the final episode of Friends before the internet dies. 

Rose's consistent pursuit of watching Friends is a perfect example of what everyone is trying to do or find in the face of chaos: escape. One way or another,  all of us want some form of escape, whether it is getting away from danger or simply watching one's favorite TV show.

[ Julia Roberts Disagreed With 1 Scene Decision In Netflix's Leave the World Behind ]

What Is the Meaning of Leave the World Behind’s Ending?

From the beginning, the emergence of deer is the beginning of bad luck not just for the characters, but for the rest of the United States (at least). 

While the literal explanation in the movie is deer's unusual migration pattern is due to environmental disasters, some have theorized that it is a bad omen, which is in line with Leave the World Behind author Rumaan Alam's explanation in the book that it means "A disaster response. A disaster indicator. A disaster unfolding."

The Netflix movie's ending is also different from the book. Although Rose still puts a Friends DVD in the player, it is not the show's series finale. Instead, it is the episode where Ross fantasizes about Princess Leia. 

Another difference between the book and the movie's ending is the fact that Rose only puts the episode as background noise and she heads back to George's house with loads of supplies to help both families. 

Speaking with Variety in December 2023, Alam opened up about the movie's ending, noting that the Netflix film "respects you as a viewer enough to not provide" the answer if the families reunite:

"Wouldn’t that be so dissatisfying? It’s a film that respects you as a viewer enough to not provide that... I have no problem with like a big disaster movie that saves the six or eight principals and reunites them in the aftermath of a disaster and allows you to be like, 'Well, everything’s gonna be okay.' I just don’t think this is that kind of film."

The general confusion among viewers and readers is understandable. The ending is anti-climactic, but it is fitting because the silence is disturbing and menacing. 

Leave the World Behind is a film designed to showcase how scary an apocalypse without alien invaders, robots, and zombies looks like. 

It's much scarier since the enemies are normal human beings who will do anything to gain superiority over others. 

One line in particular that may have struck audiences is when Clay tells Danny, "I can’t do anything with my cellphone. I’m a useless man."

This is what the digital age has done to most of the world's population. If an apocalypse comes knocking at the door on any day and the internet dies, chaos due to misinformation will ensue. 

As for what will happen next in the film after Rose watches Friends'  final episode, there's a good chance that she will stay inside the bunker and wait for her family to find her. 

Given that George and Clay are aware of that same bunker, it's only a matter of time before they find it and Rose. 

[ Leave the World Behind Movie's Deer Meaning Explained ]

Leave the World Behind is streaming on Netflix.

- In This Article: Leave the World Behind
Release Date
December 08, 2023
Julia Roberts
- About The Author: Aeron Mer Eclarinal
Aeron is a news/features writer and Content Lead for The Direct who has been working for the site since March 2020. From writing about the inter-connectivity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to having an extended knowledge about DC TV's Arrowverse, Aeron's expertise has since expanded into the realm of reality TV, K-drama, animated, and live-action shows from Netflix,  Disney+, Prime Video, MGM+, Peacock, Paramount+, and Max. When he isn't writing and watching all things MCU, Aeron is heavily invested with the NBA (go Celtics!) and occasionally watches thrilling matches in the WWE.