'Leave the World Behind'

Everything We Know About the Upcoming Netflix Original ‘Leave the World Behind’

‘Leave the World Behind’ should be a unique take on the over-stuffed apocalyptic space.

The apocalyptic thriller Leave the World Behind — featuring an all-star ensemble including Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, and Mahershala Ali — follows a family (Roberts and Hawke) who “leaves the world behind” for a summer getaway in Long Island. They’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city living, forget about the rat race that defines NYC, and enjoy a little R&R. 

Their plans go awry when the homeowners (Ali and Myha’la Herrold) come seeking safe haven following the news of a blackout, which turns out to be a threat to existence beyond what anyone could imagine. Power outages are just the beginning. In the trailer, which dropped on October 2, 2023, it becomes clear that a cyberattack has taken hold across the country, but as Ali’s character notes, “the truth is much scarier.” “There’s no going back to normal” after waves come crashing into your home and you’re left to fend for yourself — deserted and at the mercy of your panic-stricken thoughts.

“Leave the World Behind’ is based on the novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam 

The author of Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam, is also known for 2016’s Rich and Pretty and 2018’s That Kind of Mother, both of which were well-received. As for Leave the World Behind, the novel follows six individuals stuck in a singular home who confront the apocalyptic crisis in vastly different ways. 

Who will you become when your existence hangs in the balance? Will you remain the socially conscious intellectual you’ve always been, or will baser instincts turn you into a monster you don’t recognize? While some will show their resilience and bravery, others will buckle under fear and anticipation.  

Julia Roberts in 'Leave the World Behind'
Julia Roberts in ‘Leave the World Behind’ | Netflix/Tudum

The novel takes place at Armageddon’s onset; thus, rather than kickstarting with individuals running for their lives from tsunamis or jumping in cars to outrun earthquakes, we watch as these six people contend with an ever-growing threat while still adhering to the basics of survival — food, water, shelter. 

Disconnected from the world around them  — in a somewhat yet not fully remote location — they enter the apocalypse from its outskirts. This provides a unique perspective: one that spotlights the human condition — the mental and emotional response to such an event — as opposed to the constant high-octane, city-centric explosive thrills customary of such narratives. Rather than dodging falling towers, you’re alone in a forest, surrounded by trees, awaiting your seemingly inevitable demise. What’s worse: the imagination or the reality abroad?  

Who else is involved in ‘Leave the World Behind?’ 

Leave the World Behind also stars Kevin Bacon as Danny, who, based on his brief appearance in the trailer, seems to be portraying an omniscient, not-to-be-trusted sort of creepy crazed gent. What does he know? Is he here to help or to hurt? Maybe a little bit of both? Maybe he’s just the realist who, at a time such as this, has become (justifiably) a foreboding cynic. 

Sam Esmail penned the screenplay for the upcoming Netflix original. He is well known for his work as the creator and producer behind TV shows Mr. Robot and Homecoming. He also served as a writer on 2014’s Comet and the 2022 series The Resort. Esmail also directed Leave the World Behind. 

The film will premiere in select theaters this November before coming to Netflix just in time to dampen our Holiday spirits on December 8. 2023. 

About the author

Josh Lezmi

Josh is an entertainment writer and editor at Thought Catalog.