The Netflix movie follows a family — Amanda (Roberts), Clay (Ethan Hawke), Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) and Archie (Charlie Evans) — as they go on vacation only for the world to begin to collapse around them and for two strangers — G.H. (Mahershala Ali) and Ruth (Myha'la Herrold) — to appear on their doorstep, with things coming to a head in a surprising way.
Roberts and the film's director Sam Esmail shared their thoughts on the closing moments of the film, and gave insight into how viewers can choose to interpret it. Before we get into what the ending means and what Roberts and Esmail have to say, though, be warned that this article contains major spoilers.
Leave the World Behind ending explained
The Netflix film ends with the characters scattered after learning that the citizens of the US have been turned against each other by higher powers who are using modern warfare techniques like isolation and misinformation to create chaos and panic — leading the country to collapse in on itself.
As chaos reigns outside the film's idyllic location, the characters come to hear of a doomsday bunker located nearby. Amanda and Ruth are lost in the forest, whilst Clay, G.H. and Archie are heading to the house by car — except it's unclear if they make it because Amanda and Clay's daughter Ruth has already found the bunker and has adopted it as her own and the movie ends before we know if they make it.
Watch: Julia Roberts and Sam Esmail reflect on the ending of Leave the World Behind
Reflecting on the ending, and whether she feels the characters made it to the bunker in time, Roberts says: "I guess that's the wonderment, isn't it? It's funny because Sam and I have had many conversations about this, about what we wanted people to think at the end because we didn't want everyone left in this gutted pile of of goo and collapse, but you also don't want to tie it up in a bow.
"So how do you find that balance? And I think it's a little bit left to a person to decide if they make it or not. I love the music queue at the end [of the Friends theme tune], I think that that's something that's a bit of a parting gift that Sam came up with that I think is really brilliant.
"But I think you have to decide. I guess it really shows if you're optimist or a pessimist."Julia Roberts
Esmail was more willing to give his own interpretation of the ending, saying: "If you're asking my interpretation, I do think they make it to the bunker. Yes, that's what I would want so that's what I would imagine."
Speaking on how he hopes viewers see the final scene, the filmmaker adds: "I would say, if I'm being honest, I think it's polarising.
"I think, especially in a mystery thriller, people are used to having an answer or solution, especially when they've invested in these characters — they want to make sure that they're going to make it out alive, that everything's going to be OK."Sam Esmail
"And that's a testament to the cast that the audience members really felt such a strong attachment to these people, so it [will be] kind of bewildering to them that they don't get that easy answer. But, in a way, I love that because it provokes conversation.
"Those are my favourite types of movie-going experiences, that when you leave the theatre you can go to a coffee shop and spend 2 hours debating and hearing different interpretations of what would have happened, what did happen? What's going on? And hopefully this movie inspires that same conversation."
Leave the World Behind is out on Netflix now.
Watch the trailer for Leave the World Behind: