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Netflix's huge new sci-fi thriller is finally available to stream

Engagingly bleak is the order of the day in this new apocalypse movie

Netflix's huge new sci-fi thriller is finally available to stream
Andrew Williams
08 December 2023

Fantastic new sci-fi movie Leave the World Behind has finally landed on Netflix. It’s an apocalyptic thriller from one of the brightest minds in modern sci-fi, Sam Esmail.

Esmail was the lead creator behind Mr. Robot, and Leave the World Behind sees him return to big world-changing themes. Or world-ending ones.

Leave the World Behind sees the collapse of the world play out from the perspective of three people on New York’s Long Island. These characters are played by Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke.

It’s based on a 2020 novel by Rumaan Alam, in which the characters are pushed together as their connections to the wider world are severed.

Leave the World Behind currently sits at a very healthy 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, and is Certified Fresh, meaning it’s hit a threshold of critic reviews, including a bunch from the site’s “top critics.”

This is no critical darling that leaves out the masses either, as the audience rating is even higher, at 83%...

Netflix's biggest sci-fi thriller is finally available to stream
Image Credit: Netflix

Leave the World Behind reviews

"Leave the World Behind feels terribly possible, as if the order of our lives really could unravel in this way: noticeable only after it is too late. The thing has happened, is happening. Just take a look around outside,” says Vanity Fair.

This isn’t a film packed with dramatic set-pieces, instead relying more on the drama going on between the characters.

“Leave the World Behind is a smart, compelling take on the end of the world, and proves Esmail is a writer-director who deserves larger-scale projects like this after his television successes. Maybe no one today is better at showing the world destroying itself quite like Sam Esmail,” says Collider.

At 2 hours 21 minutes, there’s a good amount of time here for the characters to get established, and Julia Roberts is often cited as a highlight. The Telegraph’s review says it’s “her best role in years.”

“The ensemble cast is a wonder to watch, particularly Roberts and Myha’la as two women who instantly loathe one another but might have to depend on each other to survive,” says the Chicago Sun-Times review.

However, it’s not unanimous praise for Leave the World Behind.

The Observer calls it a “dumb movie disguised as a smart movie”, while's middling review suggests it’s a bit too cold for its own good.

"While “Leave the World Behind” is absorbing, particularly in its character-driven motifs and actorly prowess, it remains distant, emotionally withholding a human element, as though it were a top-secret clue rather than a necessary key to the heart," the review reads.

As is so often the case, your reaction to Leave the World Behind is going to rest on how much you buy into its atmosphere, style and sensibility. However, it’s easily good enough to earn the film a place on our weekly What to Watch update.

Fun fact. When we first heard about the film in 2020, Denzel Washington was going to play the role eventually taken up by Mahershala Ali.