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Leave the World Behind kicks off December’s Netflix new releases with a bang

Published Dec 2nd, 2023 12:12PM EST
Leave the World Behind on Netflix
Image: Netflix

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Well, here we go again with Netflix releasing an apocalyptic movie just in time for the holidays — something the streamer has done on at least two other occasions that come to mind (December 2018’s Bird Box, and December 2021’s Don’t Look Up). Leave the World Behind, among the Netflix releases coming next week, is the latest example and offers up an unsettling apocalyptic narrative that touches on everything from race to class to raising children in a complicated world. In other words, perfect for holiday viewing!

In all seriousness, this is a devastating, unforgettable powerhouse of a Netflix release, one that’s backed by the Obamas’ production company Higher Ground and which also comes from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail. The top-tier acting talent — including Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke, and Myha’la — also do a superb job of bringing to life the 2021 National Book Award-nominated novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, which the movie is based on.

Leave the World Behind on Netflix
Charlie Evans as Archie and Farrah Mackenzie as Rose in “Leave the World Behind.” Image source: Netflix
Leave the World Behind on Netflix
Mahershela Ali as G.H., Myha’la Herrold as Ruth, Julia Roberts as Amanda, and Ethan Hawke as Clay. Image source: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

The plot is built around a family’s vacation that gets interrupted when two strangers arrive at night, fleeing the devastation from a cyberattack that grows more terrifying by the minute — one that also forces everyone in its aftermath (the “left behind”) to figure out how to navigate a collapsing world. “I had been interested in doing a disaster movie for a while,” Esmail explains in a Netflix promotional interview, “and I specifically wanted to do one surrounding a cyber attack — because I don’t think a lot of people have a concrete idea of what that would look like or how detrimental it would be, not just in America but globally.”

Continues Esmail: “What Rumaan did so well with this story is that he kept it centered on these characters and the journey they’re all on, and I found a way to expand upon my obsessions while translating it into a cinematic experience. What if technology was the driver behind this collapse? What if this thing that we as a people and as a society rely on so much blindly turns against us? From there, everything just clicked into place.”

The movie has already gotten a limited theatrical run, which has allowed it to pick up some initial buzz and positive press that’s translated so far into solid 78% and 89% Rotten Tomtaoes critics’ and audience scores, respectively. Leave the World Behind will be available to stream on Netflix starting Dec. 8.

As for what other releases are coming to Netflix over the next seven days, meanwhile, here’s a rundown of some of the other most interesting upcoming releases worth checking out:

May December: We teased director Todd Haynes’ buzzy new Netflix film May December last week, and now it’s finally available to stream. The gist is that a TV actress portrayed by Natalie Portman arrives in a suburban community to research her next role. It involves her playing one-half of a married couple whose tabloid romance gripped the nation — but her arrival causes long-dormant emotions in the couple to resurface. Now streaming.

The Great British Baking Show Holidays (Season 6): Christmas and delicious pasties go hand in hand, so one easy way to add some holiday cheer to your December is by streaming new holiday-themed episodes of The Great British Baking Show. Competitors from past seasons will bake winter treats for judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood as they deck the halls with sugary, buttery, and chocolatey delights. Release date: Dec. 8.

World War II from the Frontlines: Finally, for my fellow history buffs out there, this six-part documentary series gives viewers a front-row seat to some of the most climactic moments of the Second World War. Using enhanced archival footage and voices from all sides of the war, this Netflix docuseries brings the past to life like never before. Release date: Dec. 7.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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