Leave the World Behind, Sam Esmail’s latest movie has managed to stir the pot right after it was dropped on Netflix. The star-studded cast, the tension-filled build-up laced with ample social commentary, the dry humor, and most importantly, the very cheeky, ambiguous ending have made Leave the World Behind an instant genre classic. Not everyone is too happy about the movie getting this much praise, even after not really bringing anything strikingly original to the table, but the overall response has been pretty positive. If you’ve liked watching Leave the World Behind and are now in search of similar kinds of movies, then here’s a list that’s going to come in handy for you.
1. 10 Cloverfield Lane
It can actually be said that 10 Cloverfield Lane begins where Leave the World Behind ends. Yes, I am referring to the bunker here, which is where everyone wants to end up during an apocalypse. In this Dan Trachtenberg movie, Michelle, the lead character, has a random accident while having an argument with her partner on the phone that renders her unconscious. When Michelle gains consciousness, she realizes that someone has chained her up inside a dark underground bunker. A man, Howard, unchains her and explains that they can’t get out of the bunker as the world outside of it is unlivable due to poisonous air, a result of the apocalypse that has already happened (in the first Cloverfield movie, which you don’t need to watch).
Built on this intriguing premise, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a relentless anxiety-inducing film with three fantastic performances by the lead stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Michelle; John Goodman, who plays Howard; and John Gallangher Jr., who plays Emmet, a man who also shares the bunker with Howard. The entire film is about Michelle trying to find out whether Howard is telling the truth or not, which is finally revealed during the phenomenal climax. Despite coming from a franchise stable, 10 Cloverfield Lane stands very much on its own as an individually solid film.
2. A Quiet Place Part II
I considered putting the first film on the list, but the reason I opted for the sequel is because this one takes us to the first day of the apocalypse. You have already known the Abott family from the first film (you should watch this one, in case you haven’t), and you’re aware of their fate in it; it’s quite fascinating to see the family during the time things were rather normal, and with an opening sequence like that, A Quiet Place Part II automatically finds a place here. Unlike the rather ambiguous apocalypse of Leave the World Behind, A Quiet Place Part II is much more direct with the apocalypse setting and the monster villains.
John Krasinski, who directed and starred in the first film as Lee Abott, returns to direct this one as well, but he takes a backseat in the acting department by playing a very effective cameo. Emily Blunt, Noah Jupe, and Millicent Simmonds (who was particularly impressive as Lee’s deaf daughter in the first film), return to reprise their roles here, along with new cast members Cillian Murphy, who plays a survivor and a friend of Lee, and Scoot McNairy, who plays something you’re better off finding out while you’re watching the film.
3. Take Shelter
In 2011, director Jeff Nicholes made this small-scale indie film called Take Shelter, which has a man, Curtis, in the middle of it, whose seemingly normal life changes after he starts to have apocalyptic visions. Nobody believes him, but the man starts to suffer from obsession and paranoia and goes down a path where he will do anything to save his family, when or if the apocalypse comes. Take Shelter went on to become one of the most celebrated genre films of the generation, and it received widespread critical acclaim for Nichole’s direction (and writing), unique visions, including the themes of mental illness in the narrative, and the career-best performance by actor Michael Shannon, who plays Curtis. Jessica Chastain and Shia Whigham also star and ably support Shannon.
4. Love and Monsters
Yes, this is mostly a list of apocalyptic films (as it should be). But why not put some romance into it? Especially when Love and Monsters has an asteroid-induced monster apocalypse for its backdrop. Here too, people live in these bunkers all around the world in order to save themselves from these vicious monsters. Joel, our hero, got separated from his girlfriend Aimee at the time the apocalypse happened, which also killed his parents. Years later, Joel lives in a bunker where everyone except him has found romantic partners amongst themselves. When a survivor from Joel’s bunker dies at the hands of a monstrous ant, Joel decides to go on an adventure to find Aimee and get reunited with her. The rest of the film follows him through the journey, which is obviously not at all easy and filled with dangers. And it is very rewarding to watch thanks to a very engaging screenplay and Dylan O’Brien’s earnest performance as Joel. Jessica Henwick co-stars as Aimee, and Michelle Rooker stars as Clyde, who’s sort of an expert in this world.
In Alex Garland’s follow-up to his super successful debut Ex Machina, Natalie Portman plays former soldier and professor Lena, who draws attention from the authorities after her husband, Kane, suddenly returns from this strange place called The Shimmer, which is filled with strange plants and creatures and always glows (hence the name). The place has been under investigation, and a lot of scientific minds, including Lena and Kane, went to explore it in the past, but she was the only one who returned, with no memory. With the return of Kane, Lena has to go into The Shimmer to find out what it’s all about, with a new group of people. Complex in nature and filled with an unusual strangeness and a sense of ambiguity, Annihilation can be a very good watch after Leave the World Behind. The film mainly works because of Portman’s performance as well as the strong supporting cast, which includes names like Oscar Isaac (playing Lena’s husband Kane) and Tessa Thompson (playing a physicist who joins Lena when she goes back to The Shimmer).
6. The Mist
The third film of director Frank Darabont adapting literary works from the Stephen King series (the first two being The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), The Mist is an atmospheric horror with a very interesting idea. Instead of focusing on the danger here, which also happens to be terrifying monsters of Lovecraftian nature, Darabont’s film decides to focus on the people of a town, who are all forced to cohabit in a local departmental store, as the entire town gets wrapped in a strange miost, thanks to the monsters.
The Mist, despite the apocalyptic setting, mostly works as a human drama, where how these regular characters behave in extreme situations becomes the main deal. Obviously, it will remind you of the characters from Leave the World Behind, who are also forced to work together after getting stuck in an unforeseen situation. One interesting thing about The Mist was that while the theatrical version was released in color, a black-and-white version of the film also existed, which is the director’s favorite as he always intended that the audience see the film in black and white. In case The Mist works for you and you want more of it, a TV series on the same story also exists, which is as good as the film.
7. The Beach House
It’s amazing how the template of a family (most of the time a couple and their two kids or just the couple) going on a vacation in a quaint little place in the mountains or seaside town going horribly wrong has been used in so many different ways in so many genre movies, including Leave the World Behind. Of course, The Beach House is built upon a similar kind of setup. In this film, directed by debutant Jeffrey A. Brown, young couple Emily and Randall go to the beach house of Randall’s parents for some much-needed peace and quiet. However, an older couple, Jane, who’s really sick, and Mitch are also staying in the same house, which is an interesting twist, but the two soon settle it out and come to the conclusion that they can all live there as there’s plenty of room and privacy is not going to be an issue.
However, there’s danger lurking around the corner in the form of a deadly infection originating from a Lovecraftian entity. The Beach House starts off rather slow, quietly develops the story, and goes full bonkers in its final act. This is also a very familiar structure, which many horror films tend to adapt, and The Beach House does it quite wonderfully. Liana Liberto as Emily delivers a solid performance, which makes this one worth your time.
Let’s talk about the best thing here. Barbarian is a rare film that starts with a narrative, then moves on to a very different one. It starts with two main characters: a woman, Tess, who’s in Detroit for a job interview, rents a house, but then finds out that a man, Keith, has also rented the house at the same time. They soon realize that it’s clearly a mistake by the rental company, and the house they’re living in holds some dark, gruesome secrets. Just when you think you’re about to discover what’s the deal here, the narrative abruptly moves to AJ, a completely different character, and the rest of the story is told from AJ’s perspective. It is a very innovative technique that works out mostly because of the fantastic writing of Zach Cregger, who also directs the film. Georgina Campbell and Bill Skarsgard are impressive as Tess and Keith, but Justin Long’s performance as AJ is the clear standout here. There’s also an interesting twist in the tale, which mostly works out here thanks to Cregger’s confident vision.
9. Something in the Dirt
I knew I was going to put Benson and Moorhead on this list, but deciding which one to put on turned out to be quite a struggle. While I considered the duo’s debut Resolution (2012) and then its spiritual sequel The Endless (2017), in the end, the 2022 genre mash-up Something in the Dirt emerged as the most sensible choice. And the reason for that happens to be the film’s satirical tone as well as its very subtle social commentary. Both of these aspects are major highlights of Leave the World Behind, as you already know.
In Something in the Dirt, two men, Levi and his neighbor John, played by Benson and Moorhead, attempt to make a documentary about a strange, supernatural object suddenly found in Levi’s Los Angeles apartment, which may or may not be causing a lot of catastrophic events all around the world. Yes, it was an absolute ludicrous plot to begin with, but thanks to the duo’s genius writing and masterful direction, Something in the Dirt never falls off the wagon and always keeps the audience glued to their seats. It gets weirder with every passing minute, but that’s the whole point of this film, I suppose.
It is really hard to describe Nope. The third film of Jordan Peele, who’s already being (rightfully) considered an auteur of our generation, begins with a particular scene that’s bound to unsettle you. Then it moves on to a ranch, where a pair of siblings (Daniel Kaluuya and a fantastic Keke Palmer), who are horse wranglers by profession, cultivate a movement around a UFO, which suddenly appears in the sky. Just like Something in the Dirt, Peel’s Nope also hinges on an unbelievably strange premise, but the way Peele pulls the whole thing off is nothing short of astounding.
Like his two earlier films, Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), Nope also has a lot of social commentary, although this one particularly focuses on people’s obsession with grandeur. And Peele deliberately presents the whole thing on a spectacularly large scale, with awe-inspiring set pieces and fantastic action sequences. Part science-fiction horror, part western, Nope is most definitely one of the most strikingly original films of this generation and the ideal choice to cap this list.