The new apocalyptic movie Leave the World Behind was released on Netflix in early December, and people were quick to reference some Easter eggs and come up with conspiracies. Why conspiracies? Well, Barack and Michelle Obama participated as executive producers, rubbing people the wrong way because of the movie’s political undertones. Let’s take a deep dive into what surprised us and what types of conspiracies have surfaced since the release of the movie.
Leave the World Behind Easter Eggs
WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD!
The movie is based on a book by American author Rumaan Alam and was co-written with Sam Esmail, the mastermind behind Mr. Robot and Homecoming. Esmail is known for Easter eggs and the complexity of his scenarios, so fans were quick to analyze the movie, almost frame by frame. I am also guilty of launching the movie once again and skipping frames 10 seconds at a time to find anything interesting. It was almost like a treasure hunt! And I am glad I did, as the more I dug, the more I found.
The first thing you may notice is the number of paintings on the walls that change as the days do and as the characters’ emotions charge with intensity. All of them are very easy to miss, as they look very similar from day one, but once you go back and notice, it’s almost impossible to miss! In the following screenshots, I will be leaving the time bar visible for people to scroll through the movie if they want.
Curator Racquel Chevremont told Netflix, “We didn’t want something that was going to be obvious. We needed something that could evoke an emotional response without people understanding why the scene seems a little different.”
The Bedroom Painting
The bedroom painting changes over time with the characters’ incertitude of the situation, and the waves grow bigger as the days go by. It seems to simulate Amanda and Clay drowning underwater as the days progress.
The first night spent in the master bedroom, the mural behind the bed depicts waters that are calm, but as the days go by, the waters become agitated, as all characters do in the movie.
On day 3, Archie, played by Charlie Evans, wakes up and starts losing his teeth—a side effect of the noise attacks, which could potentially be directed microwave radiation. The waters are extremely agitated on the wall in this scene.
It might be important or nothing at all, but their original bedroom wall was nothing but blue. No waves, no water, but instead a cold, boring, plain blue wall—something that might be interpreted as the daily routine of the population on a general scale—going day by day, drowned in our boring routines. The only indication of something to come is a crack in the wall.
The Living Room Painting
When the family arrives at the house, the loving room painting resembles sound waves—perhaps an ominous sign of things to come. But as the days go by, the painting changes into something more and more indistinguishable.
After some research, I found that Brainpilot on Youtube talked about how the symbolism behind this painting could be that we started with four people in the house on day 1, and that since there are four curves on the painting, two tall and two smaller ones, this could depict the two parents and their two children. Personally, my original thought was that those were sound waves, as you would see when editing audio files.
The Paintings and Photographs
According to Netflix’s blog, Tudum, the swing carousel photograph in the foyer subtly alludes to Esmail’s popular TV series, Mr. Robot, by depicting a carousel swing located at Coney Island, the same area where the iconic fsociety group convened.
But here’s the cool part: the person who took that photograph, Ming Smith, made history as the first African-American woman to have her work scooped up by the Museum of Modern Art. And get this, all the art hanging around G.H.’s place? It’s crafted by artists of color. According to Netflix, they’re sneakily shouting out the owners’ identities even before you step through the front door!
Hope Beings in the Dark Painting
One painting in particular that also grabs your attention is the one in the Thornes’ house that reads “Hope begins in the dark.” Esmail explains that this hints at some glimpses of light in the darkness. “There’s a painting that’s hung up on the end of the hallway before Rose goes down into the basement that says ‘Hope begins in the dark.’ I think as much as this film is a cautionary tale and it’s meant to be a warning, it’s not meant to give us an answer as to what to do next — but it is meant to say, ‘As dark as it could get, as bleak as it can get, we can always strive to find some hope.’ ”
This painting is a Gogh piece, that he continued while he was in the hospital. The words on it are not part of the original.
The Van Gogh Museum website describes the painting as follows: “This painting of Paul Gauguin’s chair is a ‘portrait’ of Van Gogh’s friend and fellow artist. The modern novels and burning candle on the green seat cushion symbolize the character of the absent painter.”
The Foyer Paintings
On Architechtural Digest website, they show the eye painting and other artworks, commenting “A section of Barthélémy Toguo’s Talking to the Moon stares the Sandfords down in the entryway upon their initial encounter with the Scotts, during which Amanda is painfully hesitant to allow them past the threshold. “It’s like they’re being watched and judged,” set decorator David Schlesinger says. “That’s the audience, basically, watching them.” While the bright eyes of the Toguo painting command some attention, the house’s other artwork plays subtler roles.”
The Newspaper Rock Canvas
In the movie, there is a canvas on the wall in the bunker depicting Newspaper Rock; a Utah state monument showcasing a rock panel engraved with one of the most extensive collections of petroglyphs (rock carvings) ever discovered.
Situated along the commonly used access road into the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park, just 12 miles (19 km) from US 191 and 30 miles (48 km) from the park boundary, this 200-square-foot (19 m2) rock is embedded in the vertical Wingate sandstone cliffs that surround the upper section of Indian Creek Canyon. Adorned with hundreds of petroglyphs, it boasts one of the most extensive, well-preserved, and easily reachable collections in the Southwest. The petroglyphs showcase a diverse array of human, animal, material, and abstract forms.
According to Wikipedia, numerous petroglyphs on the site seem to illustrate polydactyly, a condition characterized by having an extra toe or finger. In various Puebloan locations, the discovery of burial remains featuring bifid metatarsals near petroglyphs depicting polydactyly implies a factual representation of this physical abnormality in the artwork.
If we want to dig deeper into it, this piece could represent a return to primitive living with a dash of physical abnormality caused by microwaves and possible nuclear attacks in the future. The uncertainty of what is to come after the movie ends can cause us to come up with many scenarios but with the help of such depictions as the Newspaper Rock canvas, we can come up to our own conclusions.
The Bunker’s Entrance Painting
The bunker’s entrance painting depicts a dog and a parrot. After looking it up, this painting seems to be the French Victorian Dogs and Parrot Oil Painting, an early 20th-century piece. Newel.com describes the painting as follows: “Period in English furniture during the reign of Queen Victoria 1837-1901. Consists of a resurrection of many previous periods and revival imitations including: Gothic, Tudor, Elizabethan, Rococo, and Neoclassic styles. This period had a focus on dark woods, heavy fabrics, embellishment, engagement with newly developed imitation materials that were facilitated by the Industrial Revolution, and a tendency towards eclecticism.”
This piece tells us the story of the revival of many periods. As is suggested in any post-apocalyptic scenario, society will have to rebuild. In some instances, technology will also have to be rediscovered or repaired. This canvas foretells what is to come.
The Basement Frame: The United States of Attica, 1972
“The United States of Attica” stands out as Faith Ringgold’s most widely circulated poster during the 1970s. Dedicated to the men who lost their lives in 1971 at Attica prison while protesting the dismal conditions they endured as inmates, this red, black, and green poster features a map of the United States. It highlights Indigenous, slave, and immigrant uprisings, along with the dates and details of violent incidents that transpired within each state since the late 1700s. The depicted acts of violence include instances of racism, witch-hunts, assassinations, lynchings, and other oppressive actions against Indigenous and people of color in the United States.
The website also states the following: ” It also includes military imperialist violence committed by the United States abroad, for instance in Japan and Vietnam. Countless injustices and atrocities written in small handwriting fill the map entirely, and its surrounding periphery. A laconic invitation to add further acts of violence emphasizes historical continuity and ceaselessness of violence as a defining characteristic of the development of the United States of America.”
This piece certainly represents the new wars to come in the movie—mostly civil wars. For good or bad, it’s up to our interpretation.
The Thanksgiving Poster
When Rose eats at the Thornes’ house, there is a poster of a family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner behind her. Unfortunately, I was unable to trace this picture back, even with an image reverse look-up. What we can probably conclude is that this is meant as a symbol for people to gather and share shelter in this very home.
The Smiling Orange
Now, this may be my eyes playing tricks on me, but does it look like this orange is smiling at you? Kind of eerie, isn’t it? Do you think it’s just shadow and lighting effect tricking us into believing it’s a smiley face? Or could it be a nod at the Emoji scene from Mr. Robot?
The Mr. Robot Easter Eggs
Sam Esmail, writer and director of Leave the World Behind, is also the genius behind the TV Series Mr. Robot. This TV series was a hit with many, rating a solid 8.5/10 on IMDB, and 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s no surprise that Esmail then took a few nods at the series in the new Netflix movie. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The E-Corp Logo
The E-Corp logo makes an appearance on two occasions in the movie. E-Corp, dubbed Evil Corp by Elliot, the protagonist in Mr. Robot, in a derogatory manner, stands as one of the world’s largest multinational conglomerates. Their diverse portfolio includes the manufacturing of computers, phones, and tablets, along with the operation of a banking and consumer credit division. As per Mr. Robot, the company holds a staggering 70% share of the global consumer credit industry, making it a prime target for fsociety.
In Leave the World Behind, you’ll first see the logo on yellow barrels in the back of Danny’s truck.
The logo makes a second appearance on Amanda’s Laptop.
The Hackers and Powerplant Conversation
A dialogue that revolves around hackers penetrating a power plant and nearly triggering a meltdown serves as a clear homage to Mr. Robot. This scenario echoes the central themes of the series, where hacking and cybersecurity threats play a pivotal role. The conversation in the movie is probably a subtle reference to the exploits orchestrated by the show’s main character, Elliot Alderson, and his group, fsociety.
Beach Towel Novel by Otto Irving
The incorporation of the novel Beach Towel, written by Otto Irving, a character from Mr. Robot, is also a nod to the series. It functions as both a reference point and a link connecting the two narratives. Its presence suggests a shared cultural and literary history, contributing to the depth and intricacy of both storylines. In Mr. Robot, the novel is written toward the end of the series, where we see Irving selling and signing copies.
There’s a cameo in the movie by director Sam Esmail, too! Unconfirmed on IMDB, however, the dead pilot on the beach looks a lot like Esmail and… oh what’s that on the name tag? CAPT. ESMAIL? Hah! Hilarious!
SYMBOLISM, NUMEROLOGY, AND CONSPIRACIES
Alright. Here we are. The juicy conspiracy theories, the numbers, and the symbolism that certain scenes and objects are creating online. Let’s take a look at them, and, for the love of everything good, please take everything with a grain of salt, because some Redditors might have gone too far down the rabbit hole with some of them! Here we go!
The Obamas Theory
Michelle and Barack Obama were executive producers in this movie. Or so the credits say. In an article on Vanityfair, it is said that Rumaan Alam’s novel found its way onto President Obama’s summer reading list in 2021, and he later shared his thoughts on the screenplay with Esmail. Essentially, the filmmaker gained insights from one of the world’s most experienced authorities on crisis management! How incredible this must have been.
“In the original drafts of the script, I definitely pushed things a lot farther than they were in the film, and President Obama, having the experience he does have, was able to ground me a little bit on how things might unfold in reality,” Esmail said to Vanity Fair. “He (President Obama) had a lot of notes about the characters and the empathy we would have for them. I have to say he is a big movie lover, and he wasn’t just giving notes about things that were from his background. He was giving notes as a fan of the book, and he wanted to see a really good film.”
While the Obamas were able to give Esmail some direction on the script, others are saying that, in reality, it’s the former president’s way of warning us all.
Redditor Evening_Memory1721 commented about a Nasa and Obey conspiracy that would link the Obamas. “All of your comments in reply to uh, your own thread, deserve a response. The “OBEY” poster was made by Shepard Fairey who did the original “HOPE” poster, and the NASA logo is in there because NASA tshirts sell well at normal places to buy tshirts, and also NASA and spade stuff is cool. What these two logos together suggest is that Obama respects where he came from, and agrees that together we can do great things. Basic Democratic policies there.
But the deeper question of why support this movie is also important. In this movie, people learn to trust and rely on each other amidst the chaos of a foreign invasion. I thought it was notable that, rather than turn on each other and kill each other, the characters interrogated and challenged one another while ultimately realizing they needed to get along to survive. I think that’s a core American value: Even when we disagree, even when there’s a crisis, we can figure out a way to cooperate.
I think the Obamas produced this movie because it’s a pretty good movie and it aligns with their values.”
Others were quick to draw their own conclusions.
@KeSpeaksLife on X also said “The movie ‘Leave the World Behind’ is definitely a message to what’s happening and what’s to come. It’s very much in line with what we’ve been saying for years: Stock up on none perishables and water. Also, the fact that the Obamas are exec prod’ers is making my dog ears go up ”
Esmail spoke to Collider about the conspiracies and said “Of course, I’ve seen it online (the conspiracies). I think the silly thing about the whole thing is President Obama really came on a couple of months before we started shooting, so the script had basically been written and done. He obviously gave notes on the script, but the bones of the story and the sequences were already written. I would just say they’re pretty wrong in terms of his signaling. It had nothing to do with that.”
The Tanker at the beginning of the movie is called White Lion. There are many guesses as to what this means, but the most plausible one I’ve found is about The White Lion, an English privateer who brought the first Africans to the English colony of Virginia in 1619. Even though the African captives were initially sold as indentured servants, this event is recognized as the beginning of African slavery in the colonial history of the United States.
The tanker boat uncontrollably comes crashing on the shore, making this a powerful symbol and acknowledgment of many African lives and dreams that were shattered in 1619.
1619 is also the radio station that was able to catch a signal in Clay’s car.
The horseshoe over Danny’s door can be interpreted as good luck. According to Wikipedia, there’s a difference of opinion on the proper orientation for nailing a horseshoe. Some argue that the ends should point upward to trap the luck, and having them point downward risks letting the good fortune escape. On the flip side, some believe the ends should point downward, allowing luck to shower upon those entering the home.
In Danny’s case, he’s keeping the luck all to himself, which rings true to some extent in the movie.
Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell
The novel Blink appears in a scene at the beginning of the movie, and I was curious to see if it had any meaning. The book summary reads “We usually think of snap judgments as lazy, superficial, and probably wrong. But are they really? In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell argues that snap judgments can be just as good as—or even better than—the decisions that we make when we analyze a situation carefully. Blink delves into how and why we make the gut decisions we do when it’s unsafe to trust our guts, and what we can do to make all our snap judgments smarter, less biased, and more efficient.”
Which will become a huge part of every character’s life in the movie, as we have witnessed the whole time. Decisions need to be made on the spot – there is no rational thinking for a long time. At least very little of it.
The movie is full of recurring numbers, and our curiosity about numerology over the centuries is nothing new. From the supernatural link between numbers to the actual numerical value, there is much to be said about the numbers in the movie. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The Number Three
In most numerology beliefs, symbolically, 3 embodies the outcome of two united forces, representing the essence of creation. The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras proposed a profound significance behind numbers, viewing them as carriers of deep meaning. According to Pythagorean philosophy, the number 3 held a special status as the perfect number, symbolizing harmony, wisdom, and understanding. Additionally, it was regarded as the number of time, representing past, present, and future; birth, life, and death; as well as beginning, middle, and end. In essence, the number 3 was considered a divine and all-encompassing symbol in the eyes of these ancient thinkers.
If you are a believer in the Angel Numbers, the number three also bears significance as it is linked to communication, a phase of growth, aligning actions with belief systems, and seeking harmony. The messages associated with this number can permeate various aspects of life, spanning careers, social interactions, romantic relationships, twin flame connections, and spiritual development.
Or new beginnings. Like what is to come in Leave the World Behind.
The number three isn’t shown explicitly, but I have found that a lot of objects came in threes. Let’s take a look at some screenshots.
Which Elon Musk commented on… for all the wrong reasons…
…because he missed the point.
And so much more. have you caught another place where the number three would be seen in items?
The Number 6
Known mostly for its negative meaning, the number six can be seen in many instances. Some even thought it was meant as an evil sign for the devil. Some thought that it was the case at the beginning of the movie when in the bedroom scene there is a 6 on the mug, the big hand is pointing to the 6 on the clock, and the analog clock shows it’s time, but only partially, revealing the number 6. Resulting in 666.
Redditor C0C0nut_slut even went a bit further in this conspiracy.
Both cars in the movie have windshield stickers indicating 12 22.
According to some numerology, 1222 is a divine message that predicts that a new phase is coming in the coming days. According to Angel Numbers, the 1222 angel number meaning is related to fresh starts.
The QR Code
Last but not least, the famous QR code caught in the map on the screen.
While difficult to scan, the QR code links to a tangible location known as the Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park in Mercer County, West Virginia. According to the website’s description, there is a notable “unnatural” quality about the park’s setting, and it is promoted as “one of the world’s most haunted places.”
The amusement park, constructed over grounds that witnessed numerous violent deaths and burials, now serves as a marketing feature for the attraction. This could be interpreted as a nod to a particular ending, illustrating how society often overlooks grim realities in favor of amusement and distraction.
As of now, director Sam Esmail has not explained choosing this specific link for the QR code.
The Mercer County was surprised about this QR code, and welcomed the attention, despite not having to do with the movie at all.
Have you noticed anything else about the movie that made you question everything? Or perhaps a symbol or number that was missed? Let us know!