If you’re looking for a movie where everyone works together to save the world from an impending apocalypse and saves the day, Don’t Look Up might not be for you. Warning: major spoilers for Don’t Look Up follow.
Adam McKay’s pitch-black comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, and a slew of other celebrities centers on a comet that’s on threatening to annihilate Earth’s entire population — an allegory for today’s very real climate crisis. While scientists do their best to warn the public and avoid catastrophe, the media and the government deflect.
By the time the credits roll, the world does end and (mostly) everyone dies — at least the ones who couldn’t afford to flee the planet. In a recent interview with Los Angeles Times, McKay elaborated on the not-so-optimistic final scene. “We’ve seen hundreds of movies where the world is about to end, whether it’s Marvel movies or James Bond or the ’70s disaster movies, and it always works out,” McKay said. “I think it’s not crazy to say that maybe that’s part of the reason we’re not taking the collapse of the livable atmosphere seriously … For people to see a movie that ends where people don’t work to get the happy ending — hopefully some people will have a reaction to that.”
Below, an overview of Don’t Look Up’s nihilistic ending, as well as the two post-credits scenes that continue the story.
Don’t Look Up ends on a somber, yet realistic note.
Prior to the comet’s impact, the world’s elite (i.e. billionaires) and political leaders preserve themselves in cryo-chambers on a sleeper spacecraft that will search for a planetary alternative to Earth. U.S. President Janie Orlean (Streep) offers Dr. Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) a spot, which he declines.
Instead, Mindy spends his final moments at the dinner table with his family, his colleagues Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) and Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), and Yule (played by Timothée Chalamet), a young delinquent who they befriend along the way. The group engages in meaningless small-talk, intentionally ignoring the destruction that surrounds them as the comet strikes and the dining room begins to deteriorate.
Afterwards, Earthly debris is shown floating throughout space, signaling to the audience that the planet has been thoroughly destroyed.
The first post-film scene comes midway through the credits.
So what happens to the spaceship and its cryo-frozen population? Viewers find out halfway through the credits.
The action jumps to (exactly) 22,740 years in the future. Earth’s former elite, including fictional tech billionaire Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), have finally landed on an oxygenated planet, which is lush with greenery and filled with ostrich-like alien creatures called Bronterocs.
As the surviving humans descend onto the new planet, they seem hopeful. That is, until one of the Bronterocs attacks President Orlean’s face and begins eating her. The scene ends with Isherwell warning the other survivors: “Whatever you do, don’t pet them!”
In the second scene, viewers learn of Jason Orlean’s fate.
Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill), White House Chief of Staff and son of President Orlean, is accidentally left behind on Earth as his mother and the other leaders fly away into space. It seems like he’s doomed to perish with his fellow humans.
However, the second post-credits scene reveals that Jason survived the comet’s impact. After emerging from the rubble, he finds himself on a post-apocalyptic Earth. He yells for his mom, Birkin bag still on his arm, before pulling out his cellphone and live-streaming his current whereabouts — to whom, one can only guess.
“What’s up, y’all? I’m the last man on Earth. Sh*t’s all f*cked up,” he says while recording himself. “Don’t forget to like and subscribe.”