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Leonardo DiCaprio Weighs In On Netflix’s Wild Don’t Look Up Ending, And Why It Needed To Play Out The Way It Did

Leonardo DiCaprio in Don't Look Up
(Image credit: Netflix)

A lot has been said about Don’t Look Up since it hit Netflix late last year. While some enjoyed it, others felt the film's execution wasn't worthy of its A-list cast. Even though the movie itself has been divisive, its shocking ending sequence still left many of us who watched it with a lot of feelings (and an existential crisis or two). One of the film’s stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, knows its wild final moments are unforgettable – and he has shared why he thinks the movie had to end that way. 

Don’t Look Up follows two astronomers, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) on their frantic mission to notify the world that a massive asteroid is heading straight for Earth. While the movie is decisively a darkly comedic satire, the ending is more dark than it is funny. The asteroid hits its target, triggering earthquakes, tsunamis, fireballs raining from the sky, and, obviously, mass extinction. 

Many apocalypse-themed films, especially those starring A-listers like the ones in this cast, tend to end with a heroic eleventh hour rescue. The fact that this feature did not has been somewhat controversial. But the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star told The Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie that he stands by the ending: 

I think it was incredibly emotional. And had this movie had a different ending, it wouldn’t be the story that it is. We’re not going to give that away, but it needed to have this ending. It’s a wakeup call. It’s an alarm clock. If it didn’t have that ending there’s no way we were going to be a part of it.

Don’t Look Up has seen a less-than-favorable reception from critics, many of whom found writer-director Adam McKay’s scathing satirical rebuke of modern media to be too on the nose. However, CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell noted in his review that the film’s final moments, which include a surprisingly sentimental scene featuring Leonardo DiCaprio’s character and his friends and family, was indeed impactful. Witnessing the end of the world, even in fictional form, is pretty hard to forget. 

Given the fact that the ending resonated even with those who didn’t enjoy the movie overall, the actor has grounds to defend it. Beyond the narrative rationale, he also has a personal reason for believing so strongly in the message his latest feature sends. 

Adam McKay has said it is an allegory for the world’s sluggish response to climate change, an aspect that's received praise from people like Seth MacFarlane. Also, Leonardo DiCaprio has used his platform as a global star to raise awareness about the climate crisis for years. But while he has contributed to several documentaries, this is the first fictional film he’s made that deals directly with the topic. And given his passion for the topic and his efforts to convince the world to take climate change seriously, it probably won’t be his last.