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Watch the World Die

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"We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die."
Everclear, "Santa Monica", the Trope Namer

It's The End of the World as We Know It. Civilization is officially collapsing all around us. In this kind of situation, a person has two options: They can barricade their doors, and protect their homestead, or they can take everyone they care about out of the cities, to a safe vantage point, from which to watch everything crumble into dust. This is about the people who take this second option.

Common from The '50s to the The '80s due to the fear of nuclear annihilation. See While Rome Burns, which is about not caring the world is ending, while this is watching it from a safe vantage point. Also compare Face Death with Dignity, which this is on a world scale.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • This serves as the conclusion to the anime version of Saikano when the protagonist Shuuji has to stand by and watch from the sidelines as the final war plays out in front of him even as a giant wall of water is about to annihilate what little remains.

    Comic Books 
  • Ultimate Vision: In half a billion years, Vision saw world after world dying, always incapable to stop Gah Lak Tus.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Charlie from 2012 not only Watches the World Die at the site of Yellowstone's supereruption, he narrates it on live radio so his listeners can share the experience.
  • At the end of Fight Club, the Narrator and Marla watch as all the buildings around them collapse.
    Narrator: You met me at a very strange time in my life.

  • Book of Revelation: The saints and angels in heaven (and John himself) get front-row seats for the Apocalypse.
  • At the end of Childhood's End, Jan Rodricks chooses to remain on Earth in order to provide the Overlords with a firsthand account of what happens to a world and its dominant species when its final generation joins the Overmind. He himself is gone with the rest of the Earth by the end of it.
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe short story "Mondas Passing" the two companions present during "The Tenth Planet" reunite in their own version of 1986 to passively watch the adventure from an outsider's POV.
  • In The Light Fantastic, a lot of city people evacuate to the mountains because they believe the Red Star heralds the end of the Disc. One of them, when asked, remarks that it's not because the mountains are any safer: they'll just offer a better view.
  • The short story "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke ends with the main characters standing outside a monastery, watching as God turns off the universe and the stars go out one by one. Subverted in that there's not really a safe vantage point from which to watch the end of the universe.
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has... well, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where you can experience this trope after your meal. Also mentioned is its counterpart, the Big Bang Burger Bar, where you can go to watch the universe being born.
  • The narrator of The Specialist by Gayle Rivers mentions the view from his chalet in Switzerland might be his last one on Earth because he's made a Suicide Pact with some friends that if WWIII breaks out they won't go down into one of the compulsory nuclear bunkers, but will have a drink on the balcony and watch the lake boil!
  • The Robert A. Heinlein short story "Year of the Jackpot" is about a man who studies trends and realizes that the world is about to go to Hell in a hand basket. He and a young lady decide to live off the grid, as far away from civilization as possible, to avoid the madness and wait while everyone goes to pieces. His plan fails, as the story ends with the sun dying.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", a Distant Epilogue shows a human who has Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence recording and reviewing important records from humanity's history, before flying away in an organic spaceship before Earth's sun goes nova.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The End of the World" features the natural end of the world, and the Doctor, Rose, and the Face of Boe (among others) are here to watch.
    • In "The Sound of Drums", the Tenth Doctor, Martha, her family (minus her brother) and Jack Harkness watch helplessly as the Master lays waste to the earth using the Toclafane, while Voodoo Child plays in the background.
    • Stated by the Eleventh Doctor when facing the sentient sun of Akhaten, which feeds on memories, in "The Rings of Akhaten":
      The Doctor: I've lived a long life. And I've seen a few things. I walked away from the last great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained. No time, no space. Just me! I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman! And I watched universes freeze and creation burn! I have seen things you wouldn't believe! I have lost things you will never understand! And I know things, secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken! Knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze! So come on then! Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You have it all!
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Subverted in "Our Man Bashir". Stalling for time to resolve the Holosuite/Transporter Mishap of the Week, Bashir facilitates the success of the holoprogram villain's plan, effectively destroying the virtual earth. This successfully buys time as the program didn't take this possible action into account leaving the character AIs confused.

  • The Trope Namer is "Santa Monica" by Everclear, though it's actually about committing suicide (namely, how frontman Art Alexakis attempted to jump to his death from the Santa Monica pier after his girlfriend had done the same).
  • Jethro Tull's "Dun Ringill", which is about... basically this. The entire album, Stormwatch, is one long "The End Is Nigh" sign, and this is where the narrator decides to just go and wait the end of the world out.
  • Lord Huron's "Until the Night Turns" is about learning the world is going to end when the sun comes up and deciding to stay up all night to watch it happen.
  • In Marilyn Manson's "The Last Day on Earth" the protagonist witnesses the last day of this planet:
    "I'm so empty here without you, I know they want me dead. I know it's the last day on earth, we'll be together while the planet dies, I know it's the last day on earth, we'll never say goodbye."
  • In Tenacious D's "City Hall", they talk about watching the collapse of civilization from an underground bunker.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5 has a book called Elder Evils that contains a number of world-destroying horrors useful to end a campaign
  • A few scenarios in the Exalted line, where the Exalted might lose to the looming threats to Creation, detail (excruciatingly) how everything ends.
    • In Return of the Scarlet Empress, the conclusion of the Reclamation semi-metaplot, the PCs might choose to retreat from the final battle with the Ebon Dragon. The result is a universe where psychopathic hatred forms the core of physical reality, free will exists only to be broken and things exist so that they can suffer. The PCs, being god-kings, might survive and gather enough strength to survive or even fight back. Still, the scenery around them is hopelessly bleak.
    • One possible implication of Autochthon's return to Creation is that the Great Contagion infects the inhabitants of Autochthonia, accelerating Autochthon's sickness and killing him. A milder conclusion includes him becoming an undead Omnicidal Maniac. One other includes the First and Forsaken Lion — a millennia-old, ghost-god warmonger — consuming weakened Autochthon and becoming the Onceborn. At least the Neverborn seeks to kill all things so that they come to eternal rest; the Onceborn kills billions at a time because it's fun. Again, the PCs could stop him, but tough luck.
  • The Old World of Darkness line had a battery of books about how the world Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence/concluded/ceased to exist / got destroyed.
    • A scenario for Vampire: The Masquerade included a group of vampires hiding away from God's judgment to hold vigil and repent; even though the Player Characters might not leave the church they are stuck in, the fates of vampires the world over were written with detail.
    • A scenario for Mage: The Ascension included an illustration where a Nephandus, in a form a mountain tall with burning eyes, is breathing atomic fire on cities. The PCs were welcome to survive long enough to see how the victorious Nephandi and their Malfean masters tore holes in Reality and raped it to death. Depressing as it is, the book for MtA included other scenarios where the player factions won and ended the world for a better, more comfortable age.
  • Inquisitors in Warhammer 40,000 do this whenever they declare an Exterminatus, where they destroy an entire planet that's believed to be too far gone to be worth saving, whether through alien invasion or Chaos corruption.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger's infamous It's a Wonderful Failure ending. Should your party lose to Lavos in all but one specific encounter, you get to watch the Eldritch Abomination proceed with wrecking the world ... all from the viewpoint of the Director of Truce and his two subordinates. They can do nothing but watch The Big Board as every city and nation in the world is annihilated. Once the destruction begins affecting their location, the Director orders his subordinates to the ShelterDome, but he remains behind to be crushed by falling debris.
  • In the Dark Souls III DLC The Ringed City, you can find and talk to a nameless Stone-Humped Hag who calmly overlooks the Dreg Heap, a ruined location at the end of the world made up of countless cities and kingdoms effectively compacted into an Eldritch Location full of shadowy monsters. She doesn't seem too bothered by it.
    Stone-Humped Hag: The great tide of human enterprise, all for naught. That's why I'm so taken by this grand sight. This must be what it's like to be a god.
  • One cutscene in Dawn of War II: Retribution has Gabriel Angelos narrating on the topic of Exterminatus as Inquisition ships show up to enact it on Typhon Primaris. The very next level has your characters (having been lured there by the Big Bad) enjoying the view from the surface, during the bombardment.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, if you choose to challenge Legate Lanius to a fight he will state that he will crucify you upon the walls of Hoover Dam facing west so that you may see your world die.
  • In the Interstellar Text Adventure online game, you eventually find out that the world you're on is going to be destroyed in a matter of years. You can either pull a Mann and send out a fake "all clear" signal or accept your fate and get into a pod, asking your robot to wake you up just before the end to enjoy the show. In the latter case, you are woken up and climb a mountain a few minutes before the planet a fiery wave gets to you.
  • Outer Wilds: Chert will do this at the end of each cycle once they realize the Sun is about to go supernova and that the Universe is reaching the Natural End of Time. Rather than waste time trying to escape, they'll sit still and invite you to join them.
    Chert: Oh, hello... Come, sit with me, my fellow traveler. Letís sit together and watch the stars die. Any minute now...

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Epsilon (a.k.a. Church) believes that the memory unit he's trapped in is dying, resulting in constant earthquakes that make it seem like the planet is falling apart. When the rest of the Blue Team leaves on one last adventure, he elects to stay behind with Tex to watch this simulated world's (and their own) last moments. At least, that was the idea. It turns out that the quakes were actually caused by the real Reds and Blues trying to get Epsilon out of the memory unit. Church, who had just let go of his forced-to-exist memory of Tex to spare her an apocalypse, was not amused.


    Western Animation 
  • In the Futurama episode "The Late Philip J. Fry", Fry, Bender and Prof. Farnsworth watch the universe end in their time machine. Then they watch it begin all over again. And end again. And begin again.
  • The Simpsons: On at least one occasion, the Simpson family gathers on the roof in lawn chairs watching the destruction of Springfield after yet another wacky series of adventures. Marge won't let Bart go loot with the others.