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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 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 
  • X/1999 has a lot of this among the dragons of earth.
  • This serves as the conclusion to the anime version of Saikano where 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 
  • In the 1953 version of The War of the Worlds, when it's clear nothing can stop the martians from destroying the cities, a lot of people can be seen camping out in the hills just outside Los Angeles.
  • 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.
  • Charlie from 2012 not only Watches The World End at the site of Yellowstone's supereruption, but he narrates it on live radio so his listeners can share the experience.

  • The Oblivion Society, which parodies it strangely enough.
  • The short story "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke. It 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. Also mentioned is its counterpart, the Big Bang Burger Bar, where you can go to watch the universe being born.
  • Book of Revelation: The saints and angels in heaven (and John himself) get front-row seats for the Apocalypse.
  • 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 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.
  • The Specialist by Gayle Rivers. The author 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!

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The New Series episode "The End of the World", the second episode with the Ninth Doctor, features the natural end of the world, and the Doctor, Rose, and the Face of Boe (among others) are here to watch.
    • In the 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.
    • Another Doctor Who example, 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 (not to be confused with Jimi Hendrix's song Voodoo Chile) plays in the background.
    • Stated by the Eleventh Doctor when facing the sentient sun of Akhaten, which feeds on memories:
      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!

  • 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.
  • 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 
  • White Wolf goes on to detail how their worlds end.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 
  • In the Dark Souls III The Ringed City DLC, 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."
  • 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.
  • Dawn of War 2: Retribution: One cutscene 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.
  • Outer Wilds: Chert will do this at the end of each cycle once he realizes 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 he'll sit still and invite you to join him.
    Chert: Oh, hello... Come, sit with me, my fellow traveler. Let’s sit together and watch the stars die. Any minute now...

  • The titular character in Jack did this after triggering the collapse of civilization and the extinction of the human species. See here.

    Web Original 
  • Coloring Medium: Why Death leaves the graveyard in Medium for the first time in all of his existence.

    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. Turns out 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 
  • 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.
  • In the Futurama episode "The Late Philip J. Fry", Fry, Bender and Prof. Farnsworth watch the universe end in their time machine. And then they watch it begin all over again. And end again. And begin again.

I'm alive to write about it. You want original endings? F██ you.
You're alive to proofread it.