An outdoor movie night has something to do with the open air, atmosphere, and movie enchantment. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of outdoor movie night ideas that will immerse you and your buddies in the cinematic experience.

An outdoor movie night can be as simple or as grand as you choose. It is, nevertheless, a fantastic alternative to an indoor movie night. Don’t stay cooped up inside when the nights are lovely. Bring the show outside.

Allow us to lead you through our comprehensive list of outdoor movie night ideas, from setup to closing credits. Pick the best ideas for your perfect movie night from this list, including screens, projectors, sound, seating, decor, food, movie selection, and movie night themes!

Why host a backyard movie night?

Backyard movie nights are a great way to spend a night in a variety of settings

On an ordinary weeknight evening, or to commemorate a birthday, family reunion, or the Fourth of July, you might want to host an outdoor movie night for the family.

A backyard movie night for kids is a fun activity for a birthday celebration. It’s also a terrific way to keep the kids entertained while mom and dad go out on a date night.

Here are some other occasions when an outdoor movie night can be appropriate:

  • A local block party can be made more enjoyable
  • Visitors from the family with children should be entertained.
  • Make watching your favorite TV show as a family a weekly occasion.
  • Make a family BBQ or gathering more enjoyable.

There are a plethora of ways to kick up the ante on a typical movie night. This post is jam-packed with insanely entertaining ideas to make your next outside movie night for kids an exciting and memorable event that the kids will remember for weeks. 

How to choose the best movies for an outdoor movie night

Group of children at backyard movie night

There are a few things to consider while selecting the ideal family movies for an outdoor movie night.

  1. Audience: The age of family, friends, or guests will have a significant impact on the type of film you select. While all of the films on our list are enjoyable for everyone, depending on the size of your group, some will be better than others.
  2. The duration of the film: We’ve discovered that the greatest movie to watch outside is one that is under two hours long. Anything more than that may cause guests to become agitated uneasy, or require further restroom breaks.
  3. Theme: We enjoy doing a theme around the holidays. Why not have a July 4th movie night outside since it’s summer? Try a Halloween movie night in the Fall. You may also go with an 80s theme, a slumber party, Disney, or a Back to the Future series. 

How do you plan a backyard movie night?

It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3 to organize a backyard (or inside) movie night:

  1. Collect and write down topic suggestions from your family. Also, gather some of their favorite movies to watch so that you have something to watch on a regular basis. 
  2. Make a date for a special movie night. This could be done once a week, twice a week, or once a month. Plugin the themes and movie ideas from step one, regardless of what you chose.
  3. Gather everything you’ll need for a movie night. Gather some pillows, blankets, or reclining chairs and order that projector. You’re all prepared with a movie night menu.

Make sure is everyone is ready to go if you have a large family. Even the youngest members of the family can assist with setup, cooking some delicacies, or ensuring that the movie area is clean. Let’s have a look at some of the movie night ideas for your family with this in mind.  

1. Screens

A nice screen is the foundation of a good movie image. The screen you choose will have an impact on the final image, regardless of whatever projector you use.

Obtain a loan from a friend: Check with your neighbors and friends. You might be surprised to learn that someone already has a screen that you can utilize!

Shine on a wall or a structure that already exists: Another alternative is to utilize a garage door or a wall. However, keep in mind that you will see texture and lines throughout your film. Hanging a sheet on a clothesline, wall, or fence is a simple option.

Purchase an outdoor movie screen: There are several outdoor movie screens available like an inflatable movie screen and other variety within your budget. Many outside screens have previously been reviewed for your convenience.

How to make a DIY screen with step-by-step instructions: If you don’t want to spend the money on one right now, consider making your own out of the canvas. Canvas is more durable than a sheet and does not wave in the wind as much. Better homes and garden has some directions for making your own outdoor canvas movie screen. 

2. Projector

Without a projector, having an outdoor movie night is tough. You may, of course, bring out your large screen TV, but you won’t get the same cinematic magic that a projector provides. Request a projector from a friend or the library: If you don’t already have an outdoor movie projector, don’t worry. You can usually borrow one from a friend or family member. For a nominal daily fee, some libraries may rent them out.

DIY shoebox projector: Some individuals have successfully viewed a movie using a shoebox, magnifying glass, and a smartphone as a projector. To create your own projector, follow the instructions.

Purchase a projector: If you plan on watching more than one movie outside of the season, it’s a good idea to invest in a projector. Outdoor projectors are offered in a variety of price ranges and you’ll want the best lumens on your projector. If you do your homework, you’ll be able to select one that is ideal for you. 

3. Lighting

The first thing to consider when preparing an outdoor movie is the sunset. Until the sun sets, you won’t be able to view your movie screen clearly. Inviting people to arrive at sunset is a great idea. This should give guests around 30 minutes to find food and a viewing place before the lightning is optimum for the screen.

You will also require a small amount of light during the film. Guests will be able to get up and refill food without tripping over each other.

Check out these 20+ landscape lighting ideas if you don’t have any currently. Many of these suggestions would be ideal for a movie night.

4. Sound: bring the music to your ears

Keep sound in mind when putting together your setup. Make use of your backyard’s natural acoustics to keep the sound contained and at a comfortable level for your party. There are numerous options for completing the task and providing sound for your film. Make sure to put them to the test before the big night!

  • Amplifier stereo system
  • Make sure you have a good pair of computer speakers with a bass amplifier
  • A boombox with additional inputs
  • If you’re using a projector with a built-in speaker, make sure the sound is loud enough.

You may do so if you wish to emphasize your surround sound. However, it will take much longer to set up and take down than if you choose one of the other options.

5. No bugging allowed!

With these outdoor movie night alternatives, you can avoid interruptions and bugs. Notifying your neighbors that you will be having a movie night is always a smart idea. This way, when the Star Wars theme music starts playing at 9 pm, they won’t be surprised. Better still, bring your friends and neighbor to join in the fun!

Then you won’t have to worry about them interrupting your movie night to beg you to lower the volume. Protect your guests if you’re showing a movie at a time of year when bugs are active. Citronella candles placed around the yard will provide ambient illumination while also keeping troublesome mosquitoes away.

6. Seating

movie night
Friends gathering in campsite around bonfire and watching movie with projector on van side in dark evening

After a night of movie watching, your sweet buns will thank you for providing comfortable sitting. The range of seating options that make an outdoor cinema experience magical is one of the many advantages of an outdoor movie.

Blankets: Collect a few large, soft blankets and place them in front of your television. Oversize cushions and pillows are placed on top of the blankets. If your guests become chilly, have some throws on hand.

Chairs: If you have good outdoor sitting already, take advantage of it. Simply adjust your lawn chairs to provide a suitable viewing area for the television.

DIY movie theater seats: Making your own lounging movie theater seats is another alternative for wonderful seating. Stacy @ Not Just A House Wife demonstrates how she created her own movie theater seats out of plywood and cushions,

Drive-in cars: Use “drive-in” cars to create a fun theme. Make miniature vehicles out of cardboard cartons. If you’re having a movie night with the kids, this might be a fun craft for them to do before the show. This is a particularly entertaining notion if you’re watching a car-related film. 

7. Décor

While decorations aren’t essential for a movie night, they do add to the appeal of these outdoor movie ideas. Begin with a chalkboard or marquee sign directing your guests to the movie theater. A humorous gesture of old-time movie theaters can be created by drawing a red arrow with yellow circle “lights.” 

Garlands: Go to your local party store and get some ticket rolls to make some ticket garlands. Use yellow and white balloons to make a popcorn balloon garland if you’re feeling fancy.

Use the movie as inspiration and decorate the yard, tables, and seats with things, designs, and food that correspond to the film. 

Concession stand: Place a “concessions” sign above your food table to direct moviegoers to where they can purchase excellent snacks. Don’t miss the snacks and drinks below, which can be used as both food and decoration.

8. Drinks

Without a superb selection of movie snacks and drinks, no list of outdoor movie ideas would be complete. Soda, popcorn, and Red Vines are all classic movie treats that might inspire you. 

These movie snack ideas will have your guests coming back for more.

Italian soda is a great party drink that the whole family will appreciate. Crushed ice, club soda, half-and-half, and sweetened syrups like Torani are all required. Raspberry and vanilla, cherry and lime, strawberry and coconut, and raspberry and peach are all great flavor combos.

  1. To begin, half-fill your glass with crushed ice
  2. Near the top, pour in the club soda.
  3. Then, into the glass, pour roughly 3 tbsp of Torani syrup
  4. Next, take roughly 1-2 tablespoons of half-half (optional)
  5. Whip the cream and garnish with a maraschino cherry
  6. Finally, give it a good swirl and enjoy!

Rootbeer floats are a delicious and refreshing movie dessert and drink all in one! Pour A&W root beer into each cup until the foam reaches the brim, then scoop ice cream into each cup. Add a plastic spoon and a charming paper straw. During the previews, serve on a tray to your guests!

With these outdoor movie night ideas, you can bring the movie theater soda fountain to your backyard. Turn tap water into a soda bar with a SodaStream. You can also use store-bought seltzer if you don’t have a SodaStream.

Add-ins such as berries, lemons, limes, peaches, cherries, fruit purees, cream, coconut cream, and liquids should be available next to your SodaStream. Include paper straws in a variety of colors. Like the folks at parents.com, you can make your own mixes and name them after movies. Here’s a list of our personal favorites:

  • Muppet mix: 3 cups pureed watermelon + 2 cups apple-strawberry juice 
  • Tangled Tonic: 2 cups pomegranate juice + 2 cups grape juice
  • Fantasia Fusion: 5 cups pineapple juice + ¼ cups of coconut cream
  • Strawberry Basil: Strawberry puree, basil leaves, lemon

You can also opt for a slushie machine during those hot summers.

9. Snacks

white and red plastic packs

With delectable movie snacks, you can create the ideal movie night. These goodies elevate buttered popcorn and Red Vines to new heights!

Rent, borrow or buy a popcorn machine to give your guests the impression that they are in a real movie theater in your own backyard. Make sure the popcorn machine is ready to go before your first guests arrive!

Create a one-of-a-kind experience with a popcorn bar, whether you use your popcorn machine, microwave popcorn, or a large bag of pre-popped popcorn. Paper bags or little popcorn boxes should be provided to attendees. Make sure you have scoops for each component by arranging your garnishes in short mason jars or attractive candy dishes.

Here are some suggestions for a popcorn bar:

  • M&M candies
  • Chocolate covered raisins
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Ranch powder
  • Taco seasoning
  • Cookies and cream-crushed Oreos and white chocolate chips
  • Hot cocoa mix
  • Create a seasoning

Seasoning Shakers for Popcorn: Take your popcorn bar to the next level by making your own mixes to shake into plain popcorn. Toss the popcorn with melted butter from a jar. Then prepare three different recipes for guests to use on their popcorn. A sweet, salty, and cheesy shaker seasoning is recommended. To get you started, the Food Network has a terrific assortment of recipes.

Recipes for Popcorn: If you’d rather have popcorn mixes ready for your guests, Orville has several fantastic recipes you should try!

BBQ: Instead of a few nibbles that may leave your moviegoers wanting more, why not treat them to a BBQ? To make an ideal dine-in movie, throw a couple of hot dogs and hamburger patties on the grill.

Snow Cones: A ice-cold snow cone is the epitome of a perfect summer delight. Use a snow cone machine or ice that has already been shaved. Set up a few popular snow cone varieties as well as sweetened condensed milk for a wonderful snow cone treat!

S’mores: No list of outdoor movie night ideas would be complete without taking advantage of what the indoors can’t offer! While your friends are waiting for the feature film to start, use your outside fire pit to grill some S’mores.

Candy Bar: If you don’t want to cook, this is an excellent and simple option. Make a candy bar with your favorite movie night treats. To collect movie night candies, have cups or bags and scoops on hand. Fill large transparent jars with candy. Each individual can make a candy bag to enjoy while watching the movie. Swedish Fish, peanut M&Ms, sour watermelons, gummy bears, red vines, and little chocolate bars are some candy possibilities.

10. Pre-show activities to entertain restless guests

It’s always a good idea to give your guests, especially children, something to do while they wait for the movies o start.

Preview reels: Having a preview reel is a wonderful way to ensure that your sound and picture are in good working order. Hopefully, it will stop people from asking, “When is the movie going to start?” over and over again. Previews can be as simple as the pre-show found on many DVDs/Blu-Rays or as simple as a YouTube running reel of an aquarium.

Activities: Provide a selection of lawn games for guests to enjoy while they wait for the entertainment to begin. Check out these backyard games if you don’t already have any.

11. Movie choice

A good movie selection may make or break your movie night. When selecting a film for an outdoor movie night, there are a few things to bear in mind. Consider your target audience first. A film intended for families and children. However, whether you’re presenting your film to just adults or the whole family, it should be family-friendly.

Keep the nastiness, profanity, and gore for your indoor movie nights. When next-door children may see or hear anything they shouldn’t hear, it’s not acceptable to broadcast improper movies. 

Don’t be discouraged; there are plenty of excellent film choices. Consider classics, foreign films, children’s films, and family films that are both appropriate and engaging for your audience. This list is likely to have something for you:

Top family movies

  • The Lion King (2019)
  • Hocus Pocus (1993)
  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Aladdin (2019)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
  • Jungle Cruise (2020)
  • Coco (2017)
  • The Goonies (1985)
  • Frozen (2013)
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • Sky High (2005)
  • The Karate Kid (1984)
  • Cinderella (2015)
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)
  • The Parent Trap (1998)
  • The Karate Kid (2010)
  • Moana (2016)
  • Home Alone (1990)
  • The Princess Bride (1987)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  • Monsters Inc. (2001)

Classic Movies

  • Frankenstein (1934)
  • Roman Holiday (1953)
  • It’s A Wonderful Life (1964)
  • King Kong (1933)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • The Gold Rush (1925)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • Gone With the Wind (1939)
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
  • Anne of Green Gables (1985)

Musicals

  • The Sound of Music (1965)
  • Hairspray (2007)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  • My Fair Lady (1964)
  • West Side Story (1961)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017)
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The Muppets (2011)
  • Enchanted (2007)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Mary Poppins (1964)

12. Out of the box movie night ideas

Why not make your outdoor movie night even more amazing with one of these unique outdoor movie night ideas?

Splash-in Movie Night: Instead of the usual blankets and lawn chairs, treat yourself to a splash-in movie. Organize a movie night by the pool! Provide floats or have people bring their own floats to watch the movie on. Play a film that includes a pool or a water scene! As a dessert, serve root beer floats!

Choose a movie to watch, then arrange the seating, decor, and food around it. By combining all of your ideas with what’s on the big screen, you can create a truly immersive experience! Simply choose a film from the lists above to get started!

Home movies with the family: Bring the whole family together and make them feel like movie stars. On the huge screen, show your own family movies!

Oscars night: Have your friends and family make their own films to premiere on your special movie premiere night! Provide Oscars for the best films in specific categories!

Drive-in: Have you ever visited an old-fashioned drive-in theater? Why don’t you make your own? Backup trucks to your movie screen if your property permits it. For added comfort, place cushions and blankets in the back. Is there no room for actual automobiles? Create a drive-in atmosphere by making miniature cars out of cardboard boxes. Watch a vehicle movie or one from the 1950s, when drive-in theaters were popular. Serve nostalgic candies, Coke, and popcorn.

13. Family movie night picker

Are you stumped on a movie to see on your next movie night?

This movie-night picker will assist you in making your decision. 

You’ll begin by making a list of eight movies on the free printable. Fold it according to the instructions, and you’re ready to let fate pick which movie you’ll watch.

14. Printable family movie night tickets

What are the prerequisites for seeing a film? Of course, a ticket! These free, printable tickets will get you into a family movie night, as well as an invitation to munch all the popcorn you want. 

15. Create a red carpet entrance

red carpet and golden barrier 3d rendering image

With this red carpet entry, you can give your visitors the VIP attention they deserve. Simply make a sign and rent or buy a red carpet. It will make each and every one of your guests feel special.

Things to consider when choosing movies for family movie night

When choosing films for an indoor or outdoor movie night, there are a few factors to keep in mind. When selecting films for an enjoyable family movie night, keep the following in mind: 

1. Try a series

You may try a series, such as one Star Wars film per year. So, if your family enjoys something similar, you can do it every year and work your way through a series of movies. It’s an excellent way to stay on top of things.

2. Think seasonally

It is fun to think seasonally too. People in the United States frequently have movie evenings in the late summer or early fall when the weather is a little cooler.

As a result, you should strive to include at least one Halloween-themed film in your selection. At least one Pixar or Disney film should be included in every season of your family movie night. 

3. Showcase diversity 

A few years ago, diversity was not a factor in our decision. However, once you know better, you must strive to improve.

That’s why you should make sure you’re exhibiting diversity in a variety of ways, whether it’s through:

  • Films from different countries
  • Education-based stories
  • Colored actors and directors

4. Know your crowd

First and foremost, you must choose who this movie night is for and who will be watching the film. The majority of people’s lives are currently occupied by little children and toddlers. As a result, you should constantly seek films that will appeal to individuals of all ages, including children, adults, and those in between. 

5. Duration of the movie

Make every effort to keep any film you choose under two hours in length. It is a proven truth that the sweet spot is between an hour and a half and an hour and 45 minutes. 

If the movie is longer than two hours, you should:

  • The throng will start to thin out
  • It will become cold or unpleasant
  • The children will begin to slumber

When choosing movies, the most crucial factor to consider is whether or not they are appropriate for children’s hearing. The film should not contain any serious violence or vulgarity.

6. Consider the ages of kids

You should choose films that everyone in your family can understand and enjoy. Choose two movies for each movie night if there have children of varying ages. 

You can start by seeing the more childish film with your entire family. During the intermission, you can put your younger children to bed and then watch the other film with the older ones. 

7. Select a theme for the month

Choose a theme for the family movie nights for that month at the beginning of each month. For example, for your family movie night in October, you may watch ghost flicks. In December, you can watch Christmas classics. Romantic comedies are ideal for a family movie night in February.

Conclusion

You’ll be ready for the perfect movie party with these outdoor movie ideas! A screen, a projector, sound, seating, snacks, and a fascinating movie are all part of an outdoor movie night. We’ve provided suggestions for a night of cinematic pleasure in the open air of your own backyard.

You’ll never want to go back to the conventional movie theater after seeing this top list of outdoor movie night options! Your guests will be revealed in the cinematic enchantment of your outdoor home theater from start to finish. So, what exactly are you waiting for? Take a walk outside, make some popcorn, and watch the show!