How to Have an Awesome Outdoor Family Movie Night

Outdoor Movie Night at Home? Here’s How to Make It Amazing!

Getting your family together for an outdoor movie night is a great way to make a fun summer memory!

In this article you’ll find:

  • our most important tips for making your family outdoor movie night successful
  • a great list of outdoor movies to watch together
  • reasons why an outdoor movie night is a good idea
  • and our ideas for adding that special touch to make the whole event memorable!

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Before we get into the specifics of your outdoor family movie night, here are a few super-important tips that you’ll definitely want to check out first!

Can’t-Miss Tips for Outdoor Movie Watching

1. Make it comfortable

Being comfortable while watching a movie outdoors is probably the most important thing to think about.

If your kids are young, they might love to spread a big blanket on the ground and lay down with their sleeping bags or big fluffy pillows to watch the movie.

Tweens and teens might appreciate having some outdoor lounge chairs or furniture to relax on while they watch. Additionally, you could put down a big tarp or blanket and bring out some of your indoor furniture, such as beanbag chairs.

As long as everyone has a space to stretch out and see the screen, you’ll be all set!

Keep reading to check out more recommendations for how to set up your backyard for comfortable outdoor movie-watching!

outdoor movie

2. Have a plan for bug control

You’ll probably need to have a lot of bug spray on hand to keep mosquitoes and other pests away during the show.

Additionally, think about setting up citronella candles around the perimeter of the movie-viewing area.

There are also some great plants that help repel mosquitos, such as lemongrass, marigolds, lavender, rosemary, catmint, and basil. If you have some potted in your backyard, pull them over to your movie-watching area!

outdoor movie night

3. Consider environmental noises

Before you decide to host an outdoor movie night, think about the outdoor noises that surround your backyard.

Do you get a lot of car noise from a nearby street? Or have really active birds? If so, you’ll need to be sure that your family will be able to hear the audio soundtrack of the movie above those noises.

It’s likely that you’ll need a wireless speaker or two to make sure the audio track can be easily heard.

4. Accommodate for the weather

Depending on the weather, you may need to consider what you can do to keep your family comfortable.

If it’s really hot, you’ll want to bring out some extra fans to help everyone stay cool and have lots of extra cold drinks on hand.

You may even consider borrowing or buying a simple snow-cone machine too!

If the weather is chilly, bring out extra blankets, heaters, and bundle up or light a fire.

And don’t forget: hot chocolate is a must!

Related post: The Ultimate Summer Bucket List for Tweens and Teens

5. Start the movie about 20 minutes after sunset

For an outdoor movie, it’s really important that you start the movie AFTER sunset.

You can always let everyone get their snacks and start getting settled while it’s still dusk, but don’t plan on starting the movie until at least 20-30 minutes after sunset.

outdoor movie viewing

6. Use a projector

A simple movie projector and screen is the easiest way to set up your outdoor movie.

As mentioned in our other article about having an awesome indoor movie theater at home, we’ve really enjoyed this movie projector from Amazon that comes with an included screen! It’s easy to set up and has a great picture.

(If you don’t have a screen, you could always use a white bedsheet too!) 

7. Choose a shorter movie

While there are some epic films that would be awesome to watch outside (Castaway and Avatar come to mind), you’ll likely want to pick a movie that is less than 2 hours.

No matter how cozy the space is, a two-hour movie seems to be the limit for outdoor movie watching at our house!

(We’ve got a great list of the best movies to watch for an outdoor family night towards the end of this article, so keep reading to check that out!)

How to set up the space for your outdoor movie night

To make your backyard feel as comfortable as possible, think about what you could do to create a comfortable movie-watching space.

Start by choosing a large, flat surface where you could set up an outdoor screen. This could be on the side of your house or along a large wooden fence. 

Or you could also string a screen up between two large trees in the backyard if you have some that would work! (Be sure that there are no large tree branches hanging down that would block the view though.)

screen between two trees

For seating, you could lay out a big blanket with tons of big pillows or sleeping bags on top. 

Or, you can set up rows of camp chairs, deck chairs, or picnic benches in front of the screen too. Don’t be afraid to haul your outdoor furniture off of the porch and into the yard.

Related article: 6 Awesomely Fun Summer Scavenger Hunts for Kids

Outdoor movie and a swim

If you have a pool, you could also host an outdoor movie and swim night! 

Make sure that you set up the screen where it can easily be seen from the pool. 

Then let your kids and guests lounge around on your comfiest pool floats as they take in a fun summertime movie in the water! 

Be sure to have some seating outside of the pool too because it’s likely your kids will want a break from the water after a while.

(One more thing: it’s up to you whether you allow food and drinks in your pool, so be sure to come to a decision on that before you begin your swimming and movie party!)

Best outdoor movies to watch as a family

We’ve got three different lists to help you narrow down your outdoor movie pick!

You’ll find:

  • Animated movies to watch outside
  • Throwback outdoor movies for kids
  • Outdoor movie ideas for older kids and teens

We recognize that every family is different when it comes to movie standards. So please remember that these are only our recommendations.

To easily vet any movie on our list for your family viewing, check out Common Sense Media or Kids In Mind for more in-depth reviews on any of these outdoor movie ideas!

Awesome animated movies to watch outside

Throwback Movies for an Outdoor Family Movie Night

Great Movies to Watch Outdoors with Older Kids

Benefits of a family movie night at home

There are so many reasons to try an outdoor movie night at home with your kids! Here are just a few we came up with:

You’ll save some money while having fun!

Taking a family to the theater these days is no joke! In 2020, the average price for a movie theater ticket was $9.37 – that’s a 65% increase in price since the year 2000!

When you add tickets that include 3D effects, movie theater popcorn, candy, and drinks, the cost definitely goes up fast!

If you choose to rent or buy a new movie to stream at home, it’s highly likely you’ll be spending less than the cost of three tickets to the theater. And supplying your own fun snacks, popcorn, and drinks will save you more too!

Related article: The Best Summer Bucket List for Kids and Families

You’ll be more comfortable

Many theaters have invested in more comfortable seating, like heated recliners and moveable armrests.

But even still, nothing beats curling up with your kids under the stars, with your favorite fluffy blankets and pillows scattered all around.

You choose the time of the movie

If you have little kids, you know that sometimes the showtimes that movie theaters offer aren’t super convenient.

When you have your own family movie night at home, you can cater the time to work best for your kids’ bedtimes too!

You don’t have to worry about movie trailers

Have you ever taken your kids to see a family-friendly movie at the theater and felt embarrassed or concerned about the previews that were shown prior to the film?

Yes, so have we!

This is yet another reason why we love family movie nights at home: we stay in charge of what media our kids consume before the movie too!

Two words: Pause button

One of the great things about an outdoor family movie night is that you can totally tailor your movie-watching experience to the needs of your family.

If your four-year-old needs to go to the bathroom, simply pause the movie until they’re ready to resume!

No more missing the most important part of the film during trips to the bathroom or concession stand.

Ideas to make your outdoor movie night next-level

While these ideas aren’t required at all, they are some of our favorite ways to help everyone feel excited about an upcoming outdoor movie night!

Pass out invitations

To make your outdoor movie night extra special, why not give out invitations to your family members to help them really feel excited about it?

Plus, this will let everyone know the date and time of your movie night so they can plan for it.

You could put these invitations on your kids’ pillows, in their school backpacks or lunchboxes, or on the table before breakfast or dinner.

We’ve got a great free printable Movie Night at Home Kit that has everything you need to pull off an amazing outdoor movie night!

Click right here or on the image below to get yours!

movie night at home printables

Create theater “tickets”

Your kids will get a kick out of “buying” their own movie tickets as they enter the kitchen or living room area.

All you need to do is give them a handful of play paper money from a board game, and tell them the price of admission.

Your kids then need to pay the ticket attendant (typically you or your partner) and will be given a ticket in exchange.

(Don’t forget: we’ve got some really cute “Admit One” tickets for free in the Movie Theater at Home Printables download!)

Create a ticket booth and concession stand

Consider setting up a ticket booth and a concession stand on folding tables in different corners of your backyard.

Put all of the snacks (be sure to cover them to keep them safe from bugs!) on the concession stand table and give everything a price. Then have your kids use their play money to “purchase” the snacks they want most.

Act out the roles of movie-theater employees

Speaking of ticket attendants, your kids might love it if you and your partner act as if you are movie theater employees.

You can both dress similarly (black shirt, khaki bottoms, anyone?), and wear a little nametag that says “Ticket attendant,” “Usher,” or “Concessions.” Of course, your kids might get a kick out of seeing you quickly switch from one role to the next.

Final thoughts about family outdoor movie nights

As with everything we recommend here at Jen Bradley|MOMs, we encourage you to keep your outdoor movie night simple!

Don’t feel that you have to try ALL of the ideas here at once!

Instead, choose a few that stand out to you and that you think your kids would really enjoy.

There’s no need at all for Pinterest perfection! Remember, the entire idea of an outdoor family movie night at home is to help you have a relaxing time with your kids, making memories and enjoying the great outdoors!

Related articles about family fun:

50 Awesome Boredom Busters You Need in Your Back Pocket

Yes Day Challenge for Kids – The Pros and Cons

The Step-by-Step Guide to Having an Unforgettable Screen-Free Week

Pin the image below to easily return to this article in the future!

outdoor movie night pin

Have you had an outdoor movie night? Tell us about it in the comments below!


How to Have an Awesome Outdoor Family Movie NightHow to Have an Awesome Outdoor Family Movie NightHow to Have an Awesome Outdoor Family Movie NightHow to Have an Awesome Outdoor Family Movie Night

Jen Bradley, the founder of Jen Bradley|MOMs

Hi there! I’m Jen and I’m so glad you’re here. I am a mom who believes that meaningful connections with our families can happen in small and simple ways. Read More …


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