The Ultimate List of Outdoor Movie Night Ideas

There is something about the open air, ambiance, and movie magic of an outdoor movie night. We have put together the ultimate list of outdoor movie night ideas that will sweep your family and friends into the cinematic experience!

An outdoor movie night can be as simple or extravagant as you want to make it.  However, it is always a great alternative to the indoor movie night. When the nights are perfect, don’t stay cooped up inside! Take the show outdoors!

Let us walk you through our ultimate list of outdoor movie night ideas that will get you from setup to end credits! Pop through this list and pick the best ideas for your perfect movie night including screens, projectors, sound, seating, décor, food, choosing the movie, and movie night themes!

1. Screens

A good movie image begins with a nice screen. No matter the projector you choose, the screen that you use will affect the final picture.

Borrow one from a friend: Check will friends and neighbors. You just may find someone that already has a screen that you can use!

Shine on the wall or existing structure: Another option is to use a wall or garage door. However, remember you will see texture and lines during your movie. A simple solution is to hang a sheet on a clothesline, wall, or fence.

Buy A Screen: There are also many outdoor movie screens available for purchase in a wide range of budgets. For your convenience, many outdoor screens have already been reviewed here.

Build A DIY Screen With Instructions: If you are not up for buying one yet, perhaps you would like to try a DIY version made from canvas.  Canvas is more durable than a sheet and will not ripple as easily in the wind. Here are some instructions from Better Homes and Gardens on how to make your own outdoor canvas movie screen.

Elite Screens Yard Master 2, 120 inch Outdoor Projector Screen with Stand 16:9, 8K 4K Ultra HD 3D Fast Folding Portable Movie Theater Cinema 120" Indoor Foldable Easy Snap Projection Screen, OMS120H2
  • 120-inch Diagonal, 16:9 Aspect Ratio. View Size: 59.0" H x 104.7" W. Overall Size: 88.9" H x 109.8" W x 36.7" Leg Size. Silver Aluminum Frame.
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  • Assembles in minutes without the use of tools! Lightweight aluminum square tube construction easily transports with included padded carrying bag. Screen is mildly weather resistant, but should not be left exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. For maximum longevity, disassemble screen and store away indoors.
  • Features a fully tensioned, snap button frame that ensures a flat projection. Includes: single-piece aluminum frame with detachable legs, screen material, carrying bag, ground stakes, rigging cord, and support rings.
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Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


2. Projector

It is difficult to have an outdoor movie night without a projector. Of course, you can drag out your big screen TV, but you will not have the same movie magic provided by a projector.

Borrow Projector From Friend Or Library: Don’t fret if you don’t already own an outdoor movie projector. Again, you can often borrow one from friends or family. Some libraries will also rent them out for a small daily fee.

DIY Shoebox Projector: Some people have successfully watched a movie using a homemade projector with a shoebox, magnifying glass, and a smartphone. See the instructions to make your own projector.

Buy A Projector: For those of you that may want to watch more than one movie outside this season, it makes sense to consider buying your own projector. Outdoor projectors are available for a wide range of budgets. Do your research and you are sure to find one right for you.

Mini Projector,4000 Lux Home Movie Projector,200'' Display HD LCD Projector 1080P Supported,Work with Phone, PC, Mac, TV Stick, PS4, HDMI, USB for Home, Office and Outdoor (Silver)
  • [Full HD 1080P Surpport ]: Our projector support resolution of 1920*1080,and have contrast ratio of 4000:1,which will offer a ultra real and vivid video quality.Ideal for projecting movie, games, presentations and graphics no matter indoors or outdoors.
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Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


3. Lighting

When planning an outdoor movie, the first thing you want to consider is the sunset. You will not be able to see your movie screen very well until the sun goes down. Invite guests to arrive at sunset. This should give you about 30 minutes for guests to find snacks and a spot to watch the movie before the lighting is perfect for the screen.

During the movie, you will also want to have a little bit of light. This will make it easier for guests to get up and refill snacks without tripping on people.

If you don’t already have backyard lighting, check out 20+ ideas for landscape lights. Many of these ideas would be perfect for your movie night. Choose something that is not too bright that it will drown out the movie image.

4. Sound: Bring the Music to Your Ears

When you are planning your setup keep sound in mind. Use the natural acoustics of your backyard to keep the sound both contained and at a good level for your group. There are many ways to get the job done and provide sound for your movie. Make sure to test them out before the night of your movie!

  • Stereo amplifier
  • Computer speakers: make sure they are a good set with a bass amplifier
  • A boombox with auxiliary outputs
  • Projector with built-in speaker: ensure that the sound level is adequate

If you want to bring out your surround sound, then you very well may. However, the setup and takedown will take a lot longer than if you choose one of the options above.

ION Audio Tailgater Plus | Bluetooth Speaker, Portable, 50W Battery Powered with Microphone & Cable, AM FM Radio, Built-in Carry Handle and USB Charging For Smartphones & Tablets
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  • Connectivity covered - send your music to Tailgater Plus from any Bluetooth-enabled device and control playback via dedicated Bluetooth track controls (play/pause, next, back)
  • No Bluetooth? No problem - a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) aux input is also included for non-Bluetooth devices as well as an onboard FM Radio
  • The centerpiece of your gathering – high quality microphone and cable included for public speaking, karaoke and more

Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


5. No Bugging Allowed!

Keep interruptions and pests at bay with these outdoor movie night ideas. It is always a good idea to let your neighbors know that you will be having a movie night. This way they won’t be shocked by the Star Wars theme music when it is playing at 9 pm. Better yet, invite your neighbors to the fun!  Then you will not be worried about them interrupting the movie night to ask you to turn down your sound!

If you are having your movie at a time of year when bugs are out, protect your guests! Lighting citronella candles around the yard will serve a dual purpose of ambient lighting and keeping pesky mosquitoes at bay.

YIHAN Citronella Candles Outdoor and Indoor, 4.4oz Scented Candles Pure Soy Wax Portable Travel Tin Candle for Stress Relief, 4-Pack Gift Set
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Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


6. Seating

Providing comfortable seating will have your sweet buns thanking you after a night of movie watching! One of the many perks of an outdoor movie is the variety of seating options that create movie experience magic.

Blankets: Gather some large comfortable blankets and lay them down in front of your screen. Top the blankets with over-sized cushions and pillows.  Provide some throws in case your guests get a little chilly!

Chairs: If you already have comfortable outdoor seating, use that. Just move your lawn chairs in a comfortable viewing of the screen.

DIY Movie theatre seats: Another option for great seating is to make your own lounging movie theater seats. See how Stacy at Not Just A House Wife made her own movie theater seats from plywood and cushions.

Drive-in Cars: Create a fun theme with “drive-in” cars. Decorate cardboard boxes to look like little cars. If you are having a movie night with kids, this would be a great craft for them to make before the night of the movie. This is especially a fun idea if you are watching a car-related movie.

7. Décor

While not required for a movie night, decorations add to these outdoor movie ideas. Start with a chalkboard or marquee sign that points your guest to the location of the movie.  Drawing a red arrow with yellow circle “lights” will create a fun gesture of the old-time movie theatres.

Garlands: Grab some ticket rolls at your nearest party store and create some ticket garlands. Or, if you are feeling grand, use yellow and white balloons to create a popcorn balloon garland.

Movie Theme: Use your movie as inspiration and place objects, designs, and food that relate to the movie around the yard, tables, and seats.

Concession Stand: Place a “concessions” sign above your food table showing your moviegoers where to get some delicious snacks. Don’t miss the snacks and drinks below that double for food and décor!

S&B Movie Night Vintage Light Bulb & Wood Look Novelty 17x5 Arrow Metal Sign for Wall
  • Measures 5" x 17" and made from high quality aluminum and made in the USA.
  • Has a durable weather resistant high gloss finish for a long lasting shine.
  • It is lightweight and durable with colorful and detailed graphics and letters.
  • Has 2 pre-drilled holes for quick and easy mounting.

Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


8. Drinks

No list of outdoor movie ideas would be complete without a great compilation of movie snacks and drinks. Receive your inspiration from the classic movie snacks of soda, popcorn, and Red Vines. Your guest will keep coming back for more with these movie snack ideas.

Italian sodas: Italian soda is a fun party drink the whole family can enjoy. You will need crushed ice, club soda, half and half, and sweetened syrups like Torani. Some delicious combinations of flavors are raspberry and vanilla, cherry and lime, strawberry and coconut, or raspberry and peach.

Recipe:

  1. First, fill your glass half full of crushed ice
  2. Pour in club soda near to the top
  3. Then, pump about 3 Tbs. of Torani syrup into the glass
  4. Next measure about 1-2 tbs. of half and half
  5. (Optional) Add whip cream and maraschino cherry
  6. Finally, stir and enjoy!

Root beer floats: Root beer floats are a tasty and refreshing movie dessert and drink in one! Scoop ice cream in each cup and pour A&W root beer into each cup until the foam reaches the brim. Add a cute paper straw and a plastic spoon. Serve on a tray to your guest during the previews!

Soda-Licious: Bring the movie theater soda fountain to your backyard with these outdoor movie night ideas. Use a SodaStream to turn tap water into a soda bar.  If you don’t have a SodaStream, you can also use a store-bought seltzer.  Next to your SodaStream have plenty of add-ins for your guests such as berries, lemons, limes, peaches, cherries, fruit purees, cream, coconut cream, and juices.  Include colorful paper straws. You can also create your own mixes and name them after movies just like the folks at parents.com. Check out a few of our favorites below:

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 + 1/4 cup coconut cream

Strawberry Basil: Strawberry puree, basil leaves, lemon

Torani Syrup, Assorted Summer Flavors, 750-ML (Pack of 6)
  • Flavors Include: Lemon, Lime, Coconut, Blue Raspberry, Watermelon, Tangerine
  • Great syrups for flavoring coffee/espresso drinks, Italian sodas, lemonade, iced tea, and cocktails

Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


9. Snacks

Create the perfect movie night with tantalizing movie snacks. These snacks take buttered popcorn and Red Vines to the next taste bud level!

Popcorn Machine: Rent, borrow, or buy a popcorn machine and make your guests feel like you transported a real movie theater right to your backyard.  Make sure to get the popcorn machine popping before your first attendees arrive!

Popcorn Bar: Whether it is with your popcorn machine, microwave popcorn, or a large bag of pre-popped popcorn, create a unique experience with a popcorn bar! Provide guests with paper bags or small popcorn boxes. Place your toppings out in short mason jars or cute candy dishes and make sure to have scoops for each ingredient.

Here are some ideas to include in 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 (See next outdoor movie night ideas)

Popcorn Seasoning Shakers: Take your popcorn bar a step further and create your own mixes to shake onto plain popcorn.  Have a container full of melted butter to add to the popcorn.  Then, mix up about three recipes for guests to put on their popcorn.  We suggest a sweet, salty, and cheesy shaker seasoning. Food Network has a great collection of recipes to get you started.

Popcorn Recipes: If you prefer to already have popcorn mixes already prepared for your crowd, Orville has amazing recipes you need to try!

BBQ:  Instead of having just a few snacks that may leave you wanting more, why not treat your moviegoers to a BBQ? Throw a few hot dogs and hamburger patties on the grill to create a perfect dine-in movie!

Snow Cones: Nothing says the perfect summer treat like an ice-cold snow cone! Have ice already shaved or use a snow cone machine. Place a few popular flavors for snow cones and sweetened condensed milk out for a delicious snow cone treat!

S’mores: A list of outdoor movie night ideas wouldn’t be complete without embracing what the indoors cannot provide! Utilize your outdoor fire pit and have your guests roast up some S’ mores while they wait for the feature film to begin.

Candy Bar: If you’re not a cook, this is the perfect and easy solution for you.  Choose your favorite movie night candies and create a candy bar.  Have cups or bags and scoops to gather movie night candies. Place candy in large clear jars. Each person can create a candy bag to snack on throughout the movie.  Some ideas of candy include Swedish Fish, peanut M&Ms, sour watermelons, gummy bears, red vines, and mini chocolate bars.

West Bend 82515 Hot Oil Theater Style Popcorn Machine, 4-Ounce, Red
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  • Popper cabinet is attractive, durable, and easy to clean. The small footprint makes owning a theater popper convenient for anyone

Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


10. Pre-Show Activities To Entertain Restless Guests

It is always a good idea to have something for your guests, especially kids, to do while they wait for the movie to begin.

Previews: Having a preview reel is a great way to help you make sure your sound and picture are all ready to go. Hopefully, it will prevent the repeatedly asked questions, “When is the movie going to start?” Previews can be as simple as the pre-show available on many DVDs/Blu-Rays or just a running reel of an aquarium from YouTube.

Games: Have a few backyard games for people to play while they wait for the show to begin.  If you don’t already have some backyard games, check out these.

11. Movie Choice

An entertaining movie choice can make or break your movie night. There are a few things to keep in mind when you are choosing a movie for your outdoor movie night. First, think of your audience. A movie that you choose to show to adults will be different than one with families and kids.  However, keep in mind that whether you are showing to just adults or not, your movie should be family-friendly.

Save the nudity, foul language, and gore for your indoor movie nights. It is not polite to show inappropriate movies when next-door children may see into your movie night or hear something they shouldn’t.

Don’t be discouraged, there are many great movie options available. Think about classics, foreign, childhood, and family movies that are both appropriate and entertaining for your crowd. You are sure to find something on this list:

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)
  • 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)
The Wizard of Oz & Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Musical DVD Set / Classic Family Movie Bundle Double Feature
  • Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger (Actors)
  • Victor Fleming (Director)
  • English, French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: G (General Audience)

Last update on 2019-11-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


12. Out of the Box Movie Night Ideas

Why not create something even more magical with one of these out of the box outdoor movie night ideas?

Splash-in Movie Night: Skip the mundane blankets and lawn seating and go for a splash-in movie. Host your movie night by the pool! Either provide floats or have a bring your own floats for guests to watch the movie on. Play a movie that has a pool or water scene in it! Serve root beer floats as your dessert!

Movie Theme: Choose your movie, then center the seating, décor, and food around the movie. Create a total immersive experience by coordinating all your ideas with what is playing on the big screen! Just start by picking a movie from the lists above!

Family Home Movies:  Gather the family around and make them feel like real movie stars. Show your own family movies on the big screen!

Oscars Night: Have friends and families produce their own movies to debut as your special movie premiere night! Offer Oscar awards for the best movies in certain categories!

Drive-in: Ever been to an old-style drive-in theater? Why not create your own? If your backyard allows, backup trucks to your movie screen. Have cushions and blankets in the back for comfort. No room for real cars?  Make little cars out of cardboard boxes and create the feel of a drive-in. Watch a car-themed movie or one from the 50s or 60s, the era of drive-ins. Serve old-fashioned candy, soda, and popcorn.

That’s A Wrap!

With these outdoor movie ideas, you are prepared for the ultimate movie party! The elements of an outdoor movie night include a screen, a projector, sound, seating, snacks, and a thrilling movie choice. We have given ideas that will create a night of cinematic magic in the open air of your backyard.

With this ultimate list of outdoor movie night ideas, you’ll never want to go back to the regular movie theater! From set up to end credits your guest will be revealed in the movie magic of your outdoor home theater. What are you waiting for? Get outside, pop some popcorn and enjoy the show!