Throwing an Outdoor Movie Night + My Ultimate Summer Family Flick List

One thing I’ve been looking forward to ever since we put in a pool in the backyard is an outdoor movie night. It’s like the ultimate summer experience, right?! Well this is the year we finally made it happen! We got a projector, a screen, our trusty pool floats, some glowing lights, and some floating food trays, and had some friends and their kids over. I have to say — why did we wait so long!? It was just so much fun, and the girls can’t wait to do it again.

The best part is that a family outdoor movie night is easy to do at practically any budget! You can hang a white sheet or drop cloth taut and rent a projector from an equipment rental store or borrow from a friend. Set out some air mattresses, outdoor pillows, blankets, lawn chairs…anything to get cozy. These evenings make the best kind of core memories.

Chris Loves Julia | Outdoor movie pool party at night with inflatable seats, floating lanterns and a projector screen
Chris Loves Julia | Julia adding floating lanterns to the backyard pool

Floating Lights | Floating Pool Tray | Backyard Sources

For our “dive-in” movie night, we added inflatables in various shapes and sizes for easy lounging. When it came to the movie screening, we picked a projector that was built for the outdoors, so it’s weather- and water-resistant which is very important for poolside. It also plays for five hours on battery, has a built-in Dolby speaker AND has a built-in power bank for additional accessories such as a phone for casting a movie or even a DVD player or other device.

Chris Loves Julia | Chris setting up the projector for an outdoor movie pool party at night

Bluetooth Speaker | Portable Projector | Projector Screen | Travel Case | String Lights

Something to keep in mind is that in the summer it takes a lot longer to get dark (it was around 8:45 p.m. when we started the movie). Fortunately, this projector works when it is lighter outside (some only work when it’s pitch black), and it was really easy to see the screen.

I set up some bags of popcorn and boxes of movie candy on some floating trays (what I would give to be able to eat Hot Tamales again), and the stage was set.

Chris Loves Julia | Outdoor movie pool party snacks in a floating tray

Floating Pool Tray | Popcorn Bags | Metal Serving Tray | Colored Acrylic Cups | Color Changing Cups | Striped Pool Floats | Inflatable Pool Float

The trays worked out wonderfully. One thing I would change for next time is that because hands are wet, some candy like M&Ms can get messy, so stick to things like Sour Patch Kids, Nerds Gummy Clusters, and pretzels. I was so happy that we had cups with lids on them — we even sent our friends’ kids home with their own cups (a great “party favor” at $1 each!)

The biggest float had its own cupholders, and it would have been easy to put a big bowl of popcorn for the group of kids hanging out there instead of the individual popcorn bags (but they’re just so fun).

Chris Loves Julia | Kids lounging on inflatable floats at an outdoor movie pool party

Striped Pool Floats | Floating Lights | Inflatable Pool Float

We watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and it was the first viewing for a lot of the kids. I learned that in a pool with a bunch of kids, it’s best to go with something they’ve seen before. Being in a pool is just naturally distracting, so kids will tune out at times! Maybe next time I’ll pick something with music for a singalong.

It was really fun, and we will absolutely do it again. I want to put one on the calendar every month — just enough to keep it feeling special. We actually have our next one on the calendar already for June!

In case you’re hosting your own outdoor movie night in the backyard or at the “dive-in”, here are 19 of my favorite summer flicks!

The Ultimate Family Summer Movie List

Chris Loves Julia | Summer Movies: The Ultimate Family Flick List

Sandlot (PG)

I mean, can you even include this movie without saying, “You’re killing me, smalls!”? When I was growing up I had the persona of Squints and used to do impressions of him. We even dressed up like characters from Sandlot for Halloween one year as a family.

Angels in the Outfield (PG)

Growing up, this movie was one we watched as a family one movie night in our basement. Coming from a family with five girls, I have to say that while we didn’t watch sports with our dad, he did get us interested in sports-related movies.

That Thing You Do (PG)

Calling all Oneders fans! We were so obsessed with that soundtrack…as kids we would lip sync it for company. Fun fact: my daughter Faye was named after Liv Tyler’s character in That Thing You Do.

Now and Then (PG-13)

Definitely some mature topics in this but it feels like summertime in my memory even still. Takes me back to my pre-teen years when we rode our bikes everywhere — we probably watched it once a week with our childhood best friend Kelly down the street.

The Parent Trap (G)

So much fun. Having seen both versions, I have to say that the Lindsay Lohan version is not as good as the Hayley Mills version.

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids! (PG)

We just watched this with our girls last summer, and it still hits.

Little Rascals (PG)

The cutest little kids doing the sweetest little things. Honestly kids of all ages like this movie because it’s like watching themselves on the screen and that’s really fun.

Dennis the Menace (PG)

You don’t want to give your kids all of these terrible ideas of how to behave, but they’re going to laugh so hard the whole movie so maybe it’s worth it?

Jumanji (PG)

Absolutely thrilling. Robin Williams is so good in this movie, and there are so many great one-liners. It’ll keep the kids on the edge of their seats, and it’s such a fun ride even for adults. Probably would keep this for kids ages 9 and up since it has some perilous scenes.

A League of their Own (PG)

We played wiffle ball as a family on family night, and I would pretend that I was Dottie. I really connected to this movie.

Moana (PG)

I loved seeing this movie with my girls when it came out, and I still love it. It’s just one of the best Disney movies of all time.

Mamma Mia (PG-13)

The themes are a little more mature, but the music and the dancing is so much fun. Just feels like a summer movie.

National Treasure (PG)

I think this is my dad’s favorite movie. We just watched this with the girls, and it really kept them engaged the whole movie. Just a fun treasure hunt.

Wild America (PG)

I’m going out on a limb here, but here goes: This is one of the best movies of all time. I watched this repeatedly growing up, and I can’t say if it was for the plot or the boys. It’s eye candy for young girls, AND it’s a great adventure movie.

Hook (PG)

Ahh, Rufiooooooo!!! Hook was one of our favorites growing up. How great is a little Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell? The imaginary feast scene…it’s so good.

The Secret Garden (G – 1993 version)

This is just kind of a tear-jerker movie, but it’s also just mesmerizing. I haven’t seen it in probably 20 years, so it’s time to watch again. Our school actually did it as a play when I was in 5th grade.

Fever Pitch (PG-13)

There’s nothing more summer than baseball. The ending gives you all the feels. Fun fact: They had to change the ending while they were filming. Jimmy Fallon is a die-hard Red Sox fan, and they hadn’t won in so long, but then in 2004 when they were making the movie, they won and his joy is genuine!

Rudy (PG)

Another feel-good sports movie. Just a heartwarming tale and the acting is spot on! I could watching this classic again and again.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (PG)

Such a great coming-of-age story. I have three girls, so this one will be fun for them (I’ll probably save it until the youngest is a little older).

Chris Loves Julia | Summer Movies: The Ultimate Family Flick List

Which summer movies are on rotation at your house? Share more ideas in the comments!

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