Throughout middle and high school, I was one of those decidedly uncool kids who’d much rather hang out with my parents than go to parties. (I know, I know.) While I should have been living it up and throwing caution to the wind, I indulged my pre-teen love of Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton movies every Saturday night. In my defense, I grew up in rural New England, so “parties” looked like five kids or less playing drinking games in their parents’ basement—no, thanks. The result of this routine? I’d seen just about every Oscar-nominated film between 2008 and 2013. So, when I was tasked with sharing my family movie night ideas, of course I was up for the challenge.
Family movie nights are fun for—and at—every age. Is there anything cozier than popping popcorn and brewing steaming mugs of cocoa, preparing to settle in for a few hours of entertainment? At the end of a long and activity-packed workweek, there’s nothing more tempting. So skip the theater (and the expensive tickets) and get ready to snuggle up in the comfort of your own living room. These are the best family movie night ideas to start your weekend on the right foot.
Featured image by Belathée Photography.
13 Family Movie Night Ideas to Kick off Your Weekend
1. Find Your Movie in Advance
Is there anything worse—or more frustrating—than spending the whole night scrolling Netflix, unable to find something that sounds good to everyone? I can’t emphasize it enough: pick your movie out in advance. Kick it old-school and visit your local library to see what they have available on DVD. Alternatively, many libraries offer access to online streaming platforms like Kanopy, which has countless options for classics, indie films, and documentaries.
Have everyone bring their top two favorite movies and vote on them. (If you have older kids or are doing a movie night with friends, Google Forms makes this even easier). Looking for ideas? These are a few of our faves:
- The Princess Bride
- Finding Nemo
- Jumanji (really, anything from Robin Williams’ oeuvre)
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
- Inside Out
- The Sandlot
- The Goonies
If you want to go the movie marathon route, be sure to build in some variety with the films. Selecting comedies, feel-good movies, something animated, and an adventure film all make for solid family-friendly movie picks.
2. Invest in a Projector
Projects are one of the easiest ways to give your living room a movie theater feel. If you’re worried about your whole family being able to watch on your tiny television or you don’t want to invest in a larger screen, this is your solution. Simply string up a white sheet and get your projector ready. Prices certainly vary, but there are affordable options available that won’t break the bank.
3. Have Snacks at the Ready
Can you really call it movie night if there aren’t snacks to munch on? A classic, of course, is popcorn. Step things up by purchasing a pack of brown paper lunch bags and set out toppings for everyone to choose from. Melted butter, honey, sugar, cinnamon, nutritional yeast, and even this turmeric seasoning are all solid picks.
For the adults and adventurous kiddos, make up a charcuterie board that you can snack on throughout the film. Or, turn on the oven and bake up a batch of our (and soon to be your) favorite cookies. See also: a skillet cookie that everyone can dig into spoon-first.
4. Get Cozy
Change out of your hard pants and slip into your sweats. Whatever you can do to get into the cozy mood and set the vibe right, make it happen. Starting with your wardrobe, because the weekend has officially begun—and it’s time to dress like it.
5. Pile on the Blankets
… and the pillows. Growing up, I loved making blanket and pillow forts with my parents and sisters and I carried that love forth into my babysitting career. Really, nothing beats being nestled between layers of your favorite comfy throws. To make your fort all the more special, string up some batter-powered twinkle lights, à la The Holiday.
6. If Weather Allows, Have an Outdoor Movie Night
If you live in a warmer climate or are looking for family movie night ideas for the summer, there’s no better way to spend a weekend evening than with an outdoor movie night. Set up on the deck or find space in your backyard that’s dry. Break out the projector and sheet set-up (see above) and set out several durable, outdoor blankets and lawn chairs. Because movie nights can’t have enough twinkly lights, take your string lights outdoors and use them for added ambiance.
Pro tip: To give the kiddos the full camping experience, set out a tent that they can spend the night in (and to ensure you get the best sleep of your life, indoors).
7. Take a Break With Board Games
If you find yourself dozing off halfway through the movie, give yourself a break! I love mixing things up and spending 20-30 minutes playing a board game. Because movies and pizza? They go together like PB&J. Seriously—there isn’t a better weekend combo. For ideas on what to play, see our favorites here.
8. Invite Other Families
While quality family time is certainly top of mind when it comes to family movie night ideas, you’re always welcome to make it a famil(ies) affair. If you have family friends with kids the same age, this can be a great way to keep everyone occupied while you get to enjoy yourselves.
9. Set a Pajamas-Only Dress Code
I can’t say it enough: this is a no-jeans-allowed occasion. If you want to go beyond your sweatpants, step it up with your coziest pajamas! I’m obsessed with all of these washable silk options. And for the kiddos, might as well match their pajamas to the movie.
10. Mix Up Fun Mocktails
It’s January, so suffice it to say that many of us are enjoying a month away from alcohol. But because movie nights deserve something a little special, it’s the perfect opportunity to break out your zero-proof bar cart and favorite non-alcoholic bevvies. For the kids, try sparkling apple cider or mix fizzy water with a splash of juice (add some fruit- and floral-infused ice cubes to make their drinks all the more fun).
11. Set the Mood
Light your candles, make a fire, and turn down the lights. This is movie night, after all! Even the best movies can benefit from a little added glow.
12. Make a Themed Dinner
Dinner and a movie is a classic pairing—and it’s not just for nights out. Take a cue from Lady and the Tramp and serve up a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for everyone to enjoy. Or, get inspiration from Elf (because it isn’t just a Christmas movie) and make these “Buddy the Elf” cookies—yes, they do include dried noodles. For more menu ideas, see this comprehensive list.
13. Don’t Forget Intermission!
For when viewers need a drink refill, more snacks, or a break to the bathroom. Build in time for an intermission so that no one will have to miss a minute of the movie.
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