Spend the night in? These family movie ideas have you covered

Throughout middle and high school, I was one of those decidedly uncool kids who would much rather hang out with my parents than go to parties. (I know, I know.) While I should have lived it up and thrown caution to the wind, I indulged my pre-teen love of Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton movies every Saturday evening. 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 had seen pretty much everything 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 in – all ages. Is there anything cozier than popping popcorn and brewing steaming mug of cocoa, are you preparing for a few hours of entertainment? At the end of a long and activity-filled work week, there is nothing more tempting. So skip the theater (and the expensive tickets) and get ready to cozy up in your own living room. These are the best family movie night ideas to start your weekend off on the right foot.

Selected image of Belathee photography.

Picture of Andrea Posadas

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 all night scrolling through Netflix without being able to find something that sounds good to everyone? I can’t stress this enough: choose your movie 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 such as Canopywhich has countless options for classics, indie films and documentaries.

Ask everyone to bring their top two favorite movies and vote for them. (If you have older children or are doing a movie night with friends, Google Forms makes this even easier). Looking for ideas? These are a few of our favorites:

If you want to go the movie marathon route, be sure to build in some variety with the movies. Selections of comedies, feel-good movies, something animated and an adventure film all make for a solid family-friendly movie selection.

Photo by Michelle Nash

2. Invest in a projector

Projects are one of the easiest ways to give your living room a cinema feel. If you’re worried about your whole family watching your small television, or you don’t want to invest in a bigger screen, this is your solution. Simply set up a white sheet and get your projector ready. Prices certainly vary, but there are affordable options available that won’t break the bank.

Photo by Michelle Nash

3. Have snacks ready

Can you really call it movie night if there are no snacks to munch on? A classic is of course popcorn. Step up by buying a package with brown paper food bags and put out toppings that everyone can choose from. Melted butter, honey, sugar, cinnamon, nutritional yeast and even this turmeric spice are all solid choices.

For the adults and adventurous children, you can make a charcuterie board that you can snack on throughout the film. Or turn on the oven and bake a batch of our (and soon yours) favorite cakes. Also see: a pancake that everyone can dig in spoon-first.

4. Get cozy

Change out of your hard pants and slip into your sweat. Whatever you can do to get in the cozy mood and set the mood right, make it happen. Start your wardrobe, because the weekend has officially begun – and it’s time to dress like it.

Picture of Jenn Rose Smith

5. Put the blankets on

… and the pillows. Growing up, I loved making blanket and pillow forts with my parents and sisters, and I carried that love into my babysitting career. There really is nothing like being nestled between the layers of your favorite cozy throws. To make your fort even more special, string up some battery-operated flashing lights, à la The holidays.

6. Have an outdoor movie night, weather permitting

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 night than with an outdoor movie night. Set up on the deck or find a spot in your backyard that is dry. Break out the projector and sheet setup (see above) and put out more durable outdoor rugs and lawn chairs. Because movie nights can’t have enough twinkling lights, you can take your string lights outside and use them to add some extra ambiance.

Pro tip: To give the kids the full camping experience, set up a tent for them to spend the night in (and to ensure you get the best sleep of your life indoors).

Picture of Kristen Kilpatrick

7. Take a break with board games

If you find yourself dozing off halfway through the movie, give yourself a break! I love to mix things up and spend 20-30 minutes playing a board game. Because movies and pizza? They go together like PB&J. Seriously – there is no better weekend combination. For ideas on what to play, see our favorites here.

8. Invite other families

While quality time with the family is definitely top of mind when it comes to family movie night ideas, you are always welcome to make it a family affair. If you have family friends with kids the same age, this can be a great way to keep everyone busy while you have fun.

Picture of Jenn Rose Smith

9. Set a pajamas-only dress code

I can’t say it enough: this is a no-jeans-allowed apartment. If you want to go beyond your sweatpants, turn it up with your coziest pyjamas! I am occupied with all these washable silk options. And for the kids, maybe too match their pajamas to the movie.

10. Mix 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 of your zero-proof bar cart and favorite non-alcoholic beverages. For the kids, try sparkling apple cider or mix fizzy water with a splash of juice (add some ice cubes with fruit and flowers to make their drinks even more fun).

Picture of Belathee photography

11. Set the mood

Light your candles, make a fire and turn down the lights. It is movie night after all! Even the best movies can benefit from a little extra glow.

12. Make a themed dinner

Dinner and a movie is a classic pairing – and it’s not just for nights out. Take a signal off The Lady and the Tramp and serve a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for everyone to enjoy. Or get inspiration from Pixie (because it isn’t just a Christmas movie) and make these “Buddy the Elf” cookies– yes, they include dried noodles. For more menu ideas, see this comprehensive list.

Picture of Emma Bassill

13. Don’t forget to take a break!

For when viewers need a drink, more snacks or a bathroom break. Build in time for an intermission so no one misses a minute of the movie.

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