Movies are a big part of our lives. They provide us with entertainment, relaxation, and even inspiration. And since everyone loves movies, why not turn them into family bonding time?
Movie nights are a great way to spend time together as a family. They allow everyone to relax and enjoy themselves without worrying about anything else.
However, hosting a successful movie night requires some preparation. The key to a successful movie night is planning ahead and preparing well. Follow these simple steps to ensure a memorable experience.
In this article, we will cover the following topics:
- What you need for your movie night
- Tips on how to choose the right movie
- How to set up the space
- And our favorite family movie night movies
What You Need For Your Movie Night
Before planning your movie night, you must have all the necessary equipment ready. This includes:
- A projector or TV
- A DVD player (or Blu-ray player if you prefer)
- Chromecasts for the “all-digital” people
- Bluetooth speakers
- A popcorn maker
- A few blankets and pillows
- Some snacks
A projector can be used instead of a television. It allows you to project images onto a screen, making watching movies more enjoyable. This is a straightforward way to make your movie nights feel really special.
While a screen makes the viewing a lot better, we often just project directly onto a wall. For example, for an outdoor movie night, you can project onto an exterior wall of your house or onto a fence.
If none of those options work for you, you can also project your movie onto a pinned-up bed sheet.
A DVD/Blu-ray Player
If you’re like many people, then you probably have an excellent selection of DVDs or Blu-rays to pick from. Our household has transitioned to being entirely digital, but I’ll talk about how we do that in the next section.
Connecting your DVD or Blu-ray player to the projector will depend on your devices, but essentially, it just requires the cables you probably already own and use on your TV.
Chromecasts For The “All-Digital” People
If your family is like mine, you hold your entire movie library in your pocket. But, how do you get the movies onto your projector?
It’s the magic of “casting!” But, of course, we use Google Chromecasts and Android phones, so your steps might be a little different if you are using Amazon’s Alexa and Kindle Firesticks or Apple’s Siri and AppleTV.
Basically, we plug our Google Chromecast device into the projector’s HDMI port, then we use our phone to play the movies from the following apps:
- Google TV
- Google Play Movies and TV
- Amazon Prime Video
- HBO Max
- and a few others we have
Bluetooth Speakers (What? I Can’t Hear You!)
If you’re using a TV for your movie night, this section likely doesn’t apply to you. For my projector people, though, you need to read this! Maybe projectors have made significant progress since we bought ours about 5 years ago, but the speakers on projectors just aren’t good. Our speaker can barely get loud enough for it to be heard! Add in kids laughing or arguing, and you’re sure to not hear the movie.
Additionally, the speakers on projectors tend to be small and “tinny” sounding. That means all of the booms, bangs, and bonks lose their “oomph.”
We purchased a Bluetooth speaker with an Auxillary (AUX) input to solve this problem. Unfortunately, we weren’t cool enough to buy a projector with built-in Bluetooth, so we ran a 3.5mm male-to-male plug from the headphone jack on the projector to the AUX input on the speaker. Problem solved! Plenty of audio and bass!
A Popcorn Maker
We don’t have one of these- yet! I’ve had my eye on them for a few years, but we just recently moved into a house where having a good-sized popcorn maker wouldn’t look completely ridiculous (true story). There’s just something fun and nostalgic about the popcorn machines at a movie theater, and you get to bring those memories into your home. It’s just really, really cool, and I wanted to share this idea with anyone else out there who understands me.
A Few Blankets and Pillows (To Keep Things Comfy)
This may seem silly, but blankets and pillows make everything better. They keep us warm when it gets cold, they help us sleep soundly when it’s time to go to bed, and they provide comfort during times of stress. Now, they can make your movie nights even cozier.
Let’s be honest, would you be comfortable bringing your favorite blanket to a movie theater? Probably not. Just another reason why having a movie night with your entire family at home is the best idea ever!
Don’t forget your own homegrown concession stand! Before your family movie adventure begins, you need to ensure everyone is adequately geared up with their favorite snacks! Go as simple or crazy as you want. Go to the dollar store, grab some boxed candies just like they have at the theaters, and set up a little nacho bar with chips, cheese, and pickled jalapenos. Hotdogs are a simple movie staple too!
Considerations For An Outdoor Movie Night
The primary considerations for an outdoor movie night are the projector screen, the Bluetooth speaker, and running extension cords. Unless you’re really, really lucky, you likely won’t have power outlets located precisely where you want them, so be prepared for that. On the other hand, I also like to use a cheap power strip, so I know I have plenty of outlets. This also comes in handy if you forgot to charge your Bluetooth speaker beforehand (ask me how I know).
Choosing The Right Movie
When choosing a movie, there are several things to consider. These include:
- Age rating
Let’s take a look at each one of these factors.
Movie Genres For The Whole Family
It’s no secret that genre is a big point of contention for many families. Dad wants an action film, mom wants a feel-good family movie, and the kids want a heart-racing adventure film filled with lots of laughs! However, when selecting the perfect movie, you should always try to find something that appeals to everyone.
Here are some tips on how to pick the best possible movie for your family:
- Pick a film that has elements of comedy, drama, and action.
- Make sure that the film is appropriate for children and adults alike.
- Look for movies with themes that appeal to the whole family or have a great moral lesson to teach your children.
- Find a film that has a good storyline so that everyone can follow along. If your children don’t understand the movie, they’ll get bored and ignore it.
Finding The Right Movie Length For You And Your Kids
In our experience, kids tend to have short attention spans. The film studios have figured this out too, which is why most Pixar and Disney films are about 90 minutes. That said, there are exceptions to every rule.
If you have young kids, you may want to stick to shorter movies. We recommend finding a movie that lasts around 45-60 minutes. Since we have a family of boys, that usually meant we picked a Thomas and Friends movie. This allows everyone to stay engaged throughout the entire film.
On the other hand, if you have older kids who love watching longer movies, then you can certainly push the two-hour length limits.
Check The Movie Ratings
If you’re looking for a particular type of movie, check out the IMDb ratings. This is our go-to tactic because we often agree with the ratings. RottenTomatoes has been hit-or-miss for us, but IMDB ratings usually align with our feelings.
Other great resources include PluggedIn.com and CommonSenseMedia.com. Both sites provide reviews of movies based on their content, not just their ratings. PluggedIn is a tremendous resource for people to see how a movie might align with their faith or moral standards.
Common Sense Media is excellent for seeing other peoples’ opinions (including kids!) about how a film was appropriate for their age groups.
Age Ratings Are Important Too
As parents, we know that our kids will be exposed to different types of media as they grow up, but we still want to see family-friendly films. As such, it’s critical to choose movies that are rated appropriately for them.
The MPAA gives movies a rating from G to R. Movies that fall into the G category are considered safe for all ages. They contain little violence, mild language, and minimal innuendo.
PG films push the envelope a little further. They might have more obvious romantic relationships, crude humor, and potentially more violence.
It’s important to remember that movie ratings are not the only thing to look at. For example, while a movie might have a PG rating, it may not align with your moral beliefs. Additionally, I’ve observed that 70s and 80s classic films rated G or PG might have significantly more questionable content by today’s standards and might not get a similar rating had they been released recently.
Watching Family Home Videos
As I said earlier, we’re a completely digital family. We control our TVs with our voices and phones. One of the benefits of this is that I can put family home videos on a TV or projector as effortlessly as I can with Disney’s Lion King!
I just open the Google Photos app, search for “Videos,” and all my family videos are there. The best part: kids LOVE seeing themselves on TV!
If you’re planning pretty far ahead, you can even have your kids act out their own action-packed adventures to premier on the family’s “Big Screen!” Of course, you could also have them use finger puppets or sock puppets to act out stories and make even more special movies and memories.
How To Setup The Movie Watching Space
We don’t have a dedicated room for watching movies (like most people on Earth). So instead, we use our loft. It’s an open space with two couches. It isn’t terribly big, but it has enough space for us, and it’s carpeted (which helps for comfort).
Firstly, you have to tidy the space up. For us, that means picking up a ridiculous amount of Legos. Everyone gets a job, and movie night doesn’t start until it’s ready. The kids are happy to help, knowing the fun that awaits them.
Next, we decorate the room. You don’t have to go overboard, but it is fun to theme your movie night. We might have themed decorations or food to go along with the movie. For example, if we watched a pirate movie, we might have piratey decorations, such as a parrot cut out or some inexpensive “luau” style decorations from the dollar store.
It’s also fun to “rebrand” otherwise ordinary things. Chips can become “crunchy doubloons,” punch can become “pirate juice,” and crackers could be called “Paulie’s crackers.” It doesn’t have to make sense, but the kids will love it!
Now it’s time to lay down the comfy stuff. We ask the kids to bring out all of the blankets and pillows from their beds, and we lay them down nicely. Kids can also bring any of their favorite plushy friends, especially if they fit the movie’s theme!
Set Up The Projector (or TV)
The next step is setting up the projector or TV. This is where we take advantage of being a digital family. We put the Google Chromecast into the projector, make sure all of the power cables are connected, connect the projector to the speaker, and that’s basically it for us. We then use our phones to cast the movies to the projector. Again, we generally just project onto a white wall in our loft.
Our Favorite Family Night Movies
To give you an idea of what kind of movies we watch, here are some of our favorites:
My husband and I grew up loving Toy Story, so we enjoyed watching it with our children. It’s a great story about friendship and loyalty. Plus, it features Buzz Lightyear, one of the coolest toys ever made!
Another Pixar classic that was great for our kids. It touches on a lot of essential topics. From emotions to the imagination, this movie explores how our minds work. It’s an excellent way to talk about these concepts with young kids.
This is another excellent movie that we enjoy watching together. It’s got adventure, comedy, and heart. Plus, there’s something very satisfying about seeing the world through a child’s eyes. It also has a good bit of slapstick comedy, which gets the kids roaring with laughter.
This is another Disney movie that we enjoy watching over and over again. It’s funny, cute, and full of life lessons. Our kids love the characters, and the music is charming. Sometimes we’ll listen to the soundtrack on the way to swim practice.
What happens when a well-meaning brainiac who isn’t scary is forced to team up with a college loafer who is content to coast on his last name’s prestige? The answer: a really great family movie night idea!
The Lego Movie
A hilarious comedy about lego characters who live in a world full of chaos and destruction. There’s plenty of action, humor, and even a little romance. While this isn’t my husband’s favorite family movie, it teaches a few notable lessons. It offers an excellent opportunity to talk with your kids about the importance of your uniqueness and thinking for yourself.
The Incredibles is a fantastic movie because it shows what happens when superheroes decide to live an ordinary family life (spoiler alert, this movie is about my family)! Just kidding! It’s an interesting take on superheroes and is filled with many funny moments.
Turning superhero films on their head, this movie attempts to give you a perspective on the inner workings of the super-villain world. It’s a fun romp with lots of laughs and teaches kids about redemption and the importance of family.
My youngest loves cars, and this movie is another favorite. It’s a fun animated film that focuses on the relationship between Lightning McQueen and Mater. They’re two different kinds of people, but they find common ground as friends.
My oldest loves anything related to sharks and dolphins, so this was a perfect choice. It’s a sequel to Finding Nemo and follows Dory, a forgetful blue tang fish, as she sets out to find her parents. She learns valuable lessons along the way and makes new friends.
I chose Zootopia because it’s such a unique concept. This movie takes place in a city where animals have been granted human rights. It’s a fun movie that teaches kids about friendship and not jumping to conclusions about people just because of how they look or where they come from.
We’ve watched Shrek several times now, and I still love it. It’s a lighthearted tale about a green ogre who wants to be left alone but is thrust into an adventure with a wisecracking donkey. He goes on an epic journey to learn what it means to be a true hero.
Big Hero 6
Another Disney animated film that our kids love. Big Hero 6 is about a group of young heroes working at a robotics company. Their inventions save the day and help them grow as individuals. This film is definitely better for older kids as some scenes can be startling to younger kids, and they may not understand some of the nuances of the more mature problems this film tackles, such as the loss of a loved one or the motives behind wanting to get revenge.
This is an entertaining take on the old classic story “Rapunzel.” It’s filled with catchy songs and great characters (look out, here comes the ‘smolder’) and makes for a memorable musical adventure! While it might seem like a film geared towards girls, don’t be fooled. Our boys find it hilarious. This movie tackles a lot of lessons, but my favorite angle is about stepping out of your comfort zone.
This is a cute movie about a bull named Ferdinand who doesn’t want to fight. But, through a series of events, he finds himself being forced to fight. The rest of the film explores his thoughts and feelings about fighting and his plans to escape. It’s a sweet story about standing up for what you believe in and friendship.
The Good Dinosaur
This is a beautiful movie about a dinosaur trying to make sense of his new surroundings. His best friend is a human boy, and together they embark on a journey to find his family. It’s a beautiful film that will teach kids about perseverance and overcoming their fears.
Toy Story 4
This is the final installment in the Toy Story franchise. Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Rex, and Bullseye are all back and ready to face their biggest challenge yet. In addition to the main plotline, there are plenty of stories about relationships past and present. This film was basically designed to make millennial parents cry.
I get that this is a Christmas movie, but when it comes to “The Grinch,” there are no rules in this household. We like to watch the newer animated version that is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. It teaches incredible lessons about friendship, jealousy, and getting to know people for who they are, not who you think they are!
We love this one because it has crazy and silly animals. And those are awesome. Also, it’s a story about a tribe of cavemen. That’s pretty much our ideal family movie night. Just kidding. I love the family togetherness aspects, and the idea that trying new things shouldn’t be scary.
How to Train Your Dragons
My kids love this movie because it has dragons, and my husband loves it because he thinks it’s hilarious. He’s not wrong. But it does teach some valuable lessons about friendship and teamwork too. It also has a really great soundtrack!
Conclusion: Make This The Most Memorable Family Movie Night Ever!
Movie nights are a fantastic way to spend time together as a family. You get to laugh together, learn together, and it presents lots of great opportunities for learning and teaching. In this article, I shared some of the ways we make it unique and ideas that I want to try. I hope these ideas help you have the best family movie night possible.