5 of the Best Movies for a Family-Friendly Movie Night

Liz R.
Written By Liz R.

Liz R. is a writer and educator in Indiana with an MFA in Creative Writing. She has been writing and teaching about movies, TV, and books for years. You can find her on TikTok

There’s something special about an outdoor movie night.

Whether you’re projecting onto a screen or even just the side of a building, watching a movie outside with your family or a few friends is a great way to spend a hot summer night.

When choosing a movie to watch outside, you have to take a few things into consideration. If there are kids around, you’ll probably want something pretty family-friendly. Also, lawn chairs are not as comfortable as a movie theater seat, so you probably want to go with something that has a short run-time. It’s also fun to choose something that is FUN and perhaps nostalgic.

I would also choose something that you don’t mind being distracted from–things come up when you’re watching a movie outside, and you don’t want to end up frustrated by your attention being divided from the screen.

Taking all of that into consideration, here are 5 movies I think work well for a family-friendly outdoor movie night, including the run-time and why it has the potential to be a great outside movie.

I ended up with so many ideas that I decided to split this into two posts! Stay tuned for the next list, which is for grown-ups.

Flight of the Navigator (1986, 90 minutes)

frame from the film Flight of the Navigator
Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

This sci-fi adventure follows the story of David Freeman, a 12-year-old boy who mysteriously disappears in 1978 and reappears eight years later–completely unaged and without his memory. David discovers that during his absence, he had been taken aboard a sentient alien spacecraft called Max (voiced by Paul Reubens), who is capable of time travel. Together, they embark on a thrilling journey to unravel the truth behind David’s disappearance and find a way to return him home to the RIGHT time.

Why it’s good for outdoor movie night: It’s short! Nostalgic for the adults but interesting enough for the kids.

Moana (2016, 107 minutes)

frame from Moana cartoon
Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Set in Polynesia, this animated musical takes us on a captivating voyage alongside Moana, a young and determined Disney Princess who, like princesses who came before her in Disney’s history, longs for more than what she is told she should be happy with. Moana sets sail on a daring adventure to save her people, accompanied by the demigod Maui. Along their journey, they encounter breathtaking landscapes, formidable creatures, and learn the importance of self-discovery, heritage, and the power of embracing one’s true calling.

Why it’s good for outdoor movie night: Sing-along time!

ET (1982, 115 minutes)

frame from the movie ET 1982
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, this heartbreaking and heartwarming sci-fi film tells the tale of Elliot, a young boy who befriends a friendly extraterrestrial stranded on Earth: E.T. While trying to keep the alien hidden and help him return home, Elliot and his friends form a deep bond with the lovable creature. As government agents close in on their secret, Elliot and his friends embark on a perilous mission to reunite ET with his spaceship.

Why it’s good for an outdoor movie night: ET is an outdoorsy movie in the first place, with many of the most famous scenes occurring in backyards, backstreets, and the woods. Call it a theme and enjoy!

The LEGO Movie (2014, 100 minutes)

frame from the cartoon "The LEGO Movie"
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In this animated family movie, an ordinary LEGO minifigure named Emmet finds himself unexpectedly caught up in a quest to save the LEGO universe from an evil tyrant. With the help of a group of unique and eccentric allies, including Wyldstyle, Batman, and a wise and mysterious wizard named Vitruvius, Emmet must embrace his inner potential and prove that anyone can be a hero, regardless of their ordinary nature.

Why it’s good for an outdoor movie night: Pretty much everyone loves this movie. It’s fun enough for the kids, but the adults can enjoy the humor, too. Plus, the music is great.

Pirates of the Caribbean (2003, 143 minutes)

frame from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean
Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

This swashbuckling adventure takes viewers on a thrilling journey through the high seas–and serves as the kickoff for this major Disney franchise. The film follows the charismatic and eccentric pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he teams up with blacksmith Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), to rescue Elizabeth from the clutches of the cursed Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and his crew of undead pirates. The film blends action, humor, and supernatural elements in a tale of treasure, curses, and unexpected alliances.

Why it’s good for an outdoor movie night: Going back to the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie can be a fun way to spend an evening. That said, it can be difficult to set aside the knowledge of Johnny Depp’s disgusting and misogynistic texts about the women in his life, so check with your friends before picking this one!

Unforgettable Bonding Moments: The Top 20 Family Films Ever Made

Image Credit: Lionsgate.

Are you tired of endlessly scrolling through streaming services, searching for a family-friendly movie that won’t make you want to pull your hair out? Look no further! As a fellow movie enthusiast and parent, I’ve compiled a list of the 20 best family movies of all time. From heartwarming classics like It’s a Wonderful Life to the modern-day antics of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, this list has something for everyone.

The 20 All-Time Greatest Animated Masterpieces

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Animation.

Dive straight into our list of the top 20 animated films, a vibrant collection featuring a range of unforgettable stories. Experience the visually striking universe of ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, journey alongside the adventurous ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’, and stand at the frontlines of the epic ‘Justice League Dark: Apokolips War’. This selection promises captivating narratives, stunning artistry, and emotional resonance, showcasing the best that animated cinema has to offer.

The 20 Most Epic Adventure Movies Ever Made

Lord of The Rings
Image Credit: New Line Cinemas.

Prepare to traverse magical realms, distant galaxies, and perilous landscapes with our ultimate selection of the best adventure films ever made. From the monumental battles in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ to the cosmic voyages in ‘Interstellar’, these 20 cinematic treasures promise an unparalleled journey of thrill, heroism, and mesmerizing storytelling.