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Here’s Everything You’ll Need for the Perfect Backyard Movie Night

Summer outdoor cinema with retro projector in the evening and chairs and decor

A warm summer night is the perfect excuse to stay up late watching movies out in your backyard or on your apartment’s rooftop, and we’ve gathered everything you’ll need in order to have a perfect outdoor movie night of your own.

To keep things nice and simple, we broke things down into two sections: “The Essentials” and “The Extras.” “The Essentials” section contains all of the basics you’ll need to get movie night up and running,  while “The Extras” is full of fun things you don’t need to have but that might make the experience a little nicer. Although it may feel like this is a lot of stuff to purchase, pretty much all of it can be reused for other purposes like camping or just chilling on your back patio, so you’ll get a little more bang for your buck.

The Essentials

Group of young friends watching a movie on a building rooftop terrace, eating popcorn, drinking, and having fun
Impact Photography/Shutterstock.com

These items are all you need to have a successful movie night, but they aren’t necessarily your only option—there are plenty of ways to customize your setup to your liking, according to your needs and budget. And hey, if you feel like dragging your flatscreen outside instead of buying a projector and screen, more power to you.

A Movie Projector

Mini projectors are perfect for backyard movie nights. They’re much more portable and affordable than their full-sized counterparts and maintain impressive throw distances, screen sizes, and built-in speakers, though you might still need to connect an external speaker for better sound. They also have decent battery life, but if you’re planning a double feature, you might want to keep the charging cable handy. It’s also worth noting that projector media compatibility varies by device—some have Wi-Fi and can directly connect to your Hulu or Netflix account, while others offer a variety of ports for connecting a Chromecast or your laptop.

The GooDee G500 Projector plays bright and loud HD video on screens as large as 200 inches and has plenty of ports for connecting devices. And, if you’ve got a few extra bucks to spare, we recommend the Anker Nebula Capsule Projector, which has better and brighter picture quality. It has 360-degree speakers so everyone can hear the movie no matter where they sit. It also runs Android 7.1 for easy connection to your favorite streaming service and can project to screens up to 100 inches.

The (Kinda) Big Screen

Once you’ve chosen your projector, you’ll need to find an outdoor projector screen. Some screens can be mounted or tied to trees or a fence, while others come with a stand so you can set them up anywhere. You’ll also want to ensure that the outdoor movie screen you pick will be big enough to properly display the movie while being far enough away for comfortable viewing. This 120-inch mountable projection screen is super affordable and can be fastened to virtually any surface with hooks, ropes, or double-sided tape. You can also opt for this 14-foot inflatable projector screen that’s waterproof and perfect for poolside movie viewing.

A Foldable, Mountable Projector Screen
An Inflatable Standalone Screen

VIVOHOME 14 Feet Indoor and Outdoor Inflatable Blow up Mega Movie Projector Screen with Carry Bag for Front and Rear Projection

This waterproof standalone projection screen can go anywhere, even poolside, for movies.

A Good Film

Movie night won’t get too far without a movie, right? Whether you prefer family-friendly movies or classic horror flicks, make sure that the projector you choose can play the media you want to watch. Some projectors can connect to Netflix or your Plex account via Wi-Fi, while others may require you to physically connect a Chromecast device or Roku Stick, or even a USB thumb drive that you’ve saved a movie file onto. Can’t find anything good to watch? Browse through some free movie options and find something everyone agrees on.

Mood Lighting

Okay, you could probably find your way to your seat just fine using your phone’s flashlight, but where’s the fun in that? Put up some string lights overhead to light the seating area (for safety and snack visibility, of course) without making things too bright. These beautiful globe string lights can stay outside year-round, and if one bulb happens to go out, the rest keep trucking. You can also opt for placing these solar lanterns around your seating area if you want a cozier vibe.

Hang up Some String Lights

Lampat String Lights, 25Ft G40 Globe String Lights with Bulbs-UL Listd for Indoor/Outdoor Commercial Decor

These lights make it easy to find your seat, and add a little ambiance to your backyard.

Let Lanterns Light the Way

Comfy Seats

Backyard movie seats are all about being comfortable, and you’ll probably want something more relaxing than the chairs in your dining room. These folding camp chairs are low profile, and a great way for everyone to get comfy without blocking the screen. Or you can all sit on an indoor-outdoor fleece blanket that’s waterproof and soft, along with some supportive pillows with cozy (but still waterproof) canvas covers.

Better yet, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you could make this absolutely amazing DIY pallet chair project that’ll be easier on your wallet and last for many movie nights to come.

Low Comfortable Chairs

Cascade Mountain Tech Low Profile Royal Blue Camp Chair, One Size

Enjoy a comfy seat with good back support, without blocking others' view.

Stylish Cozy Covers

No Bugs Allowed

If you’re worried about mosquitoes and other flying insects crashing the party, set out these Citronella candles. They come in a pack of six, which is more than enough to protect your entire backyard movie area while you kick back and relax.

No Bugs Allowed

Cutter 96458-1 Citronella Candle, pack of 6, slate

Keep mosquitoes and other bugs away from your movie session with a citronella candle.

Cords and Other Gear

You wouldn’t want technical difficulties to ruin movie night, so take a moment to ensure you’ve got all the cords and accessories needed to make things run smoothly. You might need an extension cord for the lights, a Wi-Fi extender to get a better signal out into your backyard, or an HDMI cord to play a movie off your laptop. You might even need a portable battery pack for your mini projector so it can keep up with any movie marathons you have planned.

Reach a Plug with an Extension Cord

Go Green Power GoGreen Power GG-13725BK 16/3 25' Heavy Duty, Outdoor Extension Cord, Black, 25 Ft, 25ft

With a 25-foot cord, you can keep your projector and speakers plugged in with ease.

Extend your Wi-Fi's Range
Connect to HDMI Devices

The Extras

Popcorn in vintage containers and cotton candy ready for the movies
Gordana Sermek/Shutterstock.com

Once you’ve got your movie night all set up and ready to go, why stop there? Go above and beyond by adding some fun extras to your backyard theater like snacks and decorations. Dressing the set a bit can make your movie night feel even more exciting, and it’s a great way to make new memories if you’ve got little ones.

Movie-Themed Decor

Help set the scene for your guests by placing fun movie-themed decor around your seating areas and snack center. Print custom movie tickets to hand out from this movie ticket template, and let guests eat their popcorn out of these adorable movie theater popcorn boxes. Hang up these glitzy movie night decorations all over your backyard, and throw in a fake Hollywood director’s clapboard to announce which movie is playing.

Cute Boxes for a Tasty Treat
Get Fancy with Themed Decorations

30 Pieces Movie Night Party Decorations, Hanging Paper Theater Decor Swirls for Ceiling

Make movie night a little more special with these movie-themed hanging decorations.

Cute Decor is Fun for Everyone

Amscan 348715 Hollywood Director's Clapboard, 7" x 8", 1 Pc

This fun movie director clapboard will look cute decorating your snack center for movie night.

A Concessions Stand

Everyone knows that movie nights are at least 50% about the snacks, so don’t forget about them during yours. Set this adorable hot air popcorn popper next to this drink dispenser and these three-tiered dessert stands so everyone can get fresh popcorn, drinks, and snacks whenever they want. Display all of your goodies on this sturdy 6-foot folding table so everyone can access them.

A Popper for Fresh Popcorn

DASH Hot Air Popcorn Popper Maker with Measuring Cup to Portion Popping Corn Kernels + Melt Butter, 16 Cups - Aqua

Keep this cute popcorn popper on overdrive during your movie session for fresh 'corn.

Drinks on Drinks

CreativeWare RM-BEV03 2.5-Gallon Bark Beverage Dispenser

A beverage dispenser lets guests refill their drinks whenever they want.

Cry Tiers of Joy

Set of 2 Pieces 3 Tier Dessert Stand Fruit Plate Cupcake Plastic White Cup Cakes Desserts Fruits Candy Buffet Serving Tray (White Round 2pcs)

With these tiered dessert trays, you can set out candy, chips, or homemade desserts for your guests to enjoy.

Set It All Up on a Sturdy Table

COSCO Deluxe 6 foot x 30 inch Fold-in-Half Blow Molded Folding Table, Black

This foldable 6 x 2.5-foot table is large enough to hold drinks, snacks, napkins, and decorations.

Snack Storage

Your guests will appreciate having a dedicated place to set their snacks and drinks during the movie. These cute low camping tables are perfect for the job, as are these simple wooden serving trays. They also provide a place for you to set up additional speakers and lighting if needed.

Cute, Easy Storage

Rock Cloud Portable Camping Table Ultralight Aluminum Folding Beach Table Camp for Camping Hiking Backpacking Outdoor Picnic, Green Small

These low tables make it easy to store drinks and snacks (and cell phones) during the movie.

Trays Also Make for Good Storage
Suzanne Humphries Suzanne Humphries
Suzanne Humphries was a Commerce Editor for Review Geek. She has over seven years of experience across multiple publications researching and testing products, as well as writing and editing news, reviews, and how-to articles covering software, hardware, entertainment, networking, electronics, gaming, apps, security, finance, and small business. Read Full Bio »