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Who doesn’t love a good movie? Hot summer days – when it’s too hot to even think about being outside – are perfect for a family movie night. Then again, so are yucky, cold rainy spring days, and wintry northwind days. Almost any day will do. Join in with these fun movie night ideas.
Movie nights were a big hit in our home when our boys were young. We would frequently build pillow forts in the living room, put on a movie, and have our picnic lunch of PB&J while vegging out to the VCR (now I’m dating myself). Sometimes this turned into an overnight movie time when Dad came home from work. Fun times! And now, great memories.
Make memories in your home with these fun movie night ideas.
Make Family Movie Night Special
Spend a little time planning to make your movie night better. There’s no wrong way to go about this, but the following ideas will help you get to the movie-watching part quicker!
Limit Screen Time
This might seem strange to include at the beginning of an article on movie night, but think it through. If your kids always get to watch anything they want, whenever they want – then movie night won’t be special. In fact, it might be an unwelcome change because everyone has to watch the same thing in the same place at the same time.
Remember, when screens are off, imaginations are on. So, in addition to making movie night special, limiting screen time gives your kids the mental space they need to think, be creative, and play. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.
Choose Your Movie Ahead of Time
Who hasn’t had the frustrating experience of scrolling through Netflix or another service, looking for the ‘perfect’ movie? Before you know it, you’ve wasted 30 minutes and haven’t even watched anything.
The easiest way to avoid this sad scenario is by choosing a movie before movie night. You might want to keep a list of recommended movies and take turns choosing one. Or you can keep a list of “top 20” movies to watch and draw a random number between 1-20 to decide.
If you search for “family movie night” you’ll get lots of sites with recommendations! Just make sure you’re using a site that reflects your values.
Pick a Movie That Fits Your Family
This can be a bit tricky if you have kids from pre-K to high school. But it can be done. Your goal should be to choose movies that are enjoyable for everyone – or almost everyone! Sometimes the pre-K crowd needs to be disappointed.
In addition to choosing an enjoyable movie, you might want to choose a thought-provoking movie that can open up conversations you need to have. If all your kids are in double digits, almost any cultural hot-button issue should be addressed. So, even if it makes you uncomfortable, choose a movie that paves the way for those conversations. Christian websites such as Plugged In are great tools for this.
Set the Scene
Two things are important here: comfort and lighting. Tackle the first with pajamas, blanket forts, and every pillow in the house. The second is super easy: turn all the lights off!
OK, maybe your crew prefers a little less comfort and a little more light. That’s fine. The point is to get everything set up just right before pushing “play.” And, for young kids at least, that also means pajamas and potty time! Although, it might be a good idea for all ages to follow those two suggestions.
One more idea to consider: intermission. Schedule a break halfway through the movie. Be brave and take your break at a “cliffhanger” moment. This will motivate everyone to get back quickly! During intermission, refill drinks and snacks, pick up trash, and use the restroom.
Food. Drinks. Napkins.
No movie night is complete without snacks. You can go old school and make popcorn and sodas your standard fare. Or you could be creative and match snacks to the movie. Hot cocoa and cookies with The Polar Express or Pumpkin Bread and Cider with Hocus Pocus. Be creative. Or use your search engine – you’ll find plenty of ideas.
It should be obvious but, speaking from experience, it isn’t always: where there’s food and drink, there’s a need for cleanup. So get the napkins or paper towels. The dish towels, trashcans, and wipes. Be prepared because you know someone will spill something.
You could choose to have your intermission be “refill” time, as mentioned above. Or maybe intermission is “clean up and put away the snacks” time. The second half of the movie is the perfect time for snuggling down into the blankets and getting ready to nod off the sleep. Full tummy. Potty breaks taken. Pull-ups on. Favorite blankies or animals. Sleep won’t be far behind.
The “After Party”
After the movie is over, when the younger kids are sleeping, is the perfect time to talk about the movie with your old kids or teens.
If you’ve chosen a movie that deals with themes you want to discuss, make sure you plan ahead for this as well. Write out some thoughts or questions to ask. Have your Bible near. Common Sense Media, although not a Christian website, includes questions for discussion with their movie reviews. It’s a great starting point.
If you’re tired or there’s a lot to discuss, the conversation can be continued another day. Simply end by saying something like, “I’d like to talk about this some more on Tuesday evening.” That stops the mental overload, prevents anyone from getting too emotional late at night, and conveys that the conversation isn’t over.
When talking about a movie, or the issues the movie addresses, don’t let your kids skate by with shallow answers. Train them to defend their thought with logic and Biblical principles. Of course, to train them to do this, you have to be able to so you can model it for them. Start young and stop never.
Some Great Resources for Family Movie Night
There are multiple lists of great movies to watch with your kids, and way too many to list here. Instead, I’m going to share some great resources for choosing movies.
- First, Plugged In. If you’re not familiar with this ministry arm of Focus on the Family, you’re in for a treat. They publish reviews of movies, television shows, music, books, and video games. I relied on their reviews when my kids were growing up. I appreciated the breakdown of spiritual, violent, sexual, and other content. I liked the searchable database, where you can search by rating, genre, or alphabetically. There’s also a search function, so you can search by title and quickly find the good, bad, and ugly on almost any movie, certainly the most recent ones.
- I also appreciate Common Sense Media. Although not published from a Christian perspective, their reviews do include a category for positive role models and positive messages. They have a different search function where you can search by suggested age, topic (cars, sports, etc.), and character traits. Besides books, movies, games, and television shows, Common Sense Media also reviews websites and apps.
- Common Sense Media has a list of great family movies – which includes Frozen, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, March of the Penguins, and My Fair Lady, just to give you an idea of the range of movies represented. It’s a great place to start. They also have ‘best of’ lists for television, books, music, and more.
- List Challenges has a 300 Family Movies list to help you choose also. Although the list doesn’t include reviews, they do include a Rotten Tomatoes rating. You can choose a movie and then go to Plugged In or Common Sense Media to check it out. If you’re a Disney fan, check out their Complete List of Disney Movies
- Finally, Rotten Tomatoes has a collection of All Time Lists that include a few family-oriented lists (like the all-time best animated films). These lists change occasionally, so don’t assume you’ll always be able to find the same list! Honestly, Rotten Tomatoes would be my last option, but I know some people like it, so I’ve included their lists link.
My Top 20 Must-Watch List
I couldn’t finish this article without including my own list of favorite films for family movie night. Just know, narrowing this down to only 20 was really, really hard, so I’d probably make a different list tomorrow. I’m just listing the movies without any comments. If the movie made this list, it’s a must-see for families in my opinion.
I hope these fun movie night ideas are helpful to you. Building memories is something that is intentional – and maybe this guide and the resources can help you add movie nights to your memory-making routines.
- The Adventures of Milo and Otis
- Toy Story
- The Sound of Music
- Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
- Mary Poppins
- Inside Out
- Old Yeller
- The Princess Bride
- The Sandlot
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Hidden Figures
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
- Hidden Figures
- A Bug’s Life
- Angels in the Outfield
- Monsters, Inc.
- The Lion King