Everything You Need to Pull off a Proper Backyard Movie Night

Take the theater experience outside this summer with a drive-in-caliber movie night under the stars in your backyard, on your patio/rooftop, or whatever sliver of open-air space you have.

Shutterstock/Maitane Romagosa
Shutterstock/Maitane Romagosa
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Raise your hand if you can remember the last movie you saw in theaters. I can. It was Bad Boys for Life and it was terrible. With the likelihood of leisure activities returning by summer decreasing by the day, Americans are doing the only thing we know how to do: adapt. 

Also, put our own grotesquely specific needs above others. So, how do we scratch the itch of doing something normal like seeing an explosion-y superhero movie when the world’s on fire? Luckily, there are a ton of cheap and easy ways to pump steroids into your backyard for a backyard movie experience you’ll never forget. Unless you’re planning to get this entire year surgically removed from your brain. 

The Necessities

Amazon/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $183
There’s a “big thing in small packages” joke here somewhere, but hey; that’s showbiz baby! This 3″ x 3″ x 0.8 projector can fit in your backpack or pocket while using one-touch controls and near-universal device compatibility to provide the next-best-thing to seeing Transformers in 3D. Take this outside, plug it into your phone/laptop, hang up a sheet (we’re vibing on Peachskin and Boll & Branch these days), and enjoy that pristine 1080pm picture.

Walmart/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $217
It’s crazy to think about how, for years, the only seemingly-cool inflatables came in the form of giant flamingos or kiddy pools. This massive 16-foot inflatable outdoor projection screen brings the cinema to your backyard. Taking less than five minutes to set up (thanks to the included electric blower) this revolutionary inflatable gives you 13 feet of screen for a cinematic experience you’ll never forget. 

The Inside/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $119
Don’t ever judge a chair by its foldability. Made of solid and sturdy wood and spun polyester, these cabana chairs put a teensy bit of backyard lawn party style back into portable furniture. They're super easy to assemble out of the box, too, meaning you don’t have to bribe any of your strong-looking friends with pizza to get this thing together. And if you're looking for a more affordable option (or just more seating), this 4-piece wooden folding chair set is great.

Amazon/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $150
You wouldn’t expect a reasonably priced speaker like this to emit such a rich and immersive sound, but that’s UE. With a battery life of 15 hours, you can turn your drive-in movie experience into a drive-in marathon.

The Comforts

Backcountry/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $70
Unless you’re a stone’s throw from the world-famous Hammock District, your options are pretty much limited to the online hammock-sphere. We did the hard part for you by finding you this ultralight hammock made for backcountry camping. Reinforced with Dyneema for extra durability, this ultra-comfy hammock folds down to a 4-inch square pouch for maximum portability.

Backcountry/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $230
Not everyone has the backyard. Some people’s idea of a backyard is their two-car garage; this is America, do what you want. We say: embrace the space you’ve got. The Thule x Tepui Weatherhood attaches easily and securely to the top of your car for the ultimate fortress of solitude on wheels.

Eighth Generation/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $203
If you’re someone who’s always gravitated towards “Native-inspired art, do yourself” -- and the world -- a favor by shopping from companies run by inspired Natives. Designed by Tsimshian artist, David Robert Boxley, this Native-owned and operated company gives 5% of all blanket sales back to support the Inspired Natives Grant for emerging arts entrepreneurs. Made from 100% New Zealand wool with a microsuede edge band, this beautiful and massive blanket will keep you and your friends warm while supporting a just cause.

BBQ Guys/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $60
If you're opting to watch a movie outside in the heat of the day (hey, you do you), this behemoth 12 x 12-square foot shade blocks out 90% of harmful UVA and UVB rays while allowing air to circulate. Put out a couple of folding chairs and a cooler full of ice-cold bottles of rose and enjoy the outdoors without the threat of horrifying skin cancer.

The Snacks

Walmart/Maitane Romagosa

Price: $9 and up
As we move away from a culture that’d happily pay $49.99 + tax for a hot dog and a pack of Buncha Crunch, let us consider some of the snacks we never before considered movie-ready. Country Archer not only makes the most delicious jerky on earth, but their new Zero Sugar line gives you flavors like Spicy Sesame Garlic, Mustard BBQ, and Classic without maxing out your sugar intake for the day.

Amazon/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
Guess what you can expect in each and every package of Just The Cheese snacks? Lower on calories, carbs, and sugars that your traditional protein bar, Just The Cheese gives the people what they want by delivering a crispy, crunchy, and delightfully new snack that satisfies that junk food urge. Tell me you wouldn’t love

Amazon/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
What’s a drive-in movie with a cute date? All jokes aside, Joolies is bringing dates back into the 21st century with a line of delicious and organic Medjool dates. Unorthodox? Maybe; but the health benefits of these tropical fruits far outweigh those of an industrial tub of buttered popcorn. “Dates are a great hearty snack to get all of those vitamins and minerals, pre and post-workout,” says Joolies Senior Brand Manager, Amanda Sains. “I love them with nut butter spread or stuffed with goat cheese!” The date-ing game has changed, people!

The Sips

Bev/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
Canned wine has been around for a while, but that doesn’t mean every company knows how to do it right. With a mission statement dedicated to “creating a culture that inspires equality, embodies inclusive fun, and powers communities for the better,” Bev takes fun very seriously. Choose from three insanely-delicious flavors: California Rose, Pino Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or all three. Crisp, lightly carbonated, and sweet-but-not-too-sweet, Bev takes portable wine to a whole new level.

Volley/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
The face of canned beverages has been changing the past few years, pushing out decidedly-shitty beers like Rolling Rock or Bud Light or Michelob Ultra and welcoming more sophisticated beverages like Volley. This sparkling tequila drink is made with 100% blue agave tequila and organic fruit juice with only 100 calories per can. Pro-tip: tropical mango is the only flavor you will ever need.

Cocktail Club/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
As huge cocktail fans, we’d be chagrined to mention some of the finest outdoor drinks without including our nearest, dearest friend: liquor. With refreshing and delightfully refreshing flavors like Lime Vodka Soda, Tiki Rum Mai Tai, Bloody Mary, and Tequila Paloma available to cool off after those hot summer days, your new favorite canned cocktails look damn good.  

The Booze-Free Beverages

Casamara Club/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
The world is slowly, but surely moving away from the notion that it takes a high-ABV beer to make a night memorable. Get ready for a mind f*ck: that’s not entirely true. Made from amaro bitters, sparkling water, and more, Casamara Club is a leisure soda made of amaro bitters, soda water, and myriad delicious herbs and spices to give you the perfect drink for the nights you’re not drinking. “Our labels pull inspiration from classic Italian movies and travel posters,” says Club President Jason LaValla, “which can really enhance the vibe for a Talented Mr. Ripley rewatch."

VCC Brands/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
Cannabis? On a movie night? D.A.R.E. to believe it, baby! We’re a huge fan of this CBD/THC-infused drink, not only, because of how easy it goes down but how chill they can make any occasion. With just five milligrams of CBD and five milligrams of THC, you won’t be at full McConaughey after downing a bottle, but let’s just say you’ll probably want to listen to Radiohead on repeat. 

Kin/Maitane Romagosa

Price: Varies
Neither alcohol nor marijuana can be found in a bottle of Kin Euphorics. Instead, a dose of mind-nourishing euphorics like Reishi mushrooms, melatonin, L-theanine, and a boatload of tasty botanicals. Imagine how relaxed you’d feel drinking a glass of this while a trashy 2000s rom-com plays in the background.

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Jeremy Glass is a freelance writer living in the objectively cool part of New England. Read his work on Thrillist, GQ, Vice, Men's Health, HowStuffWorks, or his shoddy personal site.