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Movie Night Ideas: How to Host the Perfect Screening for Friends

Become renowned for your movie nights with these tips.

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If you have a lot of movie-loving friends and love entertaining in your home, hosting a movie night is the way to go. But, it's not as simple as just picking any movie from your DVD collection or streaming service of choice. If you want to host the perfect movie night, you need the right movie, as well have as a comfortable setup, plenty of food, and a way of timing things that will keep your guests entertained instead of bored and just staring at the screen in silence. So, read on for some easily executed movie night ideas that will wow your friends. And we've even thrown in a list of movies that make for great group watching.

RELATED: The 25 Best Coming-of-Age Movies Ever Made.

Why Bother Hosting a Movie Night?

While you and your friends could all go to the theater together to see a new release—and should, if you enjoy a more immersive experience—hosting a movie night at home means that you get to talk during the film, decide on your own snacks and drinks, play games, and cozy up with pillows and blankets. No uncomfortable cinema seats for you! You can also choose from any movies you have access to, either through streaming or physical media. You can also personalize everything, orchestrating a movie night that's specific to your group's likes and preferences. In short, you have total control. And if your friends are big movie fans, this kind of theme party may be better suited to them than a board game night or a seated dinner.

Movie Night Ideas

Take these important steps into account before your host your first or next movie night. A little planning goes a long way, even if you're setting up a casual get-together. Your friends won't forget the effort you put in!

1. Set up a comfortable space.

people eating pizza and snacks on a sofa
Pressmaster / Shutterstock

Whether you're hosting your movie night in your backyard with a projector and a big screen or are showing a movie on a TV in a studio apartment, you want your guests to be comfortable.

First, look at seating. If you have a sofa that fits three people and one extra chair, don't invite more than three friends, unless you can come up with some other way for people to be comfy, such as arranging a bunch of cushions and blankets on the floor. Basically, don't invite more people than can actually be comfortable—no one should have to watch a two-hour movie (or more!) on a hard floor or sit on a backless stool.

Second, make sure that everyone will be able to see the screen. It might sound obvious, but arrange your furniture or viewing setup so that all of your friends will actually be able to watch the movie. Of course, if you are going for a movie-themed party that's more about mingling while a movie plays in the background, this isn't so much of an issue. But with a true movie night, assume people do want to watch even if they're chatting throughout.

2. Get plenty of snacks and drinks.

two hands reaching for popcorn in a bowl
Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Other than actually showing a movie, this is the most important part of any movie night. If you are hosting people, feed them. For a movie night, you have a choice to make when it comes to food: classic or themed.

Going with classic means typical movie theater fare: popcorn, candy, soda. Go the extra mile by getting those traditional red and white bags to put the popcorn in or buying the movie theater sized boxes of sweets such as Junior Mints, Raisinets, and Sour Patch Kids. The popcorn can still come from the microwave or stovetop, though. No need for one of those fancy theater-style machines. Melted butter or popcorn flavoring can elevate your homemade version, however.

If you decide to go with themed snacks, you can choose bites that have to do with the movie you're showing. Unless the movie is actually about food, you'll have to get creative. Label chicken wings as "pterodactyl wings" for Jurassic Park? Say regular granola bars are Kälteen bars for Mean Girls? Try out pizza with hot sauce for Selena? You could get your friends involved and make it a potluck. Challenge them to come up with a punny named dish or snack to go with the movie.

Now, because you're at home and not at a regular movie theater, you can mix things up with the drinks, too. Coca-Cola is a classic movie theater drink order, but maybe you want to serve rum and Coke as an option, too. You could also come up with a themed cocktail or mocktail. A bright pink drink for a showing of Barbie, perhaps?

3. Include an intermission.

people watching TV while sitting on a sofa
Stock-Asso / Shutterstock

One of the benefits of hosting a movie party instead of going to a theater is that you get to move around, refill your own drinks, chat. Build in some time to do this—and for guests to use the restroom—by including an intermission about halfway through the movie. Those who are watching intently won't have to worry about missing anything while they take a break, and those who are craving another Barbie Pink Paloma (not bad, eh?) can go mix up another. You can even have an intermission playlist queued up to keep the good vibes going during the break.

4. Decide on a game or two.

a group of people playing a card game
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Depending on how long you want your movie night to go, you might want to plan on playing a movie-themed game before or after the movie. There are some card games out there specifically for movie lovers, such as this Blockbuster game and this trivia one.

You could also plan for a game that takes place during the movie, like a bingo that has to do with the film you're showing. There are various bingo card generators online that are easy for anyone to use. So, for example, if you're showing a movie with famous quotes, you could have each bingo section be a quote. Your guests will have to check off a box whenever they hear the quote in the film and whoever gets a row lined up on their card first wins a prize. (A gift box of movie candy could work!)

RELATED: 20 Cult Classic Movies With the Most Passionate Fans.

5. Choose the right movie.

people watching a movie with an outdoor projector
Impact Photography / Shutterstock

The right movie for a movie night is going to vary greatly depending on the personal preference of your friends—and you know them best. If you guys are serious cinephiles, by all means, screen all three hours and 18 minutes of Jeanne Dielman and then discuss if it truly is the best movie ever made.

Generally speaking, though, a crowd pleaser that is pretty easy to follow is the best choice. Maybe a classic that people haven't revisited for a while. This is doubly the case if you have a chatty friend group—in that case, choose something that a lot of people have seen before or are at least familiar with, so no one is upset about not catching everything. For the genre, you might want to go with a comedy, rom-com, action movie, or musical, if you want to keep things light. Again, though, if you're a more serious bunch, then go for the Oppenheimer side of Barbenheimer. And if you love horror, that can make for a fun night, too.

Possible Movie Night Selections

  • Clueless
  • Selena
  • Titanic
  • Star Wars (any)
  • Harry Potter (any)
  • Indiana Jones (any)
  • Jaws
  • Jurassic Park
  • Singin' in the Rain
  • Get Out
  • The Princess Bride
  • Mean Girls
  • Barbie
  • Rocky
  • Labyrinth
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Grease
  • Lady Bird
  • Girls Trip
  • M3GAN
Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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