A Comprehensive Guide to a Summer of Outdoor Movies in DC
All the films, all the picnic blankets, all the empty wine bottles
Outdoor movie season is on — and here in Washington, D.C., it is massive. From now until late September, you can see a movie outside most every night of the week. The majority of these screenings are free, and perfect for date night.
Pro tip: Though not necessary, consider going to movies that you’ve already seen — “outside” usually not offering the ideal film-viewing experience. That’s why films like Back to the Future and anything Disney are good for the outdoors. If you miss something, you probably already knew it from the first dozen times you’ve seen the film.
Tuesdays, May 23 to June 27
Theme: Crowd-pleasing comedies
Highlight: ThIs is Spinal Tap, May 23
One of the best neighborhood movie nights, Adams Morgan is leaning into the comedy of it all with pre-screening stand-up, programmed by local comedy club Hotbed.
Thursdays, June 1 to July 13
Theme: Martial arts and other action films mixed with live music
Highlight: Everything Everywhere All at Once, June 29
If you’re a fan of martial arts movies, especially ones beloved by Wu-Tang, you’re going to dig this series.
First Friday of the month, June 2 to September 1
Theme: Tim Burton’s Summer of Surreal
Highlight: The Nightmare Before Christmas, July 7
It’s the most appropriate outdoor movie pairing: Tim Burton and a cemetery.
Wednesdays, May 10 to June 7
Theme: Villains We Love
Highlight: Hook, May 17
This setting is kinda neat: a small park in a “new” neighborhood sandwiched between condos and the Metro.
First and third Friday through July 21
Highlight: Top Gun: Maverick, July 7
The rare outdoor movie in D.C. that costs money, this drive-in isn’t free because it’s an actual drive-in. Unless you want to just sit at the picnic tables at Union Market. Then it’s free.
Fridays through September 1
Theme: A bit of everything
Highlight: Jaws, July 7
The Kennedy Center’s newish lawn is home to one of the newer outdoor film series. You’re going to want to check their site to make sure the screening you’re planning on attending is actually outside — some of the films in this series are indoors in the Justice Forum.
June 16, July 21 and August 25
Theme: 2022 hits
Highlight: The Woman King, August 25
In a city full of beautiful settings, none may be more inspiring than a film with the MLK Memorial as the backdrop.
Theme: French films related to dance
Highlight: The Artist, May 25
This screening at the Hillwood Estate is part of a series. Unfortunately, the entire series has not been announced, just the first movie.
Tuesdays in August and September
Here’s a chance to remind you that not every outdoor film screening for 2023 has been announced. Last year, this schedule was released a month before films began, so expect the 2023 schedule sometime in July.
TBA, but the 2022 edition was on Thursdays in June
See: Georgetown Sunset Cinema. This series takes place in Farragut Park.
Wednesdays June 21 and 28, July 19 and 26
Highlight: Back to the Future, June 21
Of all the outdoor movie series, we’d like more screenings from this setting. Most of the series in this list are on a lawn, with no seating or need for tickets. This is in an outdoor amphitheater and ticketed. Still free, but ticketed — and tickets tend to go well before movie night.
Thursdays September 7 to October 12
Theme: Navy-themed films
Highlight: The Hunt for Red October, September 7
Do you like films about men at sea?
Thursdays and Sundays through September 28
Theme: Date-night Thursdays, family-movie Sundays
Highlights: Sister Act (August 24) and Encanto (September 24)
This isn’t technically in D.C., but it’s just across the Potomac, so we’re including it. Also, it’s got the most films of any series, with two a week through the rest of spring and the entire summer.
TBA, but the 2022 edition was on Thursdays in July
Theme: Typically it’s films recently added to the National Film Registry
The Library of Congress outdoor film series is one of D.C.’s best, though unfortunately not announced until a month prior. The 2022 edition began in July and was announced in June. Expect the same this year.
This article was featured in the InsideHook DC newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Beltway.
Suggested for you