A Comprehensive Guide to a Summer of Outdoor Movies in DC

All the films, all the picnic blankets, all the empty wine bottles

May 23, 2023 7:25 am
Capitol Hill behind projector screen showing movie on a lawn with people watching in Washington, D.C.
You've got 14 series and dozens upon dozens of movies to choose from.
Library of Congress/Shawn Miller

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.

Adams Morgan Movie Nights

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

Can I Kick It?

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. 

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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. 

The Drive-In at Union Market

First and third Friday through July 21

Theme: Blockbusters

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. 

Extraordinary Cinema

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. 

Films at the Stone

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. 

Films on the Green

May 25

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. 

Georgetown Sunset Cinema

Tuesdays in August and September 

Theme: TBA

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. 

GLDN+ Cinema

TBA, but the 2022 edition was on Thursdays in June

Theme: TBA

See: Georgetown Sunset Cinema. This series takes place in Farragut Park.

Movie Night Wednesdays in the Park

Wednesdays June 21 and 28, July 19 and 26

Theme: Crowd-pleasers 

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. 

Movies on the Memorial 

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? 

Movies on the Potomac

 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.

Summer Movies on the Lawn

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.

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