5 Tips to Make Family Movie Night a Success

Connect as a family and help kids with media literacy, too! By Sierra Filucci
Topics: Screen Time
5 Tips to Make Family Movie Night a Success

We say this a lot, but we think it's worth repeating: It's important to get involved in your kids media lives -– and your kids will love it too (within reason!). But helping them become critical media consumers can be easier said than done. What’s a sure-fire way to stay involved with your kids' media picks and create an opportunity to discuss them? Host a family movie night!

Some tips for making it work:

Schedule it. Make it a regular date and time and don't break it. Turn off cell phones and ban multitasking during the show.

Take turns choosing the movie. If you've got little kids, pre-select a group to choose from (to avoid watching Care Bears IV over and over again). If you've got teens, tell them you'll watch anything they choose as long as they return the favor when it's your turn. Enforce a "no complaining" rule.

Location, location, location. Hang a sheet in the backyard, rent a projector, and sit on beach chairs to celebrate a classic like The Wizard of Oz. Or take family movie night on the road during vacations or at the grandparents’ house (Singin' in the Rain, perhaps?).

Make it a theme night. This can be simple or elaborate. Eat popsicles with March of the Penguins or make food art with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Dress in costume for A Princess Bride, or learn a few magic tricks before Harry Potter.

Talk about it. When credits roll or the next day, make time to chat about what you watched. Kids might be interested in learning more about animation or Hollywood history. Visit the library to follow up on interests piqued by the movie. Talking with kids about how movie characters handled fictional situations can be a subtle way to reinforce your family's values or get kids to open up about their lives.

Check out our reviews for conversation starters in the "Families can talk about" section. And here's a list of great family movie picks.

About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more

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Comments (26)

Kid, 12 years old

With littles watch Disney princess/Disney musical films, with slightly bigger, basic kids (ages 6-9) watch the Disney channel original movies (which I despise), with 6+ that are open to movies that aren’t Disney channel/Disney musicals watch Star Wars and/or Harry Potter
Teen, 13 years old written by Michael_Scott

Thank for the tips. We already have a family movie night once a week! So thanks for ensuring that we are doing the right thing. Though my sister, stubborn, me, selective, and my dad, a movie buff, have a really hard time deciding while my mom is just trying to make popcorn.
Kid, 12 years old

Some nice picks there, I also suggest Moana if you have little ones, The Greatest Showman if you have tweens, Avengers if you have teens, or if it was like a "theme night", go for The Little Mermaid if you have little ones, A Cinderella Story if you have tweens, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens with teens. What do you think of my suggestions? :D
Teen, 13 years old written by Michael_Scott

My 10 year old sister and I have seen all of these movies at our age now and younger. So the age thing doesn't check out but other then that the movies are good selections. Except the greatest showman.
Kid, 10 years old

These are some very good suggestions, I have seen most of these but I enjoy watching them over again and when our five year old cousin spends the night we watch the Greatest Showman because it's something we all like. The Avengers and Star Wars are awesome, but I usually can't watch PG13 unless my younger sister is somewhere else or I am with a friend who can see PG13. Thanks for the suggestions though!
Kid, 9 years old

My family typically has a lot of trouble at movie night. My dad will get mad that the TV isn’t working and the movie won’t download, my sister and I can’t agree on what to watch (she wants to watch Monster High, I want to watch Marvel movies), or we’re eating too much junk food. This article has 5 helpful tips on how you can make your family movie night better. Although they don’t solve all of the problems we have, it was great to be able to (finally!) find a resource that helped by suggesting 5 perfect tips that can make family movie night so much better and easier. I have been commenting and reviewing for just over a year now, and I would like to say that Common Sense Media is an informative and helpful resource that can help you make and manage decisions about a particular media title. This website has helped me decide whether or not I should read/watch/play/use something and it has helped my parents decide whether or not numerous books and movies are appropriate for me. This was an informative article and will have some surefire tips for movie night success. Be sure to check this out!
Parent of a 8 year old written by Steve J.

These are good tips. We do movie night with our daughter on Friday nights and have been doing it for about 2-3 years now. She looks forward to it so much. Our rules are we take turns picking the movie (I like the no complaining rule from this article) and my daughter's rule was she wants it to be a movie she hasn't seen before. I like her rule because not a lot of good kids movies come out every year so it makes me have to go back through 80's and 90's to find some older movies she would enjoy.
Adult written by isaaclee

why not have a movie night for old times sake since there have been many people doing since the tv was introduced. families used to gather up and watch whatever on tv. make a like a movie theater. But be wise upon what you watch. you don't want to watch a horror movie with children or get nasty and watch x-rated movies. it's a great way to bring the family together
Parent of a 7, 9, 11, and 13 year old written by SalCM

We have had Family Movie Night for years on Friday nights. For quite a while I used to make posters with pictures of the (surprise) movie and accompanying meal. I'd put one on the front door and through the house, for when the kids arrived home from school. They loved it!
Kid, 10 years old

This is what the article should have been. Hang a sheet in the backyard, rent a projector, and sit on beach chairs, oh, and I hope you like mosquitoes, because they're gonna be all over you. Make it a theme night!? The last thing a kid is going to want to do, is make food art...they're trying to watch a movie...
Teen, 16 years old written by minehexxer

I think you're totally right...these suggestions do seem like overkill just to watch a movie. However, I think this article was also geared a bit more towards parents of toddlers, who probably wouldn't be able to sit through an hour-long movie without the added incentive of special treats to sweeten the deal.
Teen, 13 years old written by kchen444

I agree. Kids old enough to care about "family movie nights" don't want to do arts and crafts ...
Adult written by hazzaboy

i clicked this article because i wanted to know what it would be like to have "family movie night" we would rarely watch films together and it was exiting when we did, i remember we watched blues brothers w hen i was 7 and toy story 2 soon after. but mostly i would watch movies on megashare in my room because our family weren't very together. and talking about the film afterwards? thanks for making me realise how weird our family is, i really wish our family was closer because this sounds a lot of fun
Parent of a 10 and 15 year old written by Peppers68

The tip about taking turns choosing the movie is a MUST! We tried the "lets all decide what to watch" and that did not go well at all. But, if everyone takes a turn weekly, movie night goes a lot smoother. The "No Complaining" rule ROCKS!!!
Adult written by apackage

I loved this piece. Just a nice, warmhearted set of tips. Our kids, who are 6, 10 and 12, are hard to choose for (in the sense that their age span makes it difficult to choose a movie we all like), but they love the experience of being with us and everyone focussing together in the dark, cuddled on couches with popcorn, that I think they really don't care that much what the movie is.
Parent of a 12 and 14 year old written by Philip24

Kid, 12 years old makes some good points and I certainly respect the effort made to warn us about the potential problems with Ms. Filucci's suggestions. However, I have a 13 year old and a 15 year old, and we have been successfully having Family Movie Night every Friday since they were 4 and 6. There has been complaining, even sometimes outright fights, but generally the process of learning how to compromise, discussing our taste in movies and respecting each other's choices, has been good for everyone. We have never had anyone multi-tasking and never will--never even an issue. I wholeheartedly agree that most people of any age will want to talk about the film when they have processed it a bit. Forcing a conversation at any time other than when the person is interested is a bad idea. That said, we have very stimulating conversations about movies in our family, mostly at the dinner table the next day. Finally, I would bet "Kid 12 year old" that your parents are waiting with great eagerness for you to move through this cynical phase in your life. With your taste in movies...you will be really fun to talk to about them!
Kid, 12 years old

What will actually happen: Tip 1- Teens will find a way to sneak a phone in, and if caught will complain regardless of what Tip 2 suggests. Will most likely ruin family experience, and people will be extremely annoyed the whole time Tip 2- Your kid will be entertained regardless if under the age of 10, brains for entertainment don't develop quite until then (it actually depends on the IQ, I'm 12 and my favorite movies are Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, and Saving Private Ryan, while my friends' picks are The Avengers, Transformers, and whichever PG-13 horror film was cranked out that weekend). In the situation of your teen, he will point out that you don't let him watch everything, and will most likely make you sit through something like Saw or whatever. Complaining will happen regardless. Tip 3- If you put it outside, you will most likely spend upwards of 100$, and is it really worth it based on the scenario that will most likely happen? Grandparents' house might work, but it will be much easier for a teen to sneak out or something. Tip 4- Eat popsicles, they'll melt. Exotic cheese? It'll be so exspensive that each person gets a very small amount, teens complain, kids annoyed mildly. Magic tricks? Kids will be bored throughout, guarantee it. Just get on with the movie. Tip 5- Kids won't be interested in talking about it. They'll just sit around the whole time, teens will also ask to leave. It'll be one very awkward moment, and will result in a lot of annoyance.
written by Peacewashere

Tip one and two are bound to fail and mildly oppressive. Magic tricks ARE dumb. But otherwise you just are looking for ways these suggestions could go wrong. I've had movie night for years with my grandparents and I know what is and is not appropriate to watch with my family. Popsicles can be put into bowls and eaten happily, cheese has also got a great record with us and is delicious. Good cheese is not as expensive as one might think. Discussion is worth while but don't force or schedule it.