Each month my wife and I try to have a date night away from the kids and the home. That’s not always possible though, due to childcare limitations, so what I will often do is put up our backyard movie screen and have our date night outdoors and under the stars.
Over the summer, we love to sit back and relax in the backyard, put a movie on, and have a lovely date night with no interruptions once the kids are asleep.
We’ve been watching movies in our backyard like this for nearly two decades now, and in that time, have watched hundreds of movies, some of which you can see on my recommended top 10 list of outdoor movies.
When it comes to a date night though, it requires something a little bit more romantic. Here are just a few that you might want to consider watching in your own backyard, followed by some tips you could use to make the night even more perfect.
01: Dirty Dancing
This classic movie is often associated with summer, and for people of a certain generation brings back very nostalgic memories from first seeing it in the 1980s.
It was a very low-budget movie at the time, but quickly became one of the best-selling movies of all time – in fact, it was the first film to sell one million copies on home video.
My wife loves Patrick Swayze which certainly helps and in the past when watching this outdoors, we’ve had our own little dance afterward.
02: When Harry Met Sally
It’s got Tom Hanks in it! Have you ever seen a bad Tom Hanks movie? I don’t think they exist – ok, so perhaps I’ll give you Turner and Hooch.
It’s romantic, has laughs in it, a great cast, foot-tapping soundtrack, and superb story. It was actually nominated for an Oscar in 1989 but unfortunately lost out on the main prize.
Before you do decide to watch this in your backyard, it’s worth remembering there is that scene with a very vocal Meg Ryan in it, so possibly only one for those where neighbors and kids aren’t within hearing distance!
Not so much comedy in this one, but it sure looks good on the big screen and translates perfectly to the backyard movie experience. The end scene will be the point where you and your date might need to dab those tears away and cuddle up.
At the time, this was the most expensive movie ever made, and it still stands up to close scrutiny when compared to present movies and the special effects used.
I guess the question on everyone’s lips will always be why didn’t Rose pull Jack up onto the door raft, but don’t let that spoil your enjoyment of this classic movie.
- Buy: Titanic on Amazon
04: Notting Hill
Let’s lighten the mood again now with another romantic comedy in the form of Notting Hill with Julia Roberts plus the quintessential English gent, Hugh Grant.
It rates 83% on the Rotten Tomatoes website, with one reviewer saying that the film offers charming performances that provide romance aplenty.
This movie won an award for its soundtrack which includes music from Shania Twain, Al Green, and Elvis Costello – all very romantic numbers too which should set the mood just right for your backyard movie date night.
05: Pretty Woman
Julia Roberts has form for romantic movies and here she is again. This movie consistently ranks in the top 10 of films in this particular genre, with Roberts starring alongside Richard Gere in what is considered to be a modern update to the ages-old Cinderella story.
The storyline follows that of a glamorous prostitute and her relationship with a local businessman. It doesn’t really sound like it should work, but thankfully it does!
By all accounts, this film was originally intended to be a dark cautionary tale about class and sex work in Los Angeles. I can’t help but feel it probably wouldn’t have had the same commercial success without the change of angle in making it a romantic story instead.
06: Brokeback Mountain
Who can resist the sad tale of two cowboys and their forbidden love and secret relationship? Not many people it turns out, as this movie was a multiple award winner back in 2006, and has since become a cinema classic.
That’s not to say it didn’t provoke some controversy, with some movie theaters canceling showings, and conservative media pundits accusing Hollywood of pushing a gay agenda.
I think it’s an awesome movie though, and whilst very sad, it does include some lighter moments. But ultimately, it’s a tragic love story that people of any sexual persuasion of gender can enjoy.
07: Thelma & Louise
I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t a romantic movie. Think again though as what can be more romantic than two friends holding hands, driving off a cliff, whilst escaping the long arm of the law. Still not convinced?
When it was released in 1991 it became very significant for feminist media as it was seen as a response to a feminist backlash in the 1980s. If you are organizing a date night for a lady in your life, what better way to subtly suggest you are in touch with feminism?
OK, so that might see through all that, but it’s still a great movie, and portrays images of strong women, with a great story and soundtrack.
08: Lost in Translation
It’s got Bill Murray in it! What better recommendation is there than that? It’s an atypical romantic story and offers a cultural snapshot of Tokyo, whilst also providing a bellyful of laugh-out-loud moments.
There’s the final whisper at the end of the film which we don’t get to hear between Murray and Scarlett Johansson which marks the end of their brief encounter… what do they say?
I have absolutely zero ideas, but the movie itself is packed full of longing glances and desires left unpursued – which sounds like most of the romances I had before I got married.
09: The Notebook
Let’s pick up the pace now, with a sad romantic movie that will move you to tears if you have even half a heart. Starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, this date night movie tells of a young couple’s love being interrupted by war.
It’s the 15th highest-grossing romantic movie of all time, but weirdly seems to be one that many people say they have never seen – so could be a good movie for you both to watch if something new is on the agenda.
At the end, there’s a sucker-punch moment that will leave you in tears and having to cuddle up to your nearest and dearest under the stars.
10: A Monster Calls
My wife and I watched this in bed one night, and I really wish we’d watched it outdoors now due to the cinematography and scenes – many of which take up the whole screen in breathtaking display of special effects.
Putting that to one side though, it’s not a love story at all, but instead a dark story of a little boy and the relationship with his mother (and a tree-like monster played by Liam Neeson).
It is possibly the saddest film I have seen in recent years, and my wife was in tears at the end of it. If you like your films to move you to tears, then this comes highly recommended.
I think we need some light relief after that last recommendation for romantic outdoor movie films, so how about Grease? This romantic musical is perfect for summer nights, if only for the “Summer Loving” tune.
It tells the story of a girl falling for a bad boy and how… look, you know the rest, everyone has seen this movie at least five times, right?
The movie’s 1978 soundtrack was the second-best-selling album of the year, with those tunes all being stuck in the subconscious of generations to come. It should have you singing along on your date, or at the very least doing some rigorous foot-tapping.
- Buy: Grease on Amazon
12: Romeo and Juliet
Leonardo DiCaprio makes another appearance in this list, in this 1996 version of the Shakespearean tale. The bard’s famous play is updated for modern times, taking place in the hip modern suburb of Verona – whilst still retaining its original dialogue.
Two teenagers fall in love and have to hide their relationship from their feuding families, knowing that they are not allowed to be together. Follow their trials and tribulations as they try to pursue love in troubled times.
Whilst it is set in modern times, it still manages to retain the time-honored traditional love story of “star-crossed lovers”.
13: Natural Born Killers
Fancy yourselves as modern-day Bonnie and Clyde? These guys did. Whilst it’s a black comedy crime and action movie, at the core is a story of two partners who go on a journey of death and destruction.
I believe it’s one of the most touching love stories told on the big screen, and whilst many people might disagree with me due to the violent content and storyline, it tells the story of two miserable people brought together by fire so strong.
It’s definitely one to watch once the kids have gone to bed and are fast asleep!
Buy These Movies Online
If you don’t have these movies to hand, or can’t stream them in any way, then you can buy them all in their original format on the Amazon website. It also includes options for buying via the Amazon Prime platform. You can see links for each movie listed above.
Finally… Quick Tips for a More Romantic Backyard Movie Night
The film is just one part of making the perfect romantic backyard movie date night. Here are some very short suggestions on how you can make it a night to remember with your loved one.
- Have the champagne on ice in an ice bucket and stand
- Use inflatable mattresses and beds instead of garden chairs
- Scatter cushions on the mattress then scatter rose petals
- Set up candle lighting to make an intimate romantic feel
- Light a fire and have some marshmallows ready to toast
Keep coming back to the Outdoor Movie Projectors website as next month I will be putting together more comprehensive ideas on how you can plan and set up the most romantic backyard movie night of all time!