Free Outdoor Movies for NYC Kids this Summer
Enjoying a free alfresco film is a rite of summer in New York City. Even if you go to see a flick you've watched a million times at home, it's a totally different experience viewing it in the open air alongside a couple hundred other movie lovers. It ends up being a pretty thrilling communal event.
A few outdoor movie series, like RiverFlicks for Kids in the West Village, are aimed specifically at children. But even the big grown-up ones like Bryant Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park's Syfy Movies With A View include a family-friendly screening or two. Plus this year, the Central Park Conservancy is asking New Yorkers to pick which movies they want to see for the park's annual August outdoor film festival!
Movies usually begin at dusk between 8-8:30pm but make sure you arrive early: The well known series fill up fast. Plus, sometimes there is cool, pre-movie entertainment. So pack a picnic, bring your blanket, sit back, relax and enjoy the show at one of these outdoor summer movie series in NYC.
Bryant Park Summer Film Festival – Midtown West
Mondays, June 17-August 19
Sixth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets
This series' lineup of classic movies usually attracts serious cinephiles who very well may scoff if you bring your preschoolers. The two films that will probably be of most interest to families are the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on Monday, July 8 and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which closes out the series on Monday, August 19. However, if you have a tween, browse the entire schedule as there are some more mature flicks they might enjoy, especially if they like old ones. Warning: This one gets seriously crowded! Arrive when the lawn opens at 5pm if you want to snag a decent spot.
RCN Movie Nights – Kips Bay
Mondays, August 5-26
Waterside Plaza, East River between 25th and 29th Streets
This high-rise apartment complex hosts four alfresco flicks in August and water, appropriately, is this year's theme. Muppet Treasure Island on Monday, August 19 is really the only family-friendly option, though perhaps tweens would enjoy Life of Pi on Friday, August 5. Seating is extremely limited and you should bring your own blankets or chairs.
Coney Island Flicks on the Beach – Coney Island
1001 Boardwalk West at West 10th Street
Mondays, July 1-August 19
End your fun-filled day at Coney Island with a free flick shown on a jumbo 40-foot screen by the ocean. The one all-ages flick is Wreck it Ralph on Monday, July 22, but The Hunger Games on Monday, July 15, Men in Black III on Monday, July 29 and The Avengers on Monday, August 5 are all fun for tweens.
Movie Nights in Astoria Park – Astoria
Mondays, July 29-August 26
Astoria Park Lawn on Shore Boulevard between Hell Gate Bridge and the Pool
Three of this year's flicks are super family-friendly: Annie on Monday, July 29, last year's Disney hit Brave on Monday, August 19 and Pixar's wonderful Finding Nemo on Friday, August 26.
Williamsburg Summer Movies – Williamsburg
Mondays, June 24-July 29
East River State Park, Kent Avenue and North 8th Street
Locals were understandably upset when community organization Town Square Inc said it had scrapped its popular family movie series SummerStarz due to bureaucracy overload. The good news? Another local nonprofit, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, has decided to fill the void. The one big difference is not all of the flicks are kid-friendly. Best bets for families are Despicable Me on Monday, June 24, Hugo on Monday, July 8 and Up on Monday, July 22.
Summer Movie Night – Citywide
Tuesdays, June 4-July 23
The New York Restoration Project hosts family screenings in several of its NYC community gardens, complete with complimentary popcorn.
- Finding Nemo in Far Rockaway on Tuesday, June 4
- The Muppets in Washington Heights on Tuesday, June 11
- Space Jam in the Bronx on Tuesday, June 18
- Where the Wild Things Are in Washington Heights on Tuesday, June 25
- Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted in the Bronx on Tuesday, July 2
- Ghostbusters in Washington Heights on Tuesday, July 9
- The Goonies in East Harlem on Tuesday, July 16
- Wreck-It Ralph in Clinton Hill on Tuesday, July 23
Rooftop Films at Bronx Terminal Market – the Bronx
Tuesdays, July 16, 23, 30
610 Exterior Street, Level 6, Garage Roofdeck
Held on the roof of the market’s parking deck, this series includes preshow activities that tie into the movies being screened.
- Despicable Me on Tuesday, July 16
- Wreck-It Ralph on Tuesday, July 23
- The Goonies on Tuesday, July 30
Red Hook Flicks – Red Hook
Tuesdays, July 9-August 27
Valentino Pier, Ferris Street between Coffey and Van Dyke Streets
Another fest aimed at adults, Red Hook Flicks is only screening one all-ages flick: Kung Fu Panda on Tuesday, July 16. There are a few films tweens might enjoy, like Stand by Me on Tuesday, July 9, Akeelah and the Bee on Tuesday, August 6 and Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead on Tuesday, August 27. Plus the view can't be beat: New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
Summer on the Hudson: Movies Under the Stars – Upper West Side
Wednesdays, July 10-August 14
Pier I in Riverside Park, 70th Street at the Hudson River
This year's theme is song and dance! Most of the movies are good for families.
- Busby Berkeley masterpiece Gold Diggers of 1933 on Wednesday, July 10
- The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup on Wednesday, July 17
- The rare Dr. Seuss-written movie musical The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T on Wednesday, July 24
- Fiddler on the Roof on Wednesday, July 31
- Little Shop of Horrors, which is probably too scary for young kids, on Wednesday, August 7
- Last year's PG-13 a cappella hit Pitch Perfect, best for tweens, on Wednesday, August 14
SummerScreen – Williamsburg
Wednesday, July 10-August 14
McCarren Park, Bedford Avenue and North 12th Street
Spend the day in the activity-filled McCarren Park and then catch screenings like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on Wednesday, August 17 and The Goonies on Wednesday, August 31. Be warned: The fest is a little hipstery: Each movie is preceded by a local Brooklyn band and you may get sneered at for bringing junior along.
Front Row Cinema – South Street Seaport
Corner of Front and Fulton Streets
Wednesdays, July 10-August 28
The revitalization of the Hurricane Sandy-ravaged Seaport continues with the debut of this outdoor movies series. Ice Age on Wednesday, July 10 and Finding Nemo on Wednesday, July 24 are best for young ones. Tweens should enjoy the action flicks Ghostbusters on Wednesday, July 17, Star Trek on Wednesday, July 31 and Spider-Man on Wednesday, August 24. The perfect way to end the day after creative fun in the Imagination Playground.
Movies Under the Stars – Hoboken
Wednesdays, June 12-August 21
Hoboken Pier A Park, First Street and Frank Sinatra Drive
Across the water, flicks are screened in that other Hudson River park: Hoboken Pier A Park. If you're coming from Manhattan, just hop on the PATH train and then settle in for first-rate films. While this year's lineup is mostly aimed at grown-ups, the last three flicks of the summer are for families. Mary Poppins on Wednesday, August 7 preceded by a concert by Preschool of Rock and a My Gym Hoboken demo), The Croods on Wednesday, August 14 and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted on Wednesday, August 21.
Syfy Movies with a View – Dumbo
Thursdays, July 11-August 29
Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1, Harbor View Lawn
Not only do you get a movie and a view, you also get complimentary pre-show entertainment like live DJs and shorts. The only truly kid-friendly films in this year's lineup are the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Thursday, July 25 and the Audrey Hepburn romance Roman Holiday on Thursday, August 8 but many of the other mature movies are great for date night.
RiverFlicks for Kids – West Village
Fridays, July 12-August 23
Pier 46 in Hudson River Park, Charles and West Streets
As always, this kid-centric series has a fantastic lineup featuring many of last year's big family hits plus a few new classics, all rated PG. I've been many times and you really need to arrive early, by 7pm or so, to stake out a good spot, since the screen isn't that big. It's a lovely place for a picnic (bring your own food or hit the vendors) and there's usually a nice breeze off the water. Plus there's FREE popcorn while supplies last.
- The Pirates! Band of Misfits on Friday, July 12
- ParaNorman on Friday, July 19
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit on Friday, July 26
- Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted on Friday, August 2
- Rise of the Guardians on Friday, August 9
- Beetlejuice on Friday, August 16
- Adventures of Tintin on Friday, August 23
There is also a RiverFlicks for Grown-Ups series at Pier 63 on Wednesdays, however, this year's offerings are all PG-13 or R, though tweens should enjoy The Avengers (Wednesday, August 7) or The Hunger Games (Wednesday, August 21).
Intrepid Summer Movie Series – Midtown West
Fridays, June 21, 28, July 26, August 2, 15 and 23
Intrepid Air & Space Museum, Pier 86, 46th Street and Twelfth Avenue
The giant ship screens family blockbusters on its flight deck. This year's lineup includes new classics from the '80s, '90s and '00s, all rated PG (though Jaws still scares me!). Doors open at 7:30pm.
- National Treasure on Friday, June 21
- Jaws on Friday, June 28
- The original 1979 Star Trek movie on Friday, July 26
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on Friday, August 2
- Top Gun on Friday, August 15
- The original Karate Kid on Friday, August 23
Narrows Botanical Gardens Movie Nights – Bay Ridge
Fridays, July 12, 26, August 16, 23 and September 6
7200-7398 Shore Road
Didn't know that Brooklyn had another botanical garden, did you? This small green space hosts a quintet of free flicks. Mr. Popper's Penguins on Friday, July 12, Ice Age on Friday, August 16 and Who Framed Roger Rabbit on Friday, August 23 are the best bets for families.
Outdoor Summer Movie Series – Roosevelt Island
Saturdays, June 29, July 13, 27, August 10 and 24
Southpoint Park on Roosevelt Island
Enjoy a daycation on the lovely isle and then end your visit with a free family flick by the water. Tween-friendly offerings include The Hunger Games on Saturday, June 29 and Pitch Perfect on Saturday, July 13, and all ages can enjoy Brave on Saturday, July 27.
Movies Under the Stars at Habana Outpost – Fort Greene
Sundays, May 5-October 27
757 Fulton Street between Oxford Street and Portland Avenue
The popular eco-eatery regularly hosts free community activities in its garden like this Sunday night movie series, which lasts well into the fall. The lineup is quite eclectic with a lot of good bets for tweens and teens like Grease on Sunday, August 18, Goonies on Sunday, September 1 and Hairspray on Sunday, September 22. Although the films are free, viewers are encouraged to buy food from the restaurant.
The Central Park Conservancy Film Festival – Upper West Side
Tuesday, August 22-Saturday, August 26
The area between Sheep Meadow and the 72nd Street Cross Drive
Want a say in what you'll see? Good, because the Central Park Conservancy is asking movie lovers to vote online to determine the lineup of this year's film fest. Each night has a theme (classics, family, romantic comedy, horror, adventure) and there are four options per category. I just voted myself and there are a lot of great ones! Voting ends on Sunday, June 23. Once the movies are chosen, we'll update this post. And if your favorites win and you decide to go, remember that gates open at 6:30pm and you really need to arrive on time.
There are also one-off screenings in various city parks throughout the summer, so it's worth browsing the Parks Department's calendar, which lists all of them. NYCGo also has a great list of summer movie series, including ones that are only for adults.
For more seasonal happenings, check out our Summer Fun Guide.