How to throw a killer movie night: 6 essential tips for a most excellent party

Hosting a movie night is one of the best ways, as a film buff, to show friends and family that you care about spending quality time together. Thing is, there’s more to a movie night than simply hitting play when other people happen to be in the room.

  • It’s a way to unite your nearest and dearest through one of your passions.
  • It’s a way to enlighten your pals on the subtle nuances of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • It’s a way to convince your mum that Roadhouse, not Ghost, is in fact Patrick Swayze’s best movie.

You get the idea.

Once you’ve decided that you’re going to do it, you’re going to commit to rockin’ a movie night, you need to figure out how to do it right. Well, you are hosting after all. With great hosting comes great responsibility.

To make this an awesome movie night, you’re going to have to get creative. It’s okay, this guide doesn’t involve any hardcore crafting (unless of course you want to Modge Podge the shit out of some Star Wars invites, then do it!).

It’s all easy-to-follow and easy-to-implement.

I’m gonna give you a rundown on how to get your movie night up and running with no stress and for less than $100. You’ll figure out how to dress up your home, devise a sumptuous snack menu, tinker with your home cinema set-up and, of course, pick out a killer selection of movies.

Follow these 6 steps and you’ll be on your way to hosting a legendary movie night faster than you can say “Great Scott!”

This post may include affiliate links. Please read our affiliate disclosure policy for more information!

1. Pick an amazing theme

Don’t do this theme. Everyone will hate you for it.

Asking someone “wanna watch a movie?” is basically akin to saying “I’m too much of a scaredy cat to watch Get Out by myself. Please come over.” So try to entice people with a theme to end all themes.

My thoughts on how to ensure that everyone will come round to your preferred theme are simple: begin by suggesting one that’s so outlandish no-one will object to the follow-up suggestion.

For example: gather a group of friends and throw out the idea of a night based around The Ice Storm. You know, the one where Elijah Wood gets electrocuted while the adults are having a car key party.

At this point, everyone will start to feel really uncomfortable because it’s a frankly bizarre idea that should never be suggested for a movie night. It’s then that you raise your actual idea. You could suggest a movie night based around The Thing wherein people are awarded prizes for the best costumes, like one of the crew members mid-transformation.

Alright, so jocularity aside, the theme, and how you come up with it, is really up to you. Try brainstorming what your group has in common and what’s most likely to ensure no-one feels pressured to do something they don’t want to do (like watching Elijah Wood get electrocuted).

Similarly, you could go the seasonal route.

If it’s Halloween, that’s a perfect opportunity to host a horror movie night! Rock out a badass double bill, perhaps? If it’s summertime, you could host a blockbuster marathon. Let your movie-freaked mind go wild.

2 Transform your abode into the perfect movie-watching environment

Think wisely about using an evil trash bag as decor. Last time I used one it stole my wallet.

Your guests have no idea what they’re in for. And no, I don’t mean that mysterious takeout carton that’s been wedged in the back of the fridge for so long it’s now sentient and has started abusing your Amazon Prime membership.

No, I mean, you’re going to turn your home into a movie-watching haven…WITH DECORATIONS.

Now, of course, you can go any direction you’d prefer, although I’d say that your theme should really dictate the type of decor you fork out for.

For example, if you’re opting for a Friday the 13th movie party you can pick up a bunch of party supplies online, including:

As you can see, scoring movie party supplies online can be done cheaply. That whole lot comes in at under $40.

Granted, it’s probably going to be a smidgen more difficult to find customised movie decorations for a film like The Accountant. In that case, decorating your abode with choice film art adds a simple yet classy touch, and you get to enjoy the posters forever. Find out more about movie posters and how to snag a bargain in our ultimate guide.

Once you’ve got your decor squared away, there is the small matter of seating. You’re going to want to make sure that everyone who attends has two things:

  1. A comfortable seat
  2. A decent view of the screen

Those things might sound obvious, but I’ve been to some movie nights where the asshat in charge (me) didn’t ensure there were enough seats (8 rickety chairs for 20 people) and the movie was awful (Southland Tales). Needless to say, 7 of those chairs were vacant by the end, much like my soul.

Ask your neighbours and friends if they’ve got cushions, bean bags, chairs, or even a futon that doesn’t weight 5 tonnes. Your living room might need moving around a little to accommodate extra space for the borrowed seats.

3. Figure out your location and home cinema setup

Instead of watching the movie where you normally do, you could spice things up and move locations.

Under the stairs in the basement adds a certain scary charm if you’re watching horror. Or, if you’re showing a bunch of summer blockbusters, perhaps head outdoors and set things up in the backyard.

With everything in place, you then have to do the most basic of housekeeping tasks: checking your electronics. This may seem pointless, especially if you use your home entertainment setup everyday. But indulge me.

The last thing you want is for everyone to pile round, only to learn that your housemate borrowed your last HDMI cable and he’s buggered off to his mum’s for the weekend.

Check that your TV, Blu-ray, streaming box, surround sound are all fully operational the night before your movie night. Check ‘em twice if you moved everything into a new location.

4. Choose a great movie

movies for movie night

Movie nights are a bit like The Toxic Avenger. They sometimes mutate. It’s the way it goes. You start by organising a small gathering to watch an Oscar-nominated foreign documentary, to find that idea quickly tossed aside in favour of a Die Hard marathon after everyone’s had a few drinks.

If you’ve spent time and hard-earned money on creating an enchanting evening, only for that to get stymied in favour of Bruce Willis and his overflowing charisma, then here’s how you ensure that doesn’t happen.

You pick a GREAT movie to begin with.

Look, we’ve all been there. You want to watch The Convent for the 900th time because it’s the best movie ever made featuring Adrienne Barbeau AND zombie nuns. But not everyone shares your point of view.

Selecting a film for your gathering is dependent on one key factor: it has to fit into your overall theme.

Will your friends be happy to watch Frozen when you’d dropped subtle references all week to the dad from Home Alone fighting radioactive mutants down a drain? (C.H.U.D. forever!)

Try not to start the evening by making folks disgruntled.

Likewise, make sure that no-one’s going to be freaked out to discover you’re all hunkering down to watch Mommy Dearest, when they have a particular aversion to Faye Dunaway barking and shrieking. Although, that’s a great idea for another movie night. You could do a double bill with the original Supergirl movie or marathon it with Bonnie & Clyde.

Once you’ve decided on the film – or films – you’ve got to figure out where to get them. You might already own them, in which case, great!

If not, you’ve got options.

  • Visit a Redbox and rent new releases
  • Stream movies from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, etc. If you’ve already got a streaming subscription (or several), make use of them!
  • Borrow DVDs from your local library. A good choice if you’re wanting something less recent
  • Find a great film in the public domain. Seriously, there’s OODLES of solid cinema out there to download and/or stream for free
  • Download a free movie app that lets you watch a bunch of movies legally

5. Rock some epic movie night snacks

movie snack ideas

Celery, carrots and miscellaneous white dip? That snack might have cut it back in the day. Back when VHS was cutting edge and the concept of being able to pause, rewind and fast forward films was mind-blowing. Nowadays, if you want to deliver, you’ve got to go all out.

I’m talking simple yet tasty.

Popcorn is a must-have.

There’s nothing quite like settling down for a movie with a gigantic bucket of freshly-popped corn on your lap. Or even old, stale corn. Smother that badboy in enough powdered cheese and it’ll taste good as new. To keep it classic, serve it up in traditional movie theater popcorn boxes.

Fancy wandering brazenly into new culinary realms?

Check out The Kitchn’s superb homemade caramel popcorn recipe.

Serious Eats has a great list of homemade movie food ideas, and

There’s a slew of terrific easy-to-make snacks over at The Greatist.

Remember that for a seamless movie night, find a way to integrate your theme. That’s why a Goodfellas night always sits well with me; I get to practice slicing garlic with a razor while drinking cheap white wine out of a short glass.

You could also fully get stuck in and adhere strictly to foods only consumed in the movie you’re planning to watch.

This works well if you’re watching Mystic Pizza.

This makes things rather interesting when you dish out plates with tiny chicken livers and fava beans on Ritz crackers during your screening of The Silence of the Lambs.

But hey, it’s all about keepin’ the theme alive.

6. Think of a bananas drinking game

drinking game

This is optional.

Drinking games are the bread and butter of any good movie night. Well, an adult movie night. No, no, not an adult movie night. Moving on..

A drinking game is a way to impart the idea of rules and structure, while guzzling a box of wine.

It’s a win-win: but only if you’re responsible about it.

If you’re planning on including one, let guests know in advance so they can sort out getting a lift home. Don’t be the knob that makes people feel bad for not being able to consume your homemade Friday the 13th-inspired punch with tiny, edible gummy corpses for the Jason marathon. Fire off a quick text to the group in advance.

Now that everyone’s in, it’s a matter of the rules of the game. They will depend on the film you’re watching and you can all probably come up with them together before you hit play.

I once played an Austin Powers drinking game wherein everyone took a shot of peach schnapps each time Mike Myers said “baby.” It didn’t last long. “It” being my liver.

It warrants thinking about in advance. I’d suggest making a punch or mix that’s a little less potent so you’re not utterly inebriated in 20 minutes (see above example) and of course, make sure there’s non-alcoholic beverages available for those not imbibing. That works too for movie games that don’t involve drinking.

Wrapping up

how to throw a movie night, movie night with friends ideas

You want to host a movie night no-one will forget.

The type of epic evening brought up again and again at future parties, as friends fondly discuss the phenomenal debate which sprang forth after your particularly rowdy screening of So I Married An Axe Murderer.

Don’t worry – I’ve got your back.

Making your movie night go off without a hitch is pretty straightforward:

  • Tailor your evening depending on who’s coming and what they’re into
  • Transform your home into a movie-watching haven to rival your local cinema
  • Select a killer movie
  • Get your set up checked
  • Rock a selection of great snacks and
  • Throw in a game too for good measure

These 6 must-know tips will help you host an event that will have people talking for months. Possibly years. Possibly about how lethal your artichoke-jalapeno dip is.

Good luck!

Photo credits: via Foter.comCC BY CleverCupcakes via / CC BY, BunnyGoth via / CC BY-ND, DataAngel via, Friends with beer by Freepik

Sign up for the FILMJACKER newsletter

And, while you're at it, you'll receive my cheatsheet with 6 ways to see movies for FREE

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

About Author

Gem is a freelance entertainment journalist, a professional blogger, and social media nerd, who is uber-obsessed with the Alien franchise. She can also be found drumming, baking and being a librarian when not geeking out.

Inside the FILMJACKER guide
6 fast hacks on how to see free movies in 2018

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter AND receive our FREE cheatsheet on seeing flicks for zero cash.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.