If you’re looking for where to see outdoor movies in New York City you’ve come to the right place. Not only am I a NYC local, I’m a self-proclaimed movie buff. Any free evening I have is spent watching films under the open sky.
Luckily there’s a variety of parks and rooftops to see outdoor movies in New York City. Thanks to some great community organizers most of these locations are family friendly and completely free to enjoy!
The resourcefulness of this city should never be understated.
And this post is intended to help you make the most of outdoor movie season. I’ll list all the major spots you can watch outdoor movies in NYC and the films playing so you can find something to work with your schedule.
New York City summers are nothing short of epic, and watching a movie under the city lights will create a new memory that will be near impossible to forget.
As a local, here are my recommendations for where to see outdoor movies in New York City.
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Tips for watching an outdoor movie in New York City
- Bring Sunglasses: as the days get longer don’t forget the sun begins to set later and later. If you’re going somewhere with buildings that might have reflective windows, bring polarized sunglasses to help minimize any unpleasant glares (at least until the sun fully sets).
- Get a Packable Picnic Blanket: I was once getting ready to watch a movie in a public park when a couple showed up, comforter in tow, and began laying it out. Do yourself a favor and order a picnic blanket with a water resistant underside that folds up nicely. It’s convenient and you’ll be thankful for it when you get into bed later and your blanket is void of bugs and stains.
- Pack Snacks: not every place will offer food, and others won’t allow outside food and drink. Plan accordingly and if allowed, bring your own snacks. Just remember to be conscious of your movie-watching neighbors and leave the crunchies at home. Nobody wants to be seated next to the guy chomping down on corn nuts.
- Apply Bug Spray/Sunscreen: this should go without saying, protect yo’ skin! Mosquitos in New York don’t play and it’s easy to forget that even though the sun is setting it can still be harsh. There’s no excuse not to save your future self some future annoyance and just prevent burns and bites, especially when there’s convenient products that do both!
- Bring a Jacket: you know yourself better than I do, but if you get chilly easily you’re going to want to bring a jacket or a sweater. Thankfully these showings take place in the summer, but if you’re watching in a park or rooftop the wind and shade can make a big difference.
Where to see outdoor movies in New York City
Free outdoor movies in New York City parks
You can find Bryant Park perfectly tucked away among the towering office buildings that make up the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Clocking in at 9.6-acres, this isn’t the largest park in New York City by any stretch of the imagination, but it often feels the most full.
The park’s location epitomizes NYC and that makes it a great spot to see outdoor movies in New York City.
This summer season is the 30th anniversary of their famous free Movies in the Park. You can expect flocks of New Yorkers from all five boroughs as well as tourists clamoring for a good spot.
The entire lawn gets filled with cheery folks on picnic blankets, hanging out at one of the places where to see outdoor movies in New York City.
The lawn opens every Monday at 5PM and each film starts at 8PM. Food and beverage (including the adult kind) from Hester Street Fair is available for purchase. The fair also sells picnic blankets in case you forgot yours. 😉
Also you should note that if you do choose to drink alcohol you have to do so in a designated area in the back of the lawn.
2023 Bryant Park Movie Nights Lineup:
- June 12th – Almost Famous
- June 19th – Dreamgirls
- June 26th – Mean Girls
- July 3rd – School of Rock
- July 10th – Roman Holiday
- July 17th – Reality Bites
- July 24th – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
- July 31st – Swingers
- August 7th – 48 Hrs.
- August 14th – Zoolander
- August 21st – Good Burger
Address: Corner of 6th Ave & W 42nd St
Further Reading: Bryant Park also makes an appearance on 20 Epic New York City Summer Activities!
Brooklyn Bridge Park
There are few parks as magical during a sunset as Brooklyn Bridge Park. The East River, the views of Manhattan, the greenery, chef’s kiss. No wonder it’s one of the best places where to watch outdoor movies in New York City!
Smorgasburg vendors provide food starting at 5PM, and there’s pre-movie DJs creating an immaculate summer vibe. I usually try to show up early for a bite and to get a good spot when they open the lawn at 6PM.
For my boozy bros (and sisters) alcohol is available for purchase to those of age. The event goes all out, it’s one of the best places to watch outdoor movies in New York City.
The movies begin at sundown (from June to August that’s generally between 8 and 8:30PM) on the Harbor View Lawn. There will be eight movies played this year, all on Thursdays with the unifying theme “We Are Family.”
2023 Brooklyn Bridge Park Movies With A View Lineup:
- July 6th – E.T. Extra Terrestrial
- July 13th – Smoke Signals
- July 20th – Top Gun
- July 27th – Psycho
- August 3rd – GoodFellas
- August 10th – Despicable Me
- August 17th – Everything Everywhere All At Once
- August 24th – Public’s choice (voting here)
Address: 80 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Pier 17 doesn’t do anything halfway, and movies are no different. This attraction on the East River transforms their rooftop into one of the best spots to watch outdoor movies in New York City (named the Seaport Cinema).
Food trucks provide snacks and drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) while enjoying a movie with a view.
The Seaport Cinema is also one of the few places where you can watch outdoor movies in New York City with chairs, but they’re limited so be sure to show up early to save your butt from falling asleep.
If you know you’re running late and can’t get there to a chair quick enough, you can bring a foldable one from home.
Doors open at 6:30, and movies start at 7:30. The Seaport Cinema is one of the few places to watch outdoor movies in NYC that require advanced RSVP, luckily it’s still free.
2023 Seaport Cinema Lineup:
- July 25th – Jaws
- August 16th – Step Up
- September 21st – Pitch Perfect
Address: 89 South Street, The Greens on The Rooftop at Pier 17, New York, NY 10038
Movies under the Stars
The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment teams up with NYC Parks every summer to put on more than 400 movie showings across all five boroughs.
It’s an incredible feat of community organizing that opens the door for New Yorkers to experience the charm of sunset and a movie.
Popular parks like Prospect Park, Highland Park, and Van Cortlandt Parks will all feature outdoor movies summer of 2023. There are too many to list, but there’s guaranteed to be a park to watch outdoor movies in New York City near you.
The movies vary in genres as the much as the parks participating vary in neighborhoods. There are kid friendly animated films as well as action and documentaries.
The showings are all set at different times and in different locations. For a full list of parks and showtimes visit Movies Under the Stars.
Governor’s Island Arts
Only a 10 minute ferry ride from lower Manhattan, Governor’s Island is a relaxing reprieve from the nonstop pace of New York City. Getting there will cost you $2 round-trip but you’ll be able to enjoy free outdoor movies in New York City.
The view is stunning, I mean you have the World Trade Center as a backdrop, how could it not be? With the help of Film at Lincoln Center (the Lincoln Center’s film society) Governor’s Island Arts sets up a screen on their Parade Grounds (your GPS can take you there, it’s a field near the water) so you can enjoy the best outdoor movies in NYC.
This year’s theme is Rule-Breakers and Troublemakers and the films are on Fridays at 8:30PM.
2023 Seaport Cinema Lineup:
- June 9th – Set it Off
- July 7th – Out of Sight
- August 11th – Bend it Like Beckham
Epic spots to watch outdoor movies in NYC 2022 (admission required)
Rooftop Cinema Club
Thanks to the Rooftop Cinema Club there is now a spot in Midtown to watch outdoor movies in New York City under the open summer sky.
The roof of the Embassy Suites plays host to lounge chairs and headphones waiting for you, along with a projector and a screen ready to entertain. Imagine a silent disco but without the exercise.
The hotel provides a full bar and restaurant, and you’ll also find a concessions stand with typical movie snacks. Whether you’re the type of person who sits down for a movie with a full five course dinner or just a bag of popcorn, you’ll be well taken care of.
Arriving early and with your full party is paramount since the seats are first come first serve. Doors open an hour before the showing so there’s ample time to chit-chat before the film starts.
The screenings are of timeless classics as well as new releases. A full list of movies with showtimes can be found on the Rooftop Cinema Club‘s website where you’ll also have the opportunity to buy tickets.
Address: 60 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018
Skyline Drive In
Okay you might be wondering why I included a drive in as one of the best places to watch outdoor movies in New York City since a lot New Yorkers don’t own a car.
But fret not!, I’m not going to make you borrow your grandmother’s hooptie. The Skyline Drive In also has first come/first served seats for those who travel by way of feet.
This great establishment isn’t only a place to watch outdoor movies in New York City, it’s also a popular location for filming. You might recognize their views of the Big Apple from television-ads or SNL.
There are concessions selling all the movie-watching necessities. The stands open two hours before each showtime so guests can arrive and munch while soaking in the sunset or taking in the views of Manhattan.
Not only is the Skyline Drive In a spot to watch outdoor movies in New York City, it’s also a great place to take in the Macy’s Fourth of July Firework Show. On Independence Day they’ll clear out the cars and screens so you can watch the fireworks uninterrupted.
Tickets for both movies and the firework show can be purchased at the Skyline Drive In website. Tickets need to be bought in advance since there is no in person box office.
Address: 1 Oak St, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Where to watch outdoor movies in NYC (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s the best places where to see outdoor movies in New York City
- Bryant Park
- Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Seaport Cinema
- Movies Under the Stars
- Rooftop Cinema Club
- Skyline Drive In
Map of Where to Watch Outdoor Movies in New York City
And there it is my friends, a list of where to watch outdoor movies in New York City. Feel free to let me know which film you’re looking forward to most!