BEST Places to Catch an Outdoor Movie in New York City

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 movie buff as well so any free evening I have is spent watching films under the open sky.

There’s a handful of places where to see outdoor movies in New York City thanks to some great community organizers finding the right venues and putting all the pieces together. The resourcefulness of this city should never be understated. What this post is intended to do is to point you in the right direction so you can choose what works best for you and 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.

Free outdoor movies in New York City parks

Bryant Park 

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 29th anniversary of their famous free movies on the lawn and the theme is sequels. You can expect flocks of New Yorkers from all five boroughs as well as tourists clamoring for a good spot. The entire field 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 from Hester Street Fair is available for purchase, as well as beer, snacks and wine from Stout NYC. Just note that if you do choose to drink alcohol you have to do so in a designated area in the back of the lawn.

Address: Corner of 6th Ave & W 42nd St

Further Reading: Bryant Park also makes an appearance on 20 Epic New York City Summer Activities!

Where to see outdoor movies in New York City

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 doors at 6PM. The movies begin at sundown (from June to August that’s generally between 8 and 8:30PM). For my boozy bros (and sisters) alcohol is available for purchase to those of age.

Address: 80 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Brooklyn Bridge Park Where to watch outdoor movies NYC
Image Courtesy 98 Front Street

Seaport Cinema

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 where 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.

Doors open at 6, and movies start at 7. The Seaport Cinema is one of the few places where to 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 can’t get to a chair quick enough, you can bring a foldable one from home.

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 that comes with a sunset and a movie.

Popular parks like Prospect Park, Highland Park, and Van Cortlandt Parks will all feature movies summer of 2022. 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, there isn’t one general schedule to follow. For a full list of parks and showtimes visit Movies Under the Stars.

Outdoor Movies NYC Movies Under the Stars
Image Courtesy Brooklyn Eagle

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 where 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 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 chit chat before the film starts.

The screenings are of timeless classics as well as new releases. Being the movie buff I am, I really wanted to watch Independence Day but my wife surprised me with tickets to Magic Mike. Whoopee.

A full list of movies with showtimes can be found on the Rooftop Cinema Club‘s website, as well as the ability to buy tickets.

Address: 60 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018

Rooftop Cinema Club
Image Courtesy Rooftop Cinema Club

Skyline Drive In

Okay you might be wondering why I included a drive in as a place where 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 where 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 ads or SNL.

There are concessions for those movie watching necessities that have come to be known as snacks. The stands open two hours before each showtime so guests can show up and munch while soaking in the sunset or taking in the views of Manhattan.

Not only is the Skyline Drive In a spot where 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. There will be a screening of Back to the Future after the show and I guarantee it’ll make for an unforgettable memory.

Tickets for both movies and the firework show can be purchased at the Skyline Drive In website. Tickets should be bought in advance since there is no in person box office.

Address: 1 Oak St, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Outdoor Movies NYC Skyline Drive In
Image Courtesy Skyline Drive In

Syndicated Sidewalk

In a world of Theaters that have restaurants, Syndicated is a restaurant with a theater. Serving seasonal American meals and delectable craft beers, the movie watching experience just got taken up a notch.

There is both an indoor theater as well as a sidewalk cinema where you can watch outdoor movies in New York City. There are no tickets for the films, but food purchase is necessary. Every movie starts at 9PM and the tables are first come first served. The seating area is covered so movies play rain or shine.

If your movie is on a Wednesday you’ll manage to snag $10 off bottles of wine and then you’re really in for a good time. All I have to say is if you see me there laughing at the most inopportune time after polishing off my bottle, mind your own.

Check out Syndicated Brooklyn for the current lineup of films, you can also check their menu while you’re at it.

Address: 40 Bogart St, Brooklyn, NY 11206

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
  • Syndicated Sidewalk

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!