Films Al Fresco: Where to Watch Movies Under the Stars

It's outdoor-movie season at last! Pack a picnic and head to one of these free screenings. And be sure to check back often—we’ll be updating this list with new information as it becomes available.

By: Emily Leaman

DC
National Theatre Summer Cinema
Swoon-inducing actor Cary Grant is the star of this summer's free film series at the National Theatre. Seven of the actor's best films, including An Affair to Remember and Bringing Up Baby, will be screened on select Monday nights from June 21 through August 16 at 6:30 PM. Free tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the box office a half hour before showtime.

NoMa Summer Screen
This outdoor-film series kicked off Wednesday with a showing of Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs—makes sense, if you consider this year’s theme, the Future is Now. Every Wednesday night through July, you can catch free screenings of future-focused films including Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future, and even the hipster cult classic Donnie Darko. Films roll at 7 at L Street, Northeast, between Second and Third streets. Go here for the full lineup.

Ultimate Underdogs Outdoor Movies
The Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District is bringing back its free-film series, this time with an “underdogs” theme. Movies are at Canal Park (Second and M sts., SE) Thursday nights June 3 through August 5. This year, organizers held a public vote to determine what movies they’d show. The winners? Hoosiers, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Cool Runnings, among others. Check the calendar of events for the full lineup.

Screen on the Green
Hope you've been practicing that HBO dance—DC's most beloved outdoor festival is returning for another run. This year's lineup includes screenings of Goldfinger (July 12), The Goodbye Girl (July 19), 12 Angry Men (July 26), and Bonnie and Clyde (August 2). The films will be projected on a 20-by-40-foot screen near Fourth Street, Northwest, on the Mall. If you're coming to watch, you can set up shop between Fourth and Seventh streets. Films roll at sunset. For more information, call the Screen on the Green hotline at 877-262-5866.

Summer Camp Film Series
We know that the Hirshhorn’s free-film series doesn’t take place outside, but the theme was just so great we couldn’t resist including it. Dubbed Apes-Ploitation, the apes-themed series features screenings of such classics as Gorilla at Large (June 10), Kwonga (June 17), and The Mighty Peking Man (June 24). Screenings start at 8 in the Ring Auditorium. Film scholar David Wilt will introduce each film. 

U Street Movie Series
Head to Harrison Field (V St., NW, between 13th and 14th streets) on June 8 for a screening of Michael Jackson's This Is It. Also on the music-themed roster: Buena Vista Social Club (July 13), The Soloist (August 10), and Duke Ellington's Washington and Soul Power (September 14). Donations will be collected to benefit Friends of Harrison Recreation Center, an organization that does park-improvement projects. Gates open at 7 and movies start at 8:30.

Virginia
Crystal Screen Summer Film Series
Beam me up, Scotty! This year’s Crystal City free-film series has—you guessed it—a Star Trek theme. We’re no Trekkie, but by the looks of it, Crystal City BID will show much of the Star Trek catalog, from 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture all the way through the 2009 box-office hit. Movies screen Mondays at sundown June 7 through August 16 at Vorando/Charles E. Smith commercial realty (1851 S. Bell St., Arlington). The full roster is here.

Movies Under the Moon

The Fairfax leg of this film series—which takes place from Thursday, June 24, through Sunday, June 27, at Van Dyck Park—includes screenings of Casablanca, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Avatar, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. On July 16 and 17, the series resumes in Fredricksburg at Dixon Park (1300 Dixon St.) with screenings of Jaws and Shark Tale. At both locations, vendors will sell hot dogs, popcorn, and other treats to benefit Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children and Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington. Gates open at 6:30; movies start at dusk.

Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival
Rosslyn’s I Love the ’90s film festival is already underway, with screenings of Clueless and Wayne’s World already wrapped. But don’t worry—there’s still plenty of nostalgia to go around. Upcoming screenings include Mrs. Doubtfire (June 18), Home Alone (July 9), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (July 16), and Empire Records (July 23). Films, which screen at dusk, roll every Friday through September 3 at Gateway Park.

Starlight Drive-In Cinema
Centreville’s free drive-in movie series returns for another season on Saturdays in August. The kid-friendly lineup includes Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (August 7), Fantastic Mr. Fox (August 14), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (August 21), and Aliens in the Attic (August 28). Festivities begin at 6 with a pre-movie program of food, music, and children’s activities. Movies start at dark. Screenings are at Centreville’s Trinity Center (5860 Trinity Pkwy.). 

Maryland
Bethesda Outdoor Movies: Stars on the Avenue
From July 27 through 31, you can catch free movies in downtown Bethesda on a screen set up at Norfolk and Auburn avenues. This year's roster includes When Harry Met Sally (July 27), The Blind Side (July 30), and Chicago (July 31). Movies start at 9. A limited number of chairs are provided, but you can bring your own if you’d like. Go here for more information.

Comcast Outdoor Film Festival
This year's Comcast-sponsored film festival is moving to the Universities at Shady Grove while its usual location, Strathmore, is under construction. The festival will be held August 13 through 20. The 2010 lineup has yet to be announced, but keep an eye on the Web site for the latest updates. As always, the event is free, but donations to NIH children’s charities will be accepted.

Hopkins Summer Outdoor Films
If you’re in Baltimore on a Friday night this June or July, swing by the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus Lower Quad for live music and a free outdoor film. The series kicks off June 18 with The Addams Family and wraps up July 23 with Star Trek (2009). Music starts at 7:30, and the film begins just after sunset.

Movies on the Potomac
National Harbor’s outdoor film series kicked off May 9 with a showing of The Princess and the Frog. The lineup is organized around four themes: the Animation Series (May and June), ’80s Classics (July), Superheros (August), and the Spielberg Series (September). A screening of Jurassic Park rounds out the series on September 26. Films roll every Sunday at dusk on National Harbor’s plaza. Lawn chairs are recommended.