Good portable projectors bring cinematic joy to your backyard or campsite just in time for summer. An increasing number of people are turning to home cinema setups, preferring those to traditional movie theater outings due to changing conditions around the world. Once you choose the right portable projector for outdoor use and successfully set up your backyard cinema (which is surprisingly easy), all that’s left to do is pick which movies to watch. And that can prove to be the tricky part, depending on how many people are doing the choosing. We’ll try to offer some suggestions.
Possibly you’re out camping or hanging out on the beach. Or just at the backyard outside your house. In any case, you’ll be together with friends and family so it’s great to get creative and find movies that match the theme and vibe of where you’re at. Always keep your audience in mind: if kids are about, maybe a hard R horror movie isn’t the right idea! And if you’re in the woods then we’d probably say a film about forest fires could possibly spoil the atmosphere. We’d generally recommend avoiding disaster movies while in the big outdoors, but that’s up to you. Sci fi and horror work just fine, though!
A 2012 teen drama/coming of age story, this film won many awards and takes place mostly outdoors in a beautiful rendition of New England. The cast includes Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton. While dramatic, Moonrise Kingdom has a lot of humor and heart and works superbly for those heartfelt together times when you want a movie to, well, move you.
Sometimes referred to as Runaway Vacation, this film centers on a comedic family that owns an actual RV (recreational vehicle). Released in 2006, RV’s an excellent road trip comedy with the wonderful Robin Williams and Cheryl Hines. It pairs excellently with camping trips and family movie nights, as we could all use a few more laughs these days.
Another road trip film, but a tad more mature and more appropriate for groups of friends rather than families with kids. Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis lead the cast in a crime comedy that revolves on goofy characters prone to amusing mishaps. It’s also packed with some interesting locales and will get you in the outdoor mood real quick.
One of the biggest surprise hits of 2006 and the film to cement Abigail Breslin as a character actor, this Oscar winner was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris on a shoestring budget. Despite that, it’s widely regarded as one of the finest road films of all time. A dramedy at heart, Little Miss Sunshine is moving, sad, happy, and uplifting. Wherever you are under the stars, you’ll love it.
Classic 1994 slapstick comedy starring Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey. One of the biggest comedies of its decade and a benchmark of silly entertainment that’ll help you feel better. Essentially a road trip movie, but with a lot of laughs of the toilet humor variety. Enjoy, but make sure you have access to appropriate facilities just in case, if you know what we mean.
Seminal 1999 horror release where the frights are psychological and hidden rather than obvious. Perfect for when camping in the woods, if you can take it. Not recommended for the kids, or for easily-scared grownups. The most famous example of “shaky cam” cinema, Blair Witch was made on a budget of less than a shoestring and therefore looks just great on pretty much any screen. You don’t need anything fancy. You do need courage.
Beachside camping? Well, there’s an obvious choice. Hailing from 1975 and directed by Steven Spielberg, Jaws was one of the first truly modern blockbusters. Despite giving sharks a bad and undeserved reputation, it’s still a masterpiece of movie making and has excellent acting by Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, and Lorraine Gary among others. We dare you to go for a nighttime swim after watching this one. Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum da-dum…
The title may be scary, but don’t worry. This 2010 film established Gareth Edwards as a successful director, and stars two people on the road from Mexico to the US (Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able). Another low budget production that led to big success, Monsters has road trip, alien invasion, and naturalistic influences. It’s excellent for all audiences because there’s nothing really scary about it, and the message is one of love, ultimately. Highly recommended for outdoor viewing, down to cricket and bird sounds!
Few movies scream “summer” more than this one. Released in 1973 as one of the first movies made by George Lucas and starring pretty much everyone in Hollywood, American Graffiti covers one fateful night as experienced by high schoolers in Modesto, California, sometime in the early 1960s just before the Vietnam War broke out. A tale of about-to-be-lost childhood innocence, it’s a perfect match for camping and dining outdoors: get your burgers, fries, shakes, and sodas and tune in to a movie that spells summer love like no other. Definitely family friendly but great for adults.
More horror? Why not! Based on the Stephen King novel, Christine came out in 1983 thanks to the brilliant direction of John Carpenter. If you have cars around your outdoors cinema you may want to keep an eye on them while watching this tale of a haunted automobile that loves her driver maybe a little too much. Interestingly, this movie features a lot of projectors and drive-ins, seeing as it’s set in the late 1950s. Has some elements in common with American Graffiti, but veers off into suspense rather than teen antics. While somewhat scary, it’s not really horrific and the story will drive your night.
For all this outdoor cinematic goodness you need a reliable and durable projector designed specifically for working outside. The BenQ GS2 brings the magic to life with bright 500 lumen projection and 720p resolution with support for 1080p. It’s got a three hour battery, which is enough for any of the above movies with change, and offers good water, dust, and shock resistance so you don’t need to worry about babying it. You don’t have to worry, period. Just have fun!