Movie Theme Nights to Get Us Through the Long Months Ahead


Who would have thought six months ago that we would still be avoiding large gatherings, only socializing outdoors, and hoping for something (anything!) to break up our monotonous weeks at home? Not me, but here we are. Still.

I saw a presentation recently by child and teen psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour on dealing with pandemic emotions – anxiety, fear, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, aimlessness. It was super helpful in not only understanding my kids’ struggles during this time but also my own as well. One suggestion was to plan things we can look forward to that the pandemic cannot screw up. That feels like an awfully short list of options to me, but family movie night might be just the thing.


We used to do movie nights regularly, before sports practices and teen socializing impacted our schedule. Back then, it was easy enough to get excited about watching something together. It is definitely trickier now when spending two hours of forced family time in the basement doesn’t sound as fun as their other options. But with most of those options on hold, we are trying again.

How do I make movie night enticing enough that my teens will get off FaceTime and come out of their rooms?

The simple answer is food.

While they are no longer impressed by decorations and crafts, the promise of good food will usually get them on board. If you do have younger kids, I’ve included a few ideas for crafts and decorations, and Pinterest has endless suggestions if you want more.

Here some of the movie theme nights I’m planning in the coming months.


During November, our Harry Potter movie marathon will include butterbeer, Golden Snitch cake pops, and what we like to call bat wings. But in 2020, how about we just call them chicken satay, mmkay? As this is the time of year we naturally gravitate to our basement, it is also the perfect time to hang some twinkle lights to make it extra cozy and a little bit magical. For little kids, making a magic wand out of paint, glitter, and a piece of wooden dowel is crafty fun that they will play with for a long time to come. For big kids, maybe you can secretly slip in a little SAT vocab/Latin root practice by making up goofy spells to cast on each other.


I’m a bit of a grinch, but Christmas movies? Sign me up! That said, first up for December is The Grinch. Pair the movie with roast beast sandwiches, a side of Who-hash (old-fashioned fried potatoes and onions), and hot Grinchocolate. For fun, a Grinch-y gift exchange is in order. No shopping required. Have everyone find something in the house to wrap and give – the sillier, ickier, goofier, funnier, the better. Exchange white elephant style.

Elf is another family favorite at our house. The obvious choice for food is breakfast for dinner! Waffles with a selection of sweet toppings including maple syrup, chocolate sauce, strawberries, whipped cream, and sprinkles. Since Buddy is Santa’s helper, I think it’s the perfect chance for everyone to be a helper, whether that means putting up holiday decorations, decorating the tree, or wrapping gifts. I know, this might be a little self-serving, but the holidays are busy! There’s no reason moms have to do it all ourselves. Plus, this way, we can all have fun while chipping in.

Put on your favorite pajamas and come aboard The Polar Express! My kids are a little old for this one, but the great thing about holiday traditions at our house is that everyone is willing to join in even if they have outgrown them. Comfortable new jammies and a sweet treat don’t hurt either. The centerpiece of any Polar Express night is the hot chocolate. Jazz up my favorite slow cooker hot cocoa recipe with a selection of candy canes, whipped cream, cinnamon sticks, flavored syrups like peppermint and caramel, and small bowls of chocolate shavings, sprinkles, and marshmallows.


This cold, dreary month calls for adventure with Pirates of the Caribbean! If your family is full of foodies like mine, go big with a DIY seafood boil for a Pirates of the Caribbean movie night. Or keep it simple and turn frozen fish fillets into fish tacos. Whip up an ocean colored drink with lemon-lime soda, pineapple juice, and blue Hawaiian Punch to go alongside your feast. Plan a simple scavenger/treasure hunt. These can be fast and easy to plan, happen outside or inside depending on the weather, and best of all, gets them up off the couch and moving. What might you put on a Pirates of the Caribbean scavenger hunt? I would include a treasure, something from the ocean, a hat, something gold, something blue like the sea.

For a Back to the Future theme night, roll back to the 80s. Think of what you would have had as a kid – frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, Chex Mix, and sugary soda. Sadly, TAB was discontinued this year, but something else could surely fit the theme. Mellow Yellow, anyone? For this night, I have some easy trivia planned. Which of your relatives was born the same year as the microchip? Who do we know was born the week that “Shake Your Tail Feather” by Nelly and P. Diddy hit number one? My kids are fascinated by how goofy and low tech our lives were in “the old days.” With the help of Google, I can find music, events, and inventions from the years their grandparents, dad, and I were young to amuse them.


My family does NOT need an excuse to order takeout from our favorite Chinese place, but why not cook something special for a Mulan movie night? Making dumplings can be a chore for one person, which is why it is a family event at our house. Many hands make light work. Everyone can help make pot stickers or our favorite, steamed siu mai, just like my father-in-law makes. Don’t be afraid to simplify the recipe. I use finely shredded carrots in place of the roe and simple button mushrooms in place of the shitakes. How about getting everyone a pair of chopsticks to try?

Since before I could read, I loved Spiderman. There’s not a Spiderman movie I don’t like. Whoever your favorite is, spending an evening watching a superhero save the world sounds perfect right now, doesn’t it? Whip up hero sandwiches with meatballs or a combo of lunch meat, pop a giant bowl of popcorn, and buy a few theater-size boxes of candy to share. Then, sit back and enjoy a couple of hours watching good triumph over evil.

What’s on your family’s movie watchlist this winter?


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