Lakeside views, drive-in throwbacks, or perched on a rooftop—we’re sharing where to keep things reel this summer
While an air-conditioned theater might be just what a sweltering summer ordered, the best way to watch a movie in Chicago is outdoors. There are parks, nature centers, drive-ins, hotels, and historic attractions reeling family favs all season long. And their lawns or rooftops are yours for the taking (BYO chairs, blankets, and maybe even your own popcorn). Watch a flick while fireflies dance with our guide to summer outdoor movies.
ChiTown Movie Drive-In
Watch a movie old-school-style under the stars in your car at ChiTown Movies in Pilsen. Order popcorn, tacos, wings, pizza, kids meals and more to be delivered to your car from the ChiTown Grille.
Upcoming films include:
April 30 @ 8:15pm – Top Gun: Maverick
May 3 @ 11:00pm – Star Wars: A New Hope
May 4 @ 8:15pm – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
May 5 @ 8:15pm – Encanto
May 5 @ 10:30pm – Nightmare on Elm Street
May 6 @ 8:15pm – The Sandlot
May 6 @ 10:30pm – Nope
May 11 @ 8:30pm – Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
May 12 @ 8:30pm – Shrek
May 12 @ 10:30pm – Friday the 13th
May 13 @ 8:30pm – Spiderman: No Way Home
May 13 @ 11:00pm – Nightmare on Elm Street
May 14 @ 8:30pm – Top Gun: Maverick
2343 S. Throop St.
Millenium Park Summer Film Series
Free movies! And in the heart of downtown in the shadow of the pretty skyline, at that. Every Tuesday, Jul. 11-Aug. 29 at 6:30pm you can take a seat at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion or plop down on the Great Lawn to fixate on a 40-foot-tall screen. (Gates open at 5pm.)
July 11 – Fast Five
July 18 – Turning Red
July 25 – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
August 1 – Summer of Soul
August 8 – Clueless
August 15 – Top Gun: Maverick
August 22 – Barbershop
August 29 – Everything Everywhere All at Once
201 E. Randolph Street
Drive-In Movies at Little Beans Cafe
Movie Night at Gallagher Way
Gallagher Way at Wrigley Field has teamed up with the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to hand-select a schedule of free outdoor movies on most Wednesdays, May 17-Sep. 27. Movie-goers are encouraged to bring carry-out food from Gallagher Way restaurants. Beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages, popcorn and other snacks will be for sale. Gates open at 6 p.m., movie starts at 7:30 p.m.
May 17 – Ferris Bueller
May 31 – E.T.
June 7 – Mitchells vs. The Machines
July 5 – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
July 12 – Clueless
July 26 – Top Gun: Maverick
August 23 – Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
August 30 – The Dark Knight
September 13 – Back to the Future
September 27 – The Blues Brothers
3635 N. Clark St.
If you have a kid that likes trucks and tanks and things that go boom, Cantigny in Wheaton is a must-visit. Along with the First Division Museum (which documents the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division with soldier uniforms, weapons and more), it has nicely landscaped gardens and a “tank park” spangled with army vehicles kids can climb on. It all adds up to perfect pre-movie entertainment. Speaking of movies, weekly, you can enjoy a movie at the bandshell.
1 S. 151 Winfield Rd.
Chicago Park District’s Movies in the Parks
The mother of all outdoor film events is put on by Chicago Park District and spreads across your favorite green spaces throughout Chicago over the entire summer. Best of all, it’s free! All movies begin at dusk.
Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase
The Chicago Park District’s Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase will return, Aug. 28-Sep. 2, for another year of featuring films by local filmmakers throughout local parks across the city.
Golden Age Cinemas McHenry Outdoor Theater
Experience movies like they did in the 1950s, in your car watching under a canopy of stars, beginning May 5. At Golden Age Cinemas McHenry Outdoor Theater, kids can stay snug in their pajamas and your family can watch two movies for less than the price of one. Beginning May 31st, tickets will be $12/carload on Tuesdays only.
Upcoming films include:
May 5 – May 20: Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
May 26 – June 1 @ 8pm – The Little Mermaid
1510 N. Chapel Hill Rd.
Moo-V-Night.com is a traveling outdoor movie business in Chicago that brings the drive-in experience to you. Oftentimes, park districts will hire their services to host outdoor movies in their parks. Follow Moo-V-Night’s Facebook to keep tabs on where they’re popping up throughout the summer.
Movie & Food Trucks at Geneva Commons
Enjoy movies and food trucks on the center green all summer long at Geneva Commons.
602 Commons Dr.
Rooftop Cinema Club
Emily Hotel in Fulton Market has partnered with Rootop Cinema Club to transform its 5th-floor terrace into an open-air cinema. The summer movie lineup includes cult classics and new releases, including some Chicago-based favorites. Emily Hotel will provide a full food and drink menu and each guest receives wireless headphones to fully immerse themselves in the movie experience. Movies 4:30 p.m. and after are 18+.
311 N. Morgan St.
Water Flicks at Navy Pier
Water Flicks returns to Navy Pier with Lake Michigan and the beautiful Chicago skyline as your backdrop. Once a week, bring your blankets and lawn chairs as the Pier presents family-friendly films.
600 E. Grand Ave.
Wednesday Night Live!
Once again, The Davis Theater will partner with the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce to convert Ainslie Arts Plaza into a beer garden and outdoor cinema for free movie nights on select dates this summer. Each week a different beer will be featured, along with wine and other refreshments for purchase. Films begin approximately 30 minutes after sunset. Dates/shows to be determined.
4836 N. Lincoln Ave.
Movies in the Park with the Wrightwood Neighbors Association
Additional reporting by Maria Chambers & Amy Bizzarri