It’s a great summer for blockbusters like Barbie and Mission Impossible, but sometimes there’s nothing like watching a few classics in the open air on a perfect evening. London luckily has some of the best outdoor cinemas around, showing everything from beloved musicals to recent Oscar-winning dramas.
Considering there’s apparently another heatwave on the way, there’s no better time to get out and chill out at one of these screenings. Here are some of the best:
1. The Luna Cinema
The Luna Cinema has to be one of the most well-known cinema pop-ups. They have more than 150 venues around the UK, so they know what they’re doing. They have little upgrades that you can add on to your ticket such as a comfy sofa or some blankets. There’s also plenty of food and drink to buy, and, depending on the venue, you can even bring your own picnic. In the likelihood that it rains (which it probably will, let’s face it) the event will not be cancelled! Just make sure to wear a scuba outfit or head to toe anoraks because umbrellas are banned.
2. Rooftop Film Club
Your own personal headphones. Check. A deckchair. Check. Bottomless popcorn. Check. The Rooftop Film Club has a pretty great checklist for a movie night. They have two London locations – one at Roof East in Stratford and one at the Bussey Building in Peckham. The latter is a firm favourite. Arrive early for some spectacular skyline views, munch on tasty pizza from Share A Slice, and sip on some cocktails.
Location: Peckham and Stratford
3. The Barbican Outdoor Cinema
Immerse yourself in The Barbican’s brutalist architecture with some summer open-air screenings. From dance films to art films to Hollywood films, there’s plenty of screenings here for cinema lovers. Highlights include Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaä and the Valley of the Wind, Hitchcock’s thrilling classic Rear Window, LGBTQ documentary Paris is Burning, Singin’ in the Rain, and two legendary musical features in Aretha Franklin’s 1972 concert Amazing Grace and The Band’s The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorcese. It runs from 23rd August to 3rd September.
Location: The Barbican, EC2Y 8DS
4. Summer By The River Free Films
Summer by the River returns this year as a short piece of the Thames by London Bridge and Tower Bridge is transformed into a summer hub. There’s food, drink, laughter, and, most importantly for this article, there are outdoor films. A few of the selections this time around include romcom What’s Love Got To Do With It? and kid’s movie Encanto. All of the screenings take place at The Scoop, which is the outdoor amphitheatre next to the former City Hall building. And guess what… they’re free! So you’d best get there early and grab a seat.
Location: London Bridge/Tower Bridge
5. Everyman’s Screen on the Canal at King’s Cross
Screen on the Canal has become one of the best places to watch films out in the open in London, with it’s idyllic surroundings. You’ll be able to take in some of the best crowd pleasers while sat overlooking the Regent’s Canal in King’s Cross (make sure not to fall in of course), and the event is set to run until 6th August. We already included Screen on the Canal as one of the best places to watch Wimbledon this year, but the film choices include Grease, La La Land, Avatar: The Way of Water and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, among plenty og other classics modern and old.
Location: Granary Square, London N1C 4PW
6. Adventure Cinema
Choose from more than 200 locations for Adventure Cinema’s outdoor film extravaganza. Gain access to the most stunning venues around the UK, including the leafy Beckenham Place Park and the grand Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. You can literally pretend to be queen of your own castle. Only you’ll be sat on a rug with a bottle of whatever you had in the fridge.
7. Canary Wharf Summer Screens
From June until September, Canary Wharf are showing loads of stuff on their summer screens. There’s Wimbledon and Formula 1, Family Film Clubs and Movie Nights. Expect some big blockbusters and some old classics. What’s more, you can bring a picnic and the screenings are totally free! Win win!
Location: Canary Wharf
8. Everyman Secret Cinema At The Grove
Over at The Grove in Hertfordshire, they’ve partnered with Everyman to bring outdoor cinema to their secret Walled Garden. From 15 July–4 September, people staying at The Grove from Wednesday to Sunday can enjoy complimentary outdoor screenings of both new releases and everyone’s favourite classic films in the most beautiful setting. You can also add on dinner at one of their restaurants before you drift off in a big comfy been bag in front of the screen.
Location: The Grove, Hertfordshire, WD3 4TG
9. Belgravia/Eccleston Yards Summer of Sport
Okay, so Eccleston Yards’ Summer of Sport is mostly tennis and the cricket, but despite the name the event is set to show a few films during July that you’ll want to snag tickets too. The location is beautiful and gives you a really summery feel, and the deckchairs are comfortable enough to snooze in. There’s plenty of shops and other amenities nearby to make sure you’re never short of a snack and a drink, and it’s particularly ideal to settle down to a film if you’ve already been watching sport all day long. Perennial favourites Mrs Doubtfire and Mamma Mia will be screened this month, and you’ll be given headphones so you can hear every word and every lyric.
Location: 21 Eccleston Pl, London SW1W 9NF
10. Kew The Movies
Kew Gardens are of course best known for their exotic plants, enormous greenhouses and for being a generally lovely place to wander- but it also hosts a great outdoor cinema that gets going in the later part of summer. From 30th August to 3rd September, you’ll be able to sit in lush surroundings as you take in blockbusters like Avatar and Top Gun: Maverick. It takes place just before the new school year starts too, so Kew The Movies is an ideal event for kids, with children’s films like Moana, Paddington, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish and more. It’s set up in partnership with Luna Cinema, and is located near the Pavilion Bar.
Location: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
11. Lower Marsh Lates
If you’re in the Waterloo area this summer, you might be able to catch a film at Lower Marsh Lates’ At The Movies event. Running in the evenings of the last Thursday of every month, these screenings are definitely a fun time, with buzzy atmosphere and lovely food. There’s plenty of Aperol to go around, and entry to the films is entirely free. May and June’s films have already gone by (Mamma Mia and Mean Girls), but July-September still has some singalong magic in store in the form of Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray and Grease.
Location: Lower Marsh, London SE1 7RJ
12. Movies on the River
Ever fancied sailing down the Thames watching your favourite films? Well, even if you haven’t, Movies on the River proves it’s not only possible but makes for a great evening. The event is run in partnership with Time Out and Häagen-Dazs (yes there will be ice cream), and sees you take a trip down the Thames on a City Cruiser, gracefully enjoying decades worth of classics as the sun sets on the water. On the line-up this August are films like Dirty Dancing, Top Gun and its sequel, Notting Hill, Mamma Mia, Crazy Rich Asians, The Big Lebowski and plenty more. Each ticket costs £24, and your voyage will begin at 19:30.
Location: Tower Millennium Pier, Tower Hill