Can we all agree that 2020 was not a stellar year? As a society, we lost so many opportunities to connect and grow. Plus, staring at the same 4 walls for months on end is just miserable. But, one thing that 2020 did provide was a chance to spend some real quality time (forced time still counts as quality time, right?) with my husband and kids. Sometime around May, when it became apparent that this pandemic wasn’t going to be a quick “2 weeks in quarantine and we’re done” situation, I decided we needed something to break up our days and look forward to. And Movie Night was born. I’m not going to lie and say that everyone was thrilled at first. Some of the movies were total duds. Some of the attitudes have been angsty. But, we kept up the routine, and the boys started to look forward to it.

Now, without hesitation, every person in my house will tell you Movie Night is the best thing to come out of 2020. And even as the world started to open up and we had the opportunity to move beyond those 4 walls a little more, we all voted to keep it going.

Now, every week, we do our best to set aside one night for Movie Night. It doesn’t have to be just our family, we’ve had friends join in as well, but usually it’s the four of us cuddled up in front of the TV. We shoot for movie night on Saturday, but adjust as necessary depending on what’s on the calendar for the week. I’m not above sending my kids to bed a little late on a school night if it means I get to spend an evening with them!

Here Are The Movie Night Rules (And I Use The Term “Rules” Loosely):

Image is a collage of different activities we did for our "Knights Tale" movie night.  It includes a jousting tournament, making coats of arms, a plate of nachos, and a homemade pretzel.
Our Movie Night for A Knight’s Tale was epic. We made pretzels, created coats of arms, had a jousting tournament, and ate trashy stadium food.
  1. We Take Turns Picking A Movie:
    • When we started this, I picked every movie and planned all the activities. Then one of the boys complained about how lame the movie was and I said “okay, you pick the next one”. I said it in annoyance, but having them take turns picking has been the best move we could have made. They get a chance to watch something they want and they understand that there’s planning and work involved, so they appreciate movie nights they didn’t plan much, much more.
  2. Veto Power Exists:
    • The rule used to be “whatever the planner picks goes”, but then The Leprechaun came into play. Noah specifically chose the movie because he was sure we’d all hate it and he wanted to create some loving torture. After 90 minutes of torture, we agreed that if everyone else in the family doesn’t want to watch the movie you pick, you have to pick again. So far, we haven’t had to implement the veto, just having the power is enough.
  3. Dinner Ties Into The Movie:
    • The planner picks dinner, but it has to tie into the movie somehow. Sometimes the tie in is solid-Pulp Fiction, Jack Rabbit Slims burgers and $5 milk shakes comes to mind.
    • And sometimes the person planning decides what they want and crowbars the menu to fit the theme- Isaac has steak for just about every movie he plans. The movie could be The Martian, and we’d be having “Space Steak”. Whatever, they tell me the menu, I put it on the grocery list.
  4. There Is A Related Activity:
    • There has to be some kind of an activity that is at least a little bit related to the movie. It doesn’t have to be super complex, but if you think of the activity 3 minutes before we start movie night, we’re going to give you crap for it. Good natured crap, but crap none the less.
    • Some complex activities we’ve done:
      • Spent an afternoon making a Rube Goldberg machine
      • Held a jousting tournament, complete with bracketing and coats of arms
    • Some easy, low effort activities we’ve done:
      • Played hide and seek. Teen boys discover it’s much harder to hide when you have an adult sized body!
      • Learned a period dance from YouTube. We’re all pretty bad dancers, so the comedy factor was high on this one.
  5. Phones Down:
    • Everyone MUST put away their phone during the movie. Exceptions are made for looking up actors on IMDB to answer pressing questions like “where have I seen that lady before?”.
Image shows my husband and sons making soap on our Fight Club Movie Night.
We made soap on Fight Club night.

Other than those rules, pretty much anything is fair game. We don’t worry about ratings, but I have been known to raise an eyebrow if I thought a movie was particularly inappropriate. This usually constitutes an unofficial veto, but I don’t do it unless I really think the movie is too much. We’ve definitely watched some questionable scenes, but it actually has turned into good dialog about concepts we might not have hit otherwise. Without lecturing, it gives us a chance to tell the boys our values with a relevant example right in front of us.

If you’re looking to create a connection with your teens, try this. Adjust it to work for your family; no one is judging you if you order pizza, skip the activity, and spend 2 hours watching an absolute trash movie. If you have any opportunity at all, chisel out 2 hours to sit in a room together. Fight through the sighs and eye rolls and keep doing it. You’ll be glad you did!

Image is a collage of my sons making yard beards on Lord Of The Rings night.
Making dwarf beards on Lord Of The Rings night.

I’ll try to post weekly about what we did for our Movie Night. I found tons of ideas for smaller kids, but had real trouble finding ideas for things that would interest older kids. If you’d like more ideas, follow along!