Morgan Pritchett
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5 of the Best Movies for My Ideal Drive-In Experience

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Drive-In Theater Cars Movie
Photo: distelAPPArath (Pixabay) via CC

I’m of the opinion that drive-in theaters should not play new films. There are too many distractions that could take away from the movie and cause a viewer to miss essential scenes or dialogue. I get that staying relevant is vital for drive-in theaters, especially in today’s world of digital downloads and endless streaming services. But if I were to choose some of the best classic films for a drive-in movie night, these would be my picks.


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Scream (1996)

Do you like scary movies? Scream is a classic slasher film with a ton of jump scares that will keep everyone awake at the drive-in. Things don’t get too gory, all things considered, and it’s one of the few horror films that I can watch at night without getting too spooked. (I think that’s thanks to the ridiculous Scary Movie parody.) After the first film was a hit, a few sequels quickly followed in 1997 and 2000, with a third installment premiering in 2011. However, what makes this film even more ideal for a drive-in night is the upcoming Scream 5, set to debut in 2021, which is confirmed to feature Courteney Cox and David Arquette while Neve Campbell is still in talks of reprising her iconic role of Sidney Prescott.


Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

I’m a sucker for an old-school musical and it doesn’t get much better than the 1952 classic Singin’ in the Rain starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor. Although it received moderate success when it first debuted, the movie has since been regarded as one of the best musical films of all time. This is in part thanks to the vibrant scenes and catchy songs, including O’Connor’s joy-filled “Make ‘Em Laugh” and the entrancing “Beautiful Girl” montage showcasing successful “talkies” that had premiered in the film industry.


Jurassic Park (1993)

Dinosaurs! The iconic Jeep! An incredible John Williams score! Imagine sitting in your car and having Richard Attenborough welcoming you to Jurassic Park or seeing a giant T. rex screeching at you with all of its might. Jeff Goldblum is 75-feet tall, explaining the science behind a water droplet. All of this sounds fantastic for a drive-in movie night. The film was credited as having groundbreaking computer-generated imagery for its time and, in all honesty, it still stands strong today.


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Twister (1996)

If you live in the Midwest like me, this selection may cause anxiety. (Sorry…) Starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, Twister follows the life of tornado hunter Jo Thornton (Hunt) as she attempts to create a weather system that will help alert people of an incoming storm. The film won a BAFTA for Best Special Visual Effects as well as Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects accolades from the Online Film & Television Association Awards. There’s even a drive-in inception moment (drive-inception?) of moviegoers watching The Shining before the theater is ripped to shreds by an F4 tornado.


Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo is the last film in what is referred to as “The Great Beginning” era of Pixar. The Academy Award-winning movie has a 99 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the site’s overall consensus reads, “Breathtakingly lovely and grounded by the stellar efforts of a well-chosen cast, Finding Nemo adds another beautifully crafted gem to Pixar’s crown.” The visuals alone are reason enough to have the film on this list, with its eye-catching scenes and bright colors. Add in a heartwarming tale with the classic “Disney’s going to make you cry” moment, and there’s no reason not to include it.


Honorable mentions

I could go on for days listing films that I’d love to see at a drive-in, but some are probably best suited for an at-home movie night. Here are the selections that I love but would prefer to keep out of the drive-in.

Back to the Future: Whenever I watch the first film, I want to watch the second and third films, too. But that’s a total of almost six hours sitting in a car. Pass.

The Wizard of Oz: As mentioned previously, I love a good musical. However, there are some parts of this film that simply put me to sleep. Maybe it’s the poppies… poppies…

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure: This is a road trip classic but it’s a little too quirky for some moviegoers. Plus, I can’t not think of Paul Reubens’ arrest whenever I see him. Ugh.

Grease: This movie features another drive-inception moment and contains some great music, but it also contains very questionable material for today’s world.

The Sandlot: A summer classic! But even with the awesome baseball scenes and carnival rides, I can’t get over that gross Wendy Peffercorn kiss from Squints. Yuck.

What did you think? Do you agree with any or all of my selections? Let me know in the comments what you’d want to see at your local drive-in theater.