Where to Watch Outdoor Movies in Seattle for Free (Summer 2023)

13 movies to add to your list 🎥

Movies at the Mural Christopher Nelson

📸: Movies at the Mural | Christopher Nelson

Summertime in Seattle is for watching movies outdoors. Lush, grassy parks host films throughout July and August, from recent blockbusters like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to timeless hits like Jaws.

This round-up features free outdoor films screened July 28th through August 27th by three series in Seattle—Movies at the MuralMovies by the Tower, and OUTdoor Cinema—though there are more free screenings hosted by the City of Seattle (times and locations here), as well as by the Nordic Museum in Ballard. The cities of TacomaEverettMarysvillePuyallupKirkland, and Auburn also host free screenings. And for $10, you can see movies over in Redmond.

The Wiz (OUTdoor Cinema)

Sunday, August 27th @ Volunteer Park

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Three Dollar Bill’s OUTdoor Cinema reigned supreme during summers in Cal Anderson Park until its temporary suspension during the pandemic. Held amidst the sound of yappy dogs being walked, revelers on their way to Pike and Pine’s many clubs, and the occasional siren, the series leaned toward the campier, kitschier side of things, and if the film was a musical, so much the better (I have fond memories of watching Xanadu and The Apple under the stars thanks to Three Dollar Bill). And the films ended early enough that you could easily wander to a nearby watering hole for a drink afterward.

You’ll find all of the prime ingredients (kitsch, camp, musicals) in this year’s series. But the org’s also changing things up, expanding beyond the confines of Cal Anderson to points east and west. The series remains free (donations accepted); you’re encouraged to bring blankets and/or low-backed lawn chairs and arrive early for a chance to win fabulous prizes. 

This year’s lineup wraps up with The Wiz on August 27th. A legendary flop on its release in 1978, this updating of The Wizard of Oz has since been reevaluated. NYC and its environs are transformed into a spectacular Oz, from Coney Island to the World Trade Center; it’s Michael Jackson’s first film appearance, and the songs are just waiting for you to sing along with them. “Ease on Down the Road” anyone? 🖊️ Gillian Gaar

⏰ 8 pm

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Movies by the Tower)

Saturday, August 26th @ Maple Leaf Reservoir Park

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This is for the North Enders in the house! 

Scarecrow Video is happy to present Movies by the Tower at Maple Leaf Reservoir Park for four Saturdays starting August 5th. And just like the marvelous curation at the Best Video Store in the World, these four Asian-centered stories are perfectly selected for a summer audience. And did we mention it’s free

The series wraps up on August 26th with Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonAng Lee’s crossover hit from 2000 is an epic, glorious, and devastating wuxia melodrama of good, evil, and all the shades in between, starring Zhang Ziyi, Chow Yun-fat, and recent Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ Check Movies by the Tower’s FB for updated showtimes

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Movies at the Mural)

Friday, August 25th @ Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheatre

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In my estimation, the Mural Amphitheatre at the Seattle Center doesn’t get nearly enough love—outside of scheduled concert/event weekends like Bumbershoot and Folklife. Most people pass it by on their way to that big honking Needle from the Frasier opening title card or that scary-sounding sea monster hockey team or to the Seattle Children’s Theatre. 

So I’m here to tell you that the Mural Amphitheatre calls out to you with cinema thanks to the free event Movies at the Mural. For five Fridays starting in late July, you can cheer with tourists and city folk alike at some honest-to-god bangers. Bonus: Each film will be preceded by short films courtesy of Cornish students.

On Friday, August 25th, Movies at the Mural closes its summer series with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Ryan Coogler’s superhero sequel is best experienced with a crowd, as Wakanda and the world mourn the loss of a young king (R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman) and build for a better and more sustainable, communal tomorrow. 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ 9 pm

Little Richard: I Am Everything (OUTdoor Cinema)

Sunday, August 20th @ Alki Playfield

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A dazzling documentary about the man who put the “bop” in a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom! (from his classic first hit, “Tutti Frutti” — go listen to it, now!). This Black queer icon laid the foundations of rock ‘n’ roll (as revealed in well-chosen film clips), and we haven’t stopped dancing since. Plus: costume contest! 🖊️ Gillian Gaar

⏰ 8 pm

The Paper Tigers (Movies by the Tower)

Saturday, August 19th @ Maple Leaf Reservoir Park

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Haven’t heard of this 2020 action comedy made in Seattle? Now’s your chance, as three middle-aged men reunite to avenge the death of their kung fu master. Maybe beforehand, have a killer meal at Kona Kitchen a few blocks away, a delicious Hawaiian restaurant owned by one of the film’s costars and producers (and Karate Kid II villain), Yuji Okumoto. 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ Check Movies by the Tower’s FB for updated showtimes

Dreamgirls (Movies at the Mural)

Friday, August 18th @ Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheatre

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Bill Condon’s 2006 adaptation of the Tony-winning 1981 musical has aged beautifully, thanks especially to central performances from Beyoncé, Eddie Murphy (robbed of a Best Supporting Actor prize), and the Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson (at that time best known for getting SEVENTH PLACE on American Idol season 3). 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ 9 pm

Jennifer’s Body (OUTdoor Cinema)

Sunday, August 13th @ Elsom Cellars

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Amanda Seyfried deals with the typical teen angst of having a (hot) BFF, Megan Fox (the titular Jennifer), who’s also a succubus. She simply won’t consider going vegan, so what’s a girl to do? Bring a scorecard to tally the body count. Plus: trivia contest! 🖊️ Gillian Gaar

⏰ 8 pm

Turning Red (Movies by the Tower)

Saturday, August 12th @ Maple Leaf Reservoir Park

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Disney/Pixar made a mistake releasing this superb and pop music-infused animated comedy straight to Disney+ in 2022, so show that conglomerate what’s up when you gather with your neighbors to enjoy this Toronto-set tale of a young Chinese Canadian girl whose teenage rage turns her into a giant red panda. 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ Check Movies by the Tower’s FB for updated showtimes

Jaws (Movies at the Mural)

Friday, August 11th @ Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheatre

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It won’t hit its 50th anniversary until 2025, but it’s always time to celebrate Steven Spielberg’s breakout hit, one of the few PG-rated horror/horror-adjacent films to scare the everloving crap out of me. Watch this, then go play shark at the International Fountain. 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ 9 pm

Shaolin Soccer (Movies by the Tower)

Saturday, August 5th @ Maple Leaf Reservoir Park

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Stephen Chow’s completely out-of-control and entirely irresistible martial arts soccer action comedy from 2001, like a video game come to life mixed with Looney Tunes gags and high-flying and high-scoring kung fu. 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ Check Movies by the Tower’s FB for updated showtimes

Clueless (Movies at the Mural)

Friday, August 4th @ Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheatre

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Amy Heckerling’s modernized adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, one of the most iconic films of the 1990s, and much of the world’s introduction to Brittany Murphy. Hiss when Jeremy Sisto creeps on Cher, roll with the homies, then skank your booty off when the Mighty Mighty Bosstones show up. 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ 9 pm

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (OUTdoor Cinema)

Friday, July 28th @ Cal Anderson Park

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You can likely antici-(say it!)-pate some audience participation with this one. But be careful if you try to “Time Warp” on Cal Anderson’s slope, and resist the urge to throw foodstuffs. And did someone say costume contest? Fun fact: this year is the 50th anniversary of the stage show the film is based on. 🖊️ Gillian Gaar

⏰ 7 pm

Princess Bride (Movies at the Mural)

Friday, July 28th @ Seattle Center’s Mural Amphitheatre

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Rob Reiner’s classic comedic tale of swashbuckling, true love, and Rodents of Unusual Size. Take a drink (of water! This is a family event) every time Vizzini says “Inconceivable!” 🖊️ Marcus Gorman

⏰ 9 pm

Author

Marcus Gorman

Marcus Gorman is a Seattle-based playwright and film programmer. He once raised money for a synagogue by marathoning 15 Adam Sandler movies in one weekend. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter @marcus_gorman.

Gillian Gaar

Gillian G. Gaar

Gillian G. Gaar is a Seattle-based journalist and the author of several books, including She’s A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and Entertain Us: The Rise of Nirvana. Twitter: @GillianGaar

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