Movie Viewing Theme Ideas

Whether you're planning a party or a family night in, set up a stellar lineup to view on your home theater system, HDTV, or—for a small audience—your tablet or smartphone. From movies on Blu-ray discs to streaming footage from an online source, you can enjoy crisp playback of feature films, sometimes with extras, including scenes deleted from the published version. To craft an evening's thematic entertainment, choose titles with shared elements behind or in front of the camera.

Style, Genre or Period

Westerns, vampires, war movies, digital or classic animation, film noir, horror flicks, early talkies, buddy bonding or romantic comedies: a specific style, genre or time period makes for a time-honored or quirky theme to use as your selection basis in planning a movie night. You can make up your own genre, combining several thematic elements to formulate your criteria, or stick with traditional categories. When you find new favorites—subject matter or titles—share your finds on social media. For extra fun, add costumes of your own to match the onscreen theme.


From stars to directors, famous special-effects makeup artists to noted model makers or matte painters, the people on and off the screen make for thematic convergence. To center your evening around a member of the cast, try screening a star's big break along with a movie in which she shows up as a bit player in one scene, and see which of your fellow audience members spots her in her uncredited debut. You also can base your selection on directors who act, movie star parents and their star offspring, cameo roles for famous people from other walks of life, or "biopics" in which the subject of the movie shows up in a bit part. Research uncredited roles online to find titles that meet more obscure criteria.

Holiday or Celebration

Pick a movie with a holiday theme to screen on the day it features, or a film that centers around a specific event to view on the anniversary of that milestone. Whether you match up cinematic and real-world holidays—Christmas or Fourth of July films on those dates, for example—or honor Veterans' Day with a wartime classic, you can enjoy old favorites yet again or discover lesser-known movies. For a twist on these date-specific themes, screen a classic movie on the anniversary of the day it debuted. You'll find exhaustive coverage of movie-title minutiae on fan-made websites and mainstream online databases.

Hits or Misses

In the categories that spawn cult favorites, you can plan enjoyable thematic viewing that features big-budget flops, small-budget turkeys and everything in between. Some flops build an audience over time, moving from the studio-killer, runaway-budget column to the breakeven category a decade or more after their debuts. Others launch to big expectations and never earn back their costs. For an evening of unintentional hilarity, look for B movies with bad special effects and even worse scripts. Some movie-review websites make a specialty out of grading hits and misses.

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