Movie night is always fun, but it’s even better when you can enjoy a flick under the stars. The best outdoor projectors are bright, so you can see the screen even if there’s ambient light from streetlights or neighbors, and most of them offer at least 1080 pixels of resolution for a picture that's crisp and clear.
When it comes to choosing an outdoor movie projector, brighter is better — especially if there’s a lot of light pollution in your area. Brightness is measured in lumens, and for high picture quality on a 100-inch screen, you’ll want a projector with at least 1,500 American National Standards Institute (ANSI) lumens — and more if you're going to project a larger image. However, if you’re in an area with low ambient light like a campsite, you can save some money by opting for a budget-friendly or portable projector that’s less bright.
As you plan your backyard movie theater, you’ll want to consider throw distance, which is the range of distance you can have between the projector and the image on the screen. Usually, the image gets larger as the projector gets further from the wall. If you have a small outdoor area, choose a projector with shorter throw to project large images from a closer distance. You may also want to check the throw ratio, which will tell you how much distance you need from the projector to the screen to achieve a certain image size. A throw ratio of 1.3:1, for example, will mean you’ll need 1.3 feet of distance for every foot of image on the screen.
Beyond that, each of these picks has built-in speakers and various ports for connecting computers, phones, external speakers, and more. So if you’re planning to have your next movie night al fresco, scroll on for the best outdoor projectors on Amazon that’ll put your favorite flick on the big screen.
1. The Overall Best
If your yard is relatively dim, this outdoor movie projector is an affordable and popular pick with 12,000 five-star reviews. At 2,400 lumens, it should offer plenty of brightness for outdoor projection, but reviewers note it works best in darker areas. You can place the projector anywhere from 4.9 to 16.4 feet away from the screen, and the HDMI port lets you easily connect your laptop, TV stick, or video game console. You can also connect to your smartphone, but you’ll need a lightning to HDMI adapter for iPhones or a micro-USB to HDMI adapter for Androids. Reviewers are generally pleased with the projector’s two built-in speakers, but if you want better sound quality, it’s easy to connect your own external speakers using the built-in audio jack.
According to a reviewer: “My son wanted to have an outdoor movie screening for his 11th birthday party, and this projector performed PERFECTLY! I can't believe how great it really is for being so affordable. We didn't even need to hook up speakers for it, the ones that are integrated were loud and clear. It is very adjustable, so we could easily achieve a perfectly angled, clear and focused picture."
- Pixels: 1080p
- Brightness: 2,400 ANSI lumens, according to a reviewer
- Throw distance: 4.9 to 16.4 feet
- Throw ratio: 1.8:1
- Screen size: 32 to 170 inches
- Connectivity: HDMI, VGA, USB, AV, MicroSD
2. The Brightest Projector & The One With The Greatest Range
With 3,200 lumens — the brightest on the list — and a maximum screen size of 300 inches, this short throw projector can provide a true cinema-like experience in your backyard movie theater. Plus, it gives you the largest range of throw distance, making it a great option for small and expansive backyards alike. The projector features a variety of ports that make it easy to connect to your computer or any HDMI-enabled device, and there are two built-in 10-watt speakers that, according to reviewers, are about as loud as regular TV speakers, but you can also connect external speakers via the audio jack. A programmable remote control is included, and this projector is also available in (pricier) versions for gaming, higher brightness, and more cinematic colors.
According to a reviewer: “Purchased for an outdoor projector and it does an incredible job even as the sun is coming down.”
- Pixels: 1080p
- Brightness: 3,200 ANSI lumens
- Throw distance: 4.2 - 46.9 feet
- Throw ratio: 1.15 ~ 1.5
- Screen size: 30 - 300 inches
- Connectivity: HDMI, VGA, USB-A, micro-USB
3. The Most Portable
If you want a super portable option — say, for a camping trip — this mini outdoor projector is about the size of a soda can, so you can easily stash it in your backpack. And since it's USB-chargeable, you don't have to be anywhere near a wall outlet to operate it. This projector has the shortest minimum throw distance on the list, making it a good choice for small areas, but keep in mind that it can only project images up to 100 inches. At 100 lumens, this projector works best in low light areas like campsites or rural backyards, and the 360-degree speaker offers high-quality sound. However, if you want bigger sound, you can connect to external speakers via Bluetooth — the only option on the list with that wireless option — but there's no audio jack for wired connections.
It’s easy to hook up to HDMI and USB devices, but you can also connect wirelessly via Bluetooth, Airplay, or Miracast, too. A remote control is included, but if you ever lose that, you can use the Nebula Connect app to operate the projector, which is available in the Google Play or App Store. The rechargeable battery offers four hours of video playtime and you can listen to music for up to 30 hours. Choose from black and red.
According to a reviewer: “It's pretty bright and the colors are really vibrant, the audio is also surprisingly loud and clear considering you can literally put this thing in your pocket! This is perfect for camping, traveling, etc.”
- Pixels: 480p
- Brightness: 100 ANSI lumens
- Throw distance: 1.9 - 10.1 feet
- Throw ratio: 1.3
- Screen size: 20 - 100 inches
- Connectivity: HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Screen Mirroring
4. The Best For Sports & Image Quality
If you're willing to splurge for super high-quality image to watch sporting events or movies on the big screen, this 4K HD home theater projector is your best bet, offering four times more resolution than the other options on the list. Not only does it boast bright, sharp picture quality, but it also has dedicated football and sports modes that preserve realistic colors and accentuate announcers’ commentary, so you don’t miss a beat of your favorite game. It’s also equipped with a powerful 5-watt speaker that delivers high-quality sound and deep bass, but a built-in audio jack lets you easily connect to external speakers. A remote control is included.
According to a reviewer: “The picture quality and brightness on this projector are simply put, awesome. Even with ambient light the picture comes through nice and clear.”
- Pixels: 4K HD (8.3 million pixels)
- Brightness: 3,000 ANSI lumens
- Throw distance: 10 - 17.9 feet
- Throw ratio: 1.50 - 1.65
- Screen size: 30 - 300 inches
- Connectivity: HDMI, VGA, AV, USB-A, mini-USB
Good To Have: A Projection Screen
For the optimal viewing experience, you'll want a good outdoor projection screen that displays vivid colors and resists creases. Made from spandex and polyester, this textureless screen is extra-thick to ensure that colors don't bleed through from your wall, and the reinforced edges guarantee durability. Also appropriate for indoor use, the grommets make it easy to mount with hooks or nails, but you can also use double-sided tape. And when the movie is over, the 120-inch screen folds up small for compact storage.
According to a reviewer: "Good material. No creases. Very stretchy. Bought for outdoor movie watching. Did the job well!"