Outdoor cinema, here we come. Whether the newest Baywatch remake or a beloved retro classic – watching movies in open-air settings equals pure entertainment against breathtaking backdrops like the Sydney skyline, an NYC beach or Ibiza’s stunning starry skies. So, say hello to this year’s top ten outdoor cinemas.

Cine Theseion, Athens

Athens is the world’s self-proclaimed capital of outdoor cinemas. Back in the 1960s, locals could choose from up to 600 different open-air options. And the Greek metropolis continues to nurture its love of movie culture. Every year, countless of improvised, vine-covered backyards attract plenty of cinephiles. One of the city’s undisputed paragons and highlights: Cine Theseion, a stalwart of the scene since 1935. Nothing much seems to have changed since the theater’s first screening: The hidden garden with a view of the illuminated Acropolis shows a popular mix of classics and blockbusters, from Hitchcock to Hollywood – sweetened with lashings of homemade cheesecake.

Outdoor cinema Cine Theseion in Athens
Open-air movies with a view of Athens‘ Acropolis.
Photo: Vasilios Koutroumanos

Maple Drive-In, Beijing

Wang Qishun has loved films since early childhood. And when he got his first car sometime in the 1980s, he also discovered the thrill of US-style drive-in movie theaters. By 1998, the avid film buff had opened his own – and China’s first – take on the concept, calling it the Maple Drive-In Cinema. As soon as the sun dips behind Beijing’s skyline, his projection surface comes alive, treating movie lovers to a selection of Chinese and American productions all night long.

Allianz Cinema, Zurich

For the past 27 years, 50,000+ people have been flocking to this outdoor viewing emporium at Lake Zurich every July and August. The setting and scenery are truly one-of-a-kind: The actual screen is installed right on the lake, offset by city lights twinkling on the shore behind. With its mix of the latest blockbusters, art house flicks, and timeless classics like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the Allianz Cinema keeps them coming back for more – flanked by high-end gastronomic delights ranging from Vietnamese or Peruvian delicacies to simple, but satisfying BBQ sausages.

Open Air Cinema Allianz Cinema at Lake Zurich
Swiss movie enthusiasts flock to Lake Zurich.
Photo: PPR/Dominik Baur (image has been modified)

Coney Island Flicks on the Beach, New York City

Right at the southernmost tip of Brooklyn, Coney Island attracts locals and visitors alike with its iconic beach and amusement park. Against the backdrop of high-rises populated by mostly Russian immigrant families, they enjoy the attractions on offer – including seasonal “Flicks on the Beach” on eight Mondays in July and August. New York City cineasts arrive early to snare the perfect spot on the beach, fling down their towels, or bring a deck chair – and then enjoy the free entertainment.

An outdoor cinema at the beach on Coney Island.
Films, lights, crashing waves: beach cinema on Coney Island.
Photo: Alliance for Coney Island

Pluk de Nacht, Amsterdam

Once upon a time, a few friends agreed that far too few excellent films ever made it into Dutch movie theaters. So, they simply started their own film festival –  “Pluk de Nacht” i. e. “seize the night” – on the banks of an Amsterdam river. This coming August, they will once again show a delightfully surprising range of carefully selected international movies beyond the usual Hollywood fare. All presentations are free of charge, in English (or featuring English subtitles), and followed by a party.

Freiluftkino Kreuzberg, Berlin

Kreuzberg’s outdoor cinema in the courtyard of Kunstquartier Bethanien is one of the city’s longest-running open-air screening events. Every night from May to September, it treats its varied audience to an international film. Expect current highlights as well as plenty of (cult) classics, all projected in their original language with subtitles – German output is screened with English subs. For full-on local flavor and immersion, pick a flick like “The Young Karl Marx”, set and screened in the city where the movie’s hero himself spent five years studying.

Outdoor cinema in Kreuzberg, Berlin
An open air classic in Germany’s capital.
Photo: Robin Kirchner

Sunset Drive-In-Cinema, Ahmedabad

This Indian location claims to boast Asia’s largest movie screen. Well, it’s definitely large enough for up to 665 cars and countless covered rows of seats. At the same time, the Sunset Drive-In-Cinema is no tourist destination, but a firm favorite among locals – entire families spread their blankets between the vehicles, enjoying the cheap admission and the associated restaurant’s highly-lauded food.

Retro Drive-In, Ireland

Have you ever seen a mobile drive-in? Not ones to shy away from a challenge, the minds behind Ireland’s Retro Drive-In have turned their eccentric idea into a delight for the masses: Travelling the country in a black truck, they organize temporary screenings in cities, accompanied by a flock of food stalls that feed hungry film fans with pizza, burgers, and other treats. Expect cult classics all the way, from “Jaws” and “Top Gun” to “Back to the Future.”

Retro Drive-In in Ireland
Drive-in theaters ain’t dead. This one is in Ireland.
Photo: Thomas Hawk

Amante Movie Night, Ibiza

Most Tuesday nights from July to September, Ibiza’s exclusive hot spot and restaurant Amante transforms its patio into an open-air cinema. Guests with a spare 30 Euro to spend get to stretch out under palm trees, the roaring sea’s fresh breeze caressing their skin, and enjoy award-winning blockbusters like “La La Land,” “Moonlight,” or “Nocturnal Animals.” The fairly steep ticket price includes a glass of sparkling Catalan cava – and an all-you-can-eat popcorn supply.

St. George OpenAir Cinema, Sydney

A picture-perfect view – of excellent films and Sydney’s iconic skyline – awaits the patrons of the St. George OpenAir Cinema. Up to 2,000 film lovers line up to catch a glimpse of the latest releases, previews, and Australian premieres … plus Sydney’s famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge overlooking the city’s busy shipping route. Due to its Antipodean location, movie season falls firmly into January and February – reason enough for a sun-soaked trip and winter escape for those of us stuck in the Northern hemisphere?

Outdoor cinema at Darling Harbour in Sydney
Cinema in Sydney – in a priceless setting.
Photo: Chris Grundy

Up for a quick trip down memory lane with our best outdoor cinemas of 2016?