Running a Playwright script on AWS Lambda

09 Sep 2023

I had a hell of a time getting a Playwright script to successfully run in an AWS Lambda. There's a few guides on various ways to handle this, but none of them worked out of the box. For posterity, here's what worked for me.

Use a Docker Container

The two primary ways I've seen Playwright and Puppeteer implemented are:

  1. Using the default Node runtime, with the Chromium browser installed as a separate layer. This is the approach taken by the chromium-lambda npm package.
  2. Using a Lambda Docker runtime, building off a Microsoft-provided base layer with Chromium pre-installed.

I was never able to make the Node runtime work, but did have success with the Docker runtime, so I'd recommend using that architecture.

Most of this started from Lari Haataja's excellent blog post on the various options and configuration needed to get started.

Write a standard Playwright script

You can follow the basic guidelines in the Playwright docs to launch your script.

I found it was helpful to move the Playwright code to a shared file, and have an entry point import it to run locally, and a second file with the Lambda specifics:

/* shared.ts contains Playwright logic */
import { LaunchOptions } from 'playwright';

export async function main(launchOptions: LaunchOptions): Promise<Result> {
  // launches the function
/* start-local.ts runs in "headful" mode */
import { main } from './shared';
const result = await main({ headless: false });
/* lambda.ts runs in "headless" mode */
import { APIGatewayProxyResult, EventBridgeEvent, Handler } from 'aws-lambda';
import { main } from './shared';

let args = [
  // More flags configured, see below

export const handler: Handler = async (
  event: EventBridgeEvent<'Location Geofence Event', GeofenceType>,
): Promise<APIGatewayProxyResult> => {
  const results = await main({
    headless: true,

You'll notice a number of args I passed into the Lambda - these are Chromium flags I found I had to enable to have Chromium launch successfully on the Lambda. You can see a full list of them in my repo, which I found from Vikash Loomba's GitHub.


Microsoft provides Docker base images with browsers and dependencies already installed; so this will be the starting point for our containers.

Mostly this is following the guide from Lari, but I did have to pin down the specific version of the base layer so it corresponded to the Playwright version I was using (1.37.0), so my base layer looked like:

FROM as build-image

The container definition also bundles AWS's Runtime Interface Emulator, which supports starting up the container locally, using Lambda's APIs. I ended up not using this very often since I had a local, non-containerized entry point I could quickly run, but it was still a nice feature to have.

You can see the complete Dockerfile here.

There's also an entrypoint bash script which is mostly boilerplate, and can be seen here.

Build and deploy the container

To deploy to AWS, you'll need to build the container, and deploy it to a container registry in your AWS tenant. Most of this is boilerplate with the AWS CLI, and is documented on Lari's post.

I found that I was running the build/deploy frequently enough that I added it to a shell script, which you can see here.

On my (weak) machine it took about 5 minutes to build and push the container. Once available, you can create a new Lambda function, and define it as a Container Image as documented on AWS's page, and deploy using the latest tag of your container.

I had to make a few other changes to the container's configuration:

  • Increase memory - The default memory allocated wasn't high enough to launch and run Chromium, so I upped the memory at runtime to 3GB. You may be able to optimize this better to save some money.
  • Increase timeout - My script took about 2 minutes to finish running, so I had to increase the timeout so Lambda wouldn't kill it after a few seconds.
  • Update HOME environment variable When Chromium launches, it tries to put files in a subdirectory of $HOME, which isn't writable by default in a Lambda runtime. To get around this, you can set HOME=/tmp in the environment variables configuration. Thanks to this GitHub issue for the workaround.

Once it's all configured, you can treat this like any other function; and define triggering events using the AWS console, or whatever method you prefer. You can also run test events through to validate the page is invoking successfully.

Why go through all this? Would jsdom/WebDriver/Puppeteer be easier?

Having to start up an entire web browser to screen-scrape a site without an API is a giant pain, and I wouldn't recommend it as the primary approach to automating an action. But some websites don't have an API, and depend heavily on JavaScript to render their site (this was a React SPA), so running a full browser was the only choice I could rely on.

There's a plethora of other automation tools out there, but I wanted to try out Playwright, and found their API surprisingly usable for humans. I'd recommend this JS Party episode for a deeper introduction to Playwright.

Bonus: Record and review video playbacks

I found it difficult to debug what was actually happening when my function would run. I could add additional console.log statements, but I found it was just easier to save off a recording of the automation run and upload it to an S3 bucket for later review.

This was fairly straightforward with Playwright's video recording API:

import { readFile } from 'fs/promises';
import { S3Client, PutObjectCommand } from '@aws-sdk/client-s3';

const S3_BUCKET = 'your-bucket-id';

async function uploadVideo(pathToVideo: string) {
  const Key = basename(pathToVideo);
  const Body = await readFile(pathToVideo);
  const client = new S3Client();
  const upload = new PutObjectCommand({
    Bucket: S3_BUCKET,
  const result = await client.send(upload);

And with that, for each run you have a full playback video to inspect!