How to access iTunes Movies in the Cloud from your iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV

Movies in the Cloud is the latest addition to iTunes in the Cloud, the iCloud service that let's you re-download previously purchased iTunes content on your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Mac or Windows PC. While apps, iBooks, music, and TV shows have been available for re-download for a while now, movies are brand new and seem to be causing some confusion, namely where they're available, how to access them, and how and when they work with digital copies.

Here's the deal...

Movies in the Cloud availability

As of now, it seems like Movies in the Cloud is only available in the U.S. TV Shows in the Cloud started off as U.S. only at first as well, and then later rapidly expanded to over a dozen other countries, so it's possible Movies in the Cloud will follow suit. It's also possible movie licensing deals are more complicated than TV and it will take a while. Either way, if you're not using a U.S. iTunes Store account, you won't have access to Movies in the Cloud.

Also, only movies purchased through iTunes are available for re-download.

Before we get into what iTunes Movies in the Cloud is, here's what it isn't.

Movies in the Cloud isn't home sharing

iOS 4.3 features: Home Sharing

Home sharing lets you stream any movie in your Mac or Windows PC library to your iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, or Apple TV over your home Wi-Fi network. It doesn't care if you bought the movie on iTunes or ripped it from a DVD, transcoded it, and added it to your iTunes library.

Movies in the Cloud does. It will only show you movies that your bought through the iTunes store, using the same iTunes account that you're logged into on your device.

Movies in the cloud isn't part of iTunes Match

Re-download purchased movies with iCloud from your purchased tab

iTunes Match will scour your PC iTunes library, take note of all your music, and if it can find the same song on Apple's iTunes Catalog, provide you with a 256kbps copy you can re-download from any iOS, Mac, or Windows device.

The keyword there is music. iTunes will not match any other type of content for you.

If you have movies in your iTunes library that you didn't get through the iTunes Store, iTunes Match won't help you. You'll have to use Home Sharing (see above) or an app like Air Video to get to them.

Movies in the Cloud doesn't work with all Digital Copies

How and when Movies in the Cloud works with Digital Copies has been the source of some confusion. The non-simple answer is that it depends on how the company distributing the movie decided to provide a digital copy.

If you open up your Blu-Ray or DVD and the digital copy consists of an iTunes code to redeem an iTunes copy of the movie, you're golden. Just redeem your code and your digital copy should automagically show up in iTunes, and Movies in the Cloud will let you re-download it across all your devices for download.

If you're digital copy requires you to log in to some other kind of service to redeem your movie it may get a bit complicated. I recently bought a movie that made me download the Flixster software in order to play it. Needless to say I wasn't very happy about this. I purposely buy movies that have digital copies in order to be able to play them from all my devices and from iTunes. What am I supposed to do with a movie that I can't play without a player that isn't supported by anything else?

If you find yourself in this situation, it never hurts to contact the vendor and ask for an iTunes code instead. Some movie cases are very deceiving and don't give you very much information on the type of digital download they're giving you. If all else fails, just ask.

But the bottom line is, if you didn't get the Digital Copy through iTunes, you won't be able to re-downlown it through Movies in the Cloud.

Movies in the Cloud doesn't work for all movies

Apple doesn't have deals with all major film studies yet. That means certain movies from certain companies, such as Universal and 20th Century Fox, aren't currently available for re-download through Movies in the Cloud.

Some of this has to do with the "HBO window", some of it with old-school studio thinking. Apple, HBO, and the studios are apparently trying to work this out. In the meantime, when a movie is airing on HBO, it could disappear from Movies in the Cloud.

How to re-download movies on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad

How to access purchased movies on iCloud from your iPhone or iPad

To re-download movies you've previously purchased from iTunes on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

  1. Launch the iTunes app.
  2. Tap the Purchased tab at the bottom (if you don't see it, tap the More tab and then check there).
  3. Tap Movies from the selection list.
  4. Tap on the iCloud icon beside any of your previously purchased movies to re-download.

How to stream movies to Apple TV

How to access movies in iCloud from your AppleTV

Because the Apple TV doesn't have much internal storage, it streams previously purchased movies instead of re-downloading and storing them on-device. To stream a movie to your Apple TV:

  1. Navigate to the Movies icon on the right and click on it.
  2. Navigate to the Purchased tab at the top and click on it.
  3. Scroll up or down to the movie you want to stream and click on it.


Movies in the Cloud is currently a great way for users to re-download some movies purchased from the U.S. iTunes Store to iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads, and stream them to the Apple TV.

It's not part of iTunes Match, it doesn't work for all movies from all studios, and it doesn't support Digital Copies unless they were acquired through an iTunes Store promo code, but hopefully some of those limitations will soon be things of the past.

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.