The best free video editing software allows you to give a slick look to your videos, whether that's your personal holiday footage, marketing content for social media, or your own professional projects.
Let's be realistic: free tools won't be as good as paid-for ones. But some of the best free video editing software actually comes surprisingly close in terms of features and sophistication, so it's worth giving a try.
Be aware, though, that you may have to wade through ads to get to the good stuff. Also, your video may be imprinted with watermarks, there can be export limitations, and you may only be authorised to use the software for personal, not commercial work.
That said, if you only need to do simple edits, or you're just getting started with video editing, those may be compromises you're willing to make. If you aren't, but you still want to stick to a zero budget, then one alternative is to take out a free trial for full, paid-for software. If that sounds enticing, check out the three quick links below, or visit our guide to the best paid-for video editing software for more options
Otherwise, read on to discover the best free video editing software available today. Here, you'll find options compatible with Windows and Mac computers, as well as Android and iOS tablets and phones. (If it's the latter you're keen on, also check out our list of the best video editing apps for mobile.)
We've tried each of these tools, through several hours of editing our own projects, to check how they compare in terms of ease of use, the power of adjustment, blending and transition features, and video and audio effects. And should you need more details, we've provided links so you can read the full reviews.
Quick links: best video editing software with free trials
Want to learn the ropes and see if video editing is for you? Then the best way for you to get free video editing software is through a free trial. This will give you access to fully featured software at zero cost, albeit for a limited time.
1. Premiere Pro: the best video editing software overall
Adobe's video editing software works on both Windows and Mac and is the industry-standard, offering professional class features. This free trial offer allows you to try Premiere Pro for free for seven days.
2. Final Cut Pro: the best video editing software for Mac
Available for macOS only, Final Cut Pro X is industry-standard software that has a great reputation within the TV and movie professions. It's made by Apple, who offer a generous 90-day free trial so you can test it out.
3. Premiere Elements: the best video editing software for beginners
If you're new to video editing, Adobe Premiere Elements is the best video editing software to start with. A simplified version of Premiere Pro, it's easy to learn. It's also cheaper and currently has a 30-day free trial.
The best free video editing software
If you're looking for a pro-level tool, the best free video editing software right now is DaVinci Resolve. Note that this is not to be confused with Davinci Resolve Studio, which is a paid version of the same program (and which we cover in our guide to the best video editing software that's not free).
DaVinci Resolve is made by Blackmagic Design, which also makes a popular family of video cameras, so you know it’s designed for filmmakers. Despite being free, this is a feature-packed powerhouse and really gives paid tools a run for their money in terms of versatility and usefulness.
At its core, this is an easy-to-use editing tool that will be familiar and easy to understand for anyone who’s used similar software before. If all you need is a media bin, a timeline and a few transitions or effects, you’ll find Resolve works just fine.
Plus DaVinci Resolve is market-leading (yes, even amongst paid video editing software) for a few specific features.
In our review, we found its colour grading options to be second to none, giving you the ability to fully control the look of your video. It also has fantastic smart video stabilisation for when you’ve got a shaky shot, as well as built-in audio mixing, VFX and title-card-building modes. You won’t need to ‘do an Adobe’ by jumping around loads of programs to get your perfect video.
In short DaVinci Resolve is free video editing software that feels, for all intents and purposes, like paid software. That said, for beginners or someone looking to do a quick edit job, it might actually be more complex than you need. To learn more, see our full DaVinci Resolve review.
Seeking the Swiss Army knife of free video editing software? Then you want Hitfilm Express. This software is capable of producing feature films or music videos with 3D effects. It’s also good for making YouTube videos (it offers direct uploading). And overall, it has a lot of features you'd expect to find only in expensive paid-for software such as Premiere Pro, including 4K video support, 360-degree editing, and hundreds of special effects.
The only potential issue we identified in our review is that it weighs heavily on system resources, so it won't work well on a low-powered laptop, for example. Also, like DaVinci Resolve (number one on our list), its level of pro sophistication can present a big learning curve for beginners.
On the plus side, the basic version of Hitfilm Express has everything you need to make a pro-quality production. And if you want something else specific, such as 360-degree text or extra colour grading tools, there are packs of add-on features that start at around $7/£6. For more information, see our Hitfilm Express review.
Got a Mac? Then you already have iMovie installed on it. You can also download it for free onto iPads and iPhones. And while isn't the most feature-packed free video editing software, it might actually be better for you than some of the more advanced options on this list.
Usefully, iMovie lets you easily record footage on one device, edit it on another and pull in assets from a different one. Sure, it's simple. But that makes it a great option for people who want to throw together a really quick project.
Apple constantly updates iMovie, especially with support for features found on newer Apple devices, so it's an awesome tool for iFans. It's also worth mentioning that if you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, iMovie comes with fully functioning Touch Bar support. Beyond that, you can render and edit in 4K, add titles, backgrounds and audio, and you can easily sync to iCloud to back up your project and transfer it between devices. For more information, read our full iMovie review.
The best free video editing software for Android is Kinemaster (it's also available on iOS). In our review we found it to be surprisingly complex for a mobile app. But it's also well optimised for a mobile layout, so you can easily throw together footage from your phone while also adding your own recording or audio over the top.
This tool best works on powerful phones; a budget mobile will still run it, but will take longer when you're giving it big jobs. If you own an Android phone and want to edit on the fly without spending money, this is your go-to option... as long as you're fine with watermarked videos.
To remove the watermarks, you'll need to subscribe to the premium version, although that costs a fairly reasonable $4.99/month or $39.99/year. See our Kinemaster review for more information.
Most free video editing software is created, ultimately, to tempt you into buying a paid version. The exception is open-source software. Here, you're getting the full product for free, and there's a volunteer army of developers constantly working to improve it, at no cost to you.
The best free video editing software today that's open-source is OpenShot. It's a solid basic free video editor with some welcome extra features. Its minimalist drag-and-drop layer-based interface is easy to use, even for newbies, and you can stack an unlimited number of layers in your video, be they soundtracks, overlapping videos, or custom images. OpenShot also offers a range of customisable title-card templates that can be customised.
There are all the usual options to adjust and enhance your video, including crop, trim, rotate, and resize. You can also adjust elements like brightness, contrast, colour grading, and gamma. And as it's open-source, there are none of the usual frustrating ads, watermarks, or promotions for paid upgrades.
It's not all perfect. There are issues with lag, and the features don’t always work the way they should (or when they work, they take a long time to apply, making the editing process frustrating). Ultimately, for free video editing software, Openshot is a good package if you want to avoid watermarks and ads. See our full OpenShot review for more details.
If you have a low-powered Windows PC, or are just looking for a really basic edit job, VSDC is a decent option, as it's designed for people whose computers don't have all the newest internals and specs. It's particularly good for adding text, lines, charts and other special effects to a presentation. Note, though, there's no Mac version.
The free version has almost all the features of the Pro version, and there are no watermarks added. It allows you to apply Instagram-style filters, special effects like colour correction and blurring, and a mask tool for applying effects to part of a video (for obscuring faces, for example). There’s also a video stabiliser that can help remove camera shake from footage taken with GoPros or drones, while its chart tool is useful for adding graphs to presentations.
The free version can export to various formats including AVI and MPG, and it supports most video formats, so you shouldn’t have any trouble importing clips. You can even tailor the output for particular devices, and there’s a built-in DVD burner. Upgrade to the paid-for pro version and you'll get features such as motion tracking, masking, and hardware acceleration. Read our VSDC review to learn more.
Working on a small projects and don't need all the advanced features of a tool like Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X? Then the open source program Shotcut is a good middleweight choice.
Shotcut supports a huge range of formats, offers a great array of filters and special effects and can handle up to 4K. It also has support for AV1 decoding and encoding. The interface is easy to use and can be customised if desired (it has dockable and undockable panels), and we particularly love the surprisingly sophisticated timeline.
On the downside, the process of adding transitions is a little unusual, and you can only add filters to one clip at a time, which can be time-consuming. However, for free video editing software, it's impressive, and being open source means there are no ads or watermarks. For more information, see our Shotcut review.
A lot of free video editing software is only for non-commercial use, and limits the number of projects you can export. Both of these restrictions apply to VideoPad, but if those aren't deal breakers, it's still well worth investigating.
VideoPad is a free video editor with a simple interface suitable for novices, but it also offers plenty of features for advanced users. It's essentially a limited version of the paid versions, which offer extra features, and unlimited exports.
Most notable of all is the level of control VideoPad gives over audio, which makes it a great choice for movie sequences that rely on audio effects. It supports an unlimited number of audio tracks and provides an entire library of sound effects to play with.
Overall, the software isn't as robust as Lightworks (number 10 on our list), but the audio editing features and sound mixing functionalities really do stand out for a free video editing program.
VideoPad also allows 3D video editing, a rare feature among free video editing tools. It also has great options for social sharing, with a library of social media-friendly effects and transitions and the option to post videos to platforms like Facebook or YouTube without leaving the software.
If you're using a Windows PC, you'd be daft not to try Windows Video Editor, as it's built into the system. It used to be called Windows Movie Maker, but was rebuilt from the ground up for Windows 10, and renamed. And if you're looking for a quick way to make simple edits, it might be all you need.
Windows Video Editor doesn’t have a lot of features; it's really more of a photo editor with video editing capabilities. But it can tackle basic tasks like trimming, cropping, speed adjustments and adding text or audio. It also has a 3D Effects section, which you can use to soup up your video with pre-designed animations.
There aren't many options for customisation, but Windows Video Editor is still a good application for basic video enhancement, especially for novices looking who enjoy working in Windows. It's certainly very easy to use, and we'd recommend it most to people looking to put together slideshows of holiday photos, or quick presentations using assets already on the computer.
Lightworks Free used to be the best free video editing software out there, operating as a great affordable option to the premium Lightworks Create and Pro tiers. However, in 2022, it's not quite so competitive.
The free tier offers lots of the same editing experience as its paid-for siblings, but with a huge catch: the export options are incredibly limited. You can only export videos in 720p for example, and higher-res exports, as well as the ability to use popular file formats like AVI, WAV and MOV, are all locked to higher tiers.
It's still got a place on this list though. Because if you don't need 1080p or higher exports, yet still want a professional-level editing experience, Lightworks might be good for you. It also has a few features that aren't available in all free video editing software, like multi-track editing and easy project collaboration features.
Also note that the free licence actually expires every seven days. However, it can be renewed by simply signing back into the application with your username and password. And you can't really complain about that, considering how much value you're getting for free. Head over to our Lightworks review to learn more.
Not to be confused with the Creative Cloud suite (which includes Premiere Pro, After Effects and other pro tools), Creative Cloud Express is a free app for people who lack software design skills. It's available as a web app, an iOS app and an Android app. Until recently it was known as Adobe Spark, and its main aim is to make it easy to create both static and video content for social media.
In that light, it provides you with a simple way to edit videos. As well as simply trimming your clips, you can add music, text and images, and resize everything for different social media destinations. However, these features are quite limited, as we explain in our Creative Cloud Express review.
This app, then, is mainly aimed at people who are new to video editing, and wants to stick to the absolute basics. That said, if you want to get a social media video live as quickly as possible, and aren't too concerned about the overall quality, it does make things nice and quick. Especially if you use one of the pre-formatted story templates to help you create slideshows, teaser videos, explainer videos, lesson plan videos, campaign videos, recap videos, and promo videos.