Today's free video editors are a huge step up from Windows Movie Maker, combining professional-level tools with interfaces that are easy to master – even if you've never made your own movie before.
If your needs are simple (you just want to trim a clip to size, record a voiceover, or combine several sections of footage together), there are free, user-friendly tools that will get the job done in seconds.
Alternatively, you might be looking for a full video-editing suite that will give you complete control over how your finished work looks and sounds – from advanced audio filters to green screen effects. Again, there are free tools that are perfect for the task, and put premium-level tools within reach of everyone.
Whatever kind of movie you're making, here are the very best free video editors for home users.
Putting professional-quality tools within reach of everyone, regardless of budget, Lightworks is the best free video editor available today
Lightworks is far much more than a simple tool for cutting clips – the pro version has been used to create big-name movies including The King's Speech and Road to Perdition.
As you would expect for such a powerful video editor, you won't be able to master it overnight, but that's certainly not something you could hold against it.
Lightworks is described as the professional video editor for everyone, and we reckon that's a fair summary. Despite its power, it will run well on fairly modest hardware, and it handles video capture and advanced editing with aplomb.
If you've tried other free video editors you'll probably find that the interface is a little different to anything you're used to, but you can arrange the various controls and windows to create something that suits your way of working.
Review and where to download: Lightworks
2. VideoPad Video Editor
Not as feature-packed as Lightworks, but particularly good for beginners
Free video editors have a tendency to be either simple to use and limited in terms of features, or powerful and time-consuming to learn. VideoPad Video Editor does an excellent job of avoiding both pitfalls – a powerful editor that you can easily navigate, even if you've never used anything similar in the past.
This ease of use plays a big part in VideoPad's appeal, but it also comes highly recommended because of the sheer range of tools it has on offer. It may not be quite as feature-packed as Lightworks, but it's much easier to just jump straight into.
You can work with video footage that's already on your hard drive, or capture from your connected camcorder. You then have access to a plethora of video and audio editing tools (effects, transitions, sequencing and more), the likes of which would not be out of place in a premium video editor.
Review and where to download: VideoPad Video Editor
The interface is unusual, but once you master it, you'll reap the benefits
Shotcut is another professional-feeling free video editor that requires a little patience if you are achieve the results it is so capable of delivering. The slightly unusual interface can be put down to the fact that this started life as a Linux application, and little has changed in its conversion to Windows.
To start with, the interface may seem a little stark. You will need to not only load a video, but also choose which editing mode you would like to work in and which tools you'd like to use.
There's no getting away from the fact that Shotcut has a steep learning curve. It's possible to achieve some impressive results by simply applying one of its many filters to your video, but the real rewards will only be reaped by those willing to invest the time and energy in fully getting to grips with what's on offer.
Review and where to download: Shotcut
4. VSDC Free Video Editor
A non-linear video editor stacked with tools, with more added all the time
VSDC Free Video Editor provides a huge array of effects and filters to enhance your footage, with both wizards and manual options to suit beginners or more advanced users.
VSDC is highly capable, and can yield superb results. As a non-linear editor, it works in rather a different way to many other similar tools, letting you position clips and other elements on the timeline wherever you like and edit them there.
With the ability to not only work with multiple scenes and transitions, but also to add sprites and text to videos, you can create a professional-quality movie if you're willing to stick with VSDC's slightly odd way of working and unusual interface.
The latest version of VSDC adds extra artistic effects, including smoke. There's also a dedicated Instagram export profile and automatic image stabilization. It's noticeably faster, too. An excellent choice for creative video projects.
Review and where to download: VSDC Free Video Editor
An accessible free video editor for small editing tasks and enhancing clips
One thing to understand about Avidemux from the outset is that it is not going to help you create the next Star Wars or to become a master movie producer. Rather, it's a set of essential tools for everyday video editing, covering all of the basics such as converting formats, trimming footage, appending one clip to another, and applying filters and effects.
While Avidemux isn't offer the most powerful free video editor, it's not a pared-back Windows Movie Maker style affair either. You might have to go hunting for some of the more advanced options, but spend a little time perusing the menus and you'll be impressed.
Review and where to download: Avidemux