The best free video editing software brings Hollywood-style post-production polish to creatives on a budget.
Content creation has exploded in recent years, which means more and more people are trying their hand at the best video editor apps. But you don’t always need industry-standard software like Adobe Premiere Pro (or even the best alternatives to Adobe Premiere Pro) to make the cut.
Free video editing software is a boon to beginner and professional editors, and budding filmmakers who need top tools without monthly subscriptions or one-time-buy perpetual licenses. Some of the very best even offer free video editing software without watermarks - ideal for YouTube content creators.
Our top free video editors may not pack every pro-level feature - but they all let you clip, trim, and splice footage without jumping through hoops. All you need is one of the best video editing computers or best video editing laptop your budget can afford to serve as your creative workstation.
With so many free downloadable options, however, it may be a challenge to find the one that precisely suits your needs. Some want the best free video editing software for beginners, others need free editing video software for a low-end PC. It can even be tricky finding one with a user interface that’s seamless to use. After all, free or not, the best tools have to fit your unique flow, unlocking your creative process.
We’ve tested and reviewed the best free video editing software for PC and Mac across a range of users, skill-levels, and needs, taking into consideration things like user-friendliness, extra features, and performance. With how much money you’ll be saving from one of these, you’ll have enough money to invest in an Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) sooner than you might think.
Choosing a video editor: best apps
Today's top 3 best video editors
We’ve tested, reviewed, and rated the best video editing software. If you’re happy paying for your video editor, these are our top three premium picks - bringing professional editing tools into the home or studio.
The best video editing software: Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere Pro is an industry-standard video editing program that's really easy to use. And it seamlessly integrates with Adobe apps like After Effects, when you subscribe to Creative Cloud. In our 5-star review (opens in new tab), we found “it’s a stable video editing powerhouse with a huge list of features designed to help you intuitively build professional-grade projects.”
Best value video editor: CyberLink PowerDirector
PowerDirector is a premium video editor that keeps costs low, with lifetime and subscription pricing models. It’s a feature-packed tool that caters to beginners, intermediates and pros alike. In our review (opens in new tab), we found it can “create anything from a simple cut to a really complex project filled with effects, titles, slick transitions and effects."
Best video editor for Mac: Final Cut Pro
It may be aimed squarely at the professional end of the market, but Apple Final Cut Pro is an easy video editing software tool, and its 'trackless' timeline is super intuitive. You pay for it once upfront, so it could be very affordable long-term. We reviewed (opens in new tab) the editor positively, calling it "an incredibly powerful piece of video editing software.”
The best free video editing software 2022
As the best free video editing software overall, Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve is a tough video editor to beat. Not only for the vast number of features it comes with, from high end video editing capabilities, to a powerful node-based special effects system, extensive colour correction features, and professional-level audio tools, but the whole thing is available for free. Yes, you read that right. There are no strings attached. You can download it for Mac, Linux or Windows, and you’ll owe Blackmagic nothing.
Earning 4.5 stars in our review, we hailed the video editor best for pros and those serious about editing as "incredibly powerful, it’s updated regularly, and to top it all, it’s free. It puts a lot of competing software to shame. The only downside is so much power leads to a complex interface. But if you’re serious about video editing, this shouldn’t overwhelm you."
You can also get the more powerful Resolve Studio for a fee - $295 for a perpetual licence, with all future upgrades free from then on. The software even includes its own VFX software, Fusion - one of the best Adobe After Effects alternatives for designers.
So what’s stopping everybody from using it? Well, it’s a very complex piece of software which could potentially intimidate newcomers to this profession. But if you’re serious about video editing, you should most definitely take this software out for a spin. You very likely won’t regret it.
Read our full DaVinci Resolve review
Lightworks is one of the best free video editing software - and it comes with a bit of a pedigree. Go to their website, and you’ll see how proud they are of the numerous professional feature films that have been cut with it.
But this is with the Pro version. The Free option offers you the same interface, but has a more limited selection of tools. It was something we highlighted in our review, noting that "Lightworks is a great free video editor with numerous tools to satisfy most casual video editors, although if you want more advanced features, you’ll need to pay for the privilege."
Still, don’t let that dissuade you: most of the pro features really are destined for professional users, and if you’re an amateur, enthusiast, or just starting out, you’ll have a great time learning the ropes with it.
Everything is pretty intuitive, and the new contextual help windows guide you through your first steps effectively.
The only major downside to the free version is an inability to export your finished product beyond 720p. We’d understand if 4K was deemed a pro feature, but 1080p? Really?
See how a video editor best for beginners and pros stacks up against its premium rival in Adobe Premiere Pro vs Lightworks.
Read our full Lightworks review
HitFilm's top free video editing software is powerful, professional, and multi-platform. There are subscription tiers which include higher-end tools, and also grant you access to an extensive media library,
But you can learn to ignore all the red ‘upgrade’ buttons peppered throughout the interface, and get on with creating your videos.
If you’re new to software for video editing, you’ll appreciate all the tutorials on offer straight from inside one of the best free video editor apps. Existing users will find most of the tools they’re used to, albeit across a revamped interface (and a new name - gone is HitFilm Express, simply replaced with HitFilm).
The only downside we feel with the latest version (2022.1) is that there doesn’t seem to be many new features, or at least many new features that don’t try to entice you to upgrade to one of the subscription tiers.
Still, that doesn’t take away from the powerful features already present, which you can still use to create simple or impressive videos, all for free. Now that’s a price you can’t beat. The only thing to bear in mind is that HitFilm needs a computer with a bit of oomph, and one of the more recent operating systems, be it Windows or Mac.
Read our full HitFilm review
Shotcut is one of the best free video editing software tools that's open-source and multiplatform.
Many of the best free video editor apps can leave a lot to be desired, adding veracity to the old adage that “you get what you pay for”. Shotcut however bucks that trend. Yes there are a few niggling glitches and design decisions, but that’s true for any software - paid or free.
While testing the software, our review praised it as "a strong contender in the video editing field, Shotcut might not wow you with a dazzling interface, but everything you need to edit a simple video is right there for the taking."
As it currently stands, Shotcut is a very robust and stable video editing package (it only crashed on us when trying the newest VoiceOver feature). And it's packed with numerous features, including markers, time remapping and a generous use of keyframing abilities.
The interface itself is pretty flexible, allowing you to move sections around and even turn them into floating windows - essentially it will try its best to help you work the way you like to. If you’re in the market for a top free video editor, certainly give this one a go.
Read our full Shotcut review
Apple iMovie for Mac used to be a great piece of free video editor app for consumers with little to no knowledge of video editing. But the feature list that made this true, has remained virtually static for years, and that’s become its biggest drawback: it’s been too long since iMovie's last major update.
Of course you can still edit your videos with it, using its sleek and simple interface, and its compatibility with iMovie for iOS and even Final Cut Pro makes it possible to start editing on your phone, and seamlessly continue to your Mac. That’s a big selling point, but is it enough?
The video editing software is free for all Mac users, and if you’re curious about the art, you can do so much worse. But you can also do better.
Read our full Apple iMovie review
Adobe Premiere Rush is a fun useful tool if you’re in the market for the best free video editing software for Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac.
On the free Premiere Rush starter plan, you can create and share as many videos as you like, but you're limited to the free features. Premium features are locked away behind a paid-for Creative Cloud subscription.
As you'd expect from Adobe, whose industry-standard Premiere Pro has grown to define the bar for modern video editors, using Premiere Rush is a sleek, simple experience. In our hands-on review, we noted the video app "sports a nice, clean interface with very simple editing features. A snappy clipper that's perfect for making short videos for social media."
And that's the main appeal of Adobe Premiere Rush - the clue is in the name. The video editing tool is designed to work across multiple platforms: start on an iPhone, continue on a PC, polish on Android, and fine tune on a Mac.
As everything is stored online, you can easily jump from one device to another (as long as they’re linked to the same Creative Cloud account, of course). This offers great flexibility and an efficient workflow.
If you upgrade to the full experience, you'll find a good range of tools, from colour correction, to titles, overlays, transitions, and even time remapping. Think of it like Adobe’s answer to Apple’s iMovie, and you won’t be far off.
We'd like to see more features rolled out for free users. But we can't complain. It’s easy to use, with a simple interface, and pricing options are clear. The tool is only marred by the occasional odd glitch we encountered, when a clip refused to be deselected for some reason, preventing us from selecting another to make changes to it. Although frustrating, restarting the app fixed that, and we only encountered it twice while trying the software out.
Read our full Adobe Premiere Rush review
Canva Video is deliciously simple free video editing software ideal for marketing teams, small businesses, and online influencers looking to cut clips in seconds. It’s not a fully fledged free video editor, like DaVinci Resolve or Lightworks - don’t expect Hollywood-level editing tools, features, and effects here. You can only export movies to MP4 and GIF for a start.
What Canva Video excels at is helping beginners (or those in a serious rush) create professional-looking short videos and social media assets that can be shared with ease. The interface is near-identical to the company’s popular online graphic design tool, which relies on dragging, dropping, and resizing pre-built, customizable elements onto the canvas. If you’ve so much as glanced at editing software in the last twenty years, you’ll be fairly familiar with the layout and operation (in some ways, it reminded us of a modern version of Windows Movie Maker).
The free video editor app won’t satisfy experienced editors or those in need of the industry-standard powers of Premiere Pro or Final Cut. It’s far too basic to deliver those results, even with a Pro or Enterprise subscription. But as a quick and dirty tool for creating visual media and animations for your social networks, it’s one of the best.
Read our full Canva Video review
The Adobe Express free online video editor is cut from the same (or, at least, near-identical) cloth as Canva Video. And while close enough in operation, it’s not quite as fluid as its rival.
Don’t be fooled by the Adobe moniker - this is no substitute for Premiere Pro, Premiere Elements, or even the mobile video editor Premiere Rush. Like Canva’s free video editor app, it’s best used for cutting together short, simple clips for social media or for creating slideshow presentations.
On that score, the free video editing software - which is only available on the web and can’t be accessed in the strictly design-focused Adobe Express mobile apps - wins ample plaudits.
During our time with the free video editor, we found it ideal for beginners and time-poor professionals who need visual content fast. With an incredibly simple interface, and Adobe’s refined user experience, the cloud-based program makes it supremely easy to edit your footage, add titles, music, and even voiceover narration.
However, in a bid to streamline and simplify, we occasionally found the process clunky - and actually uploading and processing videos makes a mockery of the name ‘Express’.
Still, the free version houses a nice selection of stock images, music samples, and graphics to help your movies pop off the screen. If you choose to take out an Adobe Creative Cloud Express subscription (and power-users may find that essential after a time), you’ll also unlock a wider library of Adobe Stock assets.
Read our full Adobe Express Video Editor review
OpenShot is an open-source, free video editor capable of working on Windows, Linux, and (via the Daily Build workaround) Macs.
In our hands-on review, we said it “mostly goes from strength to strength with each new release,” but that some elements can be confusing, with “puzzling ways of doing things.”
The interface is quite original, and is extremely flexible and customisable, to boot. You’ll have an increasing number of effects, many of which are useful in any workflow. Animation is extremely flexible and many parameters are keyframable. The latest version also lets you drop emojis over your videos, making it one of the best free video editor apps for Instagram and other strongly visual social media platforms - it adds a bit of character to videos, at least.
It’s not all smiley faces, though. One of the biggest problems is with the transitions, which still don’t work right. We found them to be pretty complex, too.
Elsewhere, the software for editing videos seems to have trouble letting Mac users actually edit those videos. At present, the official build has issues, requiring Apple users to use the latest Daily Build.
However, the software is capable of handling most video formats, and the new improvements to the timeline make editing quicker and more enjoyable than before.
You can’t beat it on price, but you can certainly beat it on features. It really depends what you’re looking for and the extent of the tools you need to build your video.
Read our full OpenShot review
Microsoft Video Editor is an editing tool that comes bundled with your PC, as part of the Photos app. You might think it’s weird that there's free video editing tool nestled inside an app focused on cataloging and colour correcting your images, but that’s what we have.
And really, Microsoft's alternative to Apple iMovie pretty basic. You can import video clips (although not those in a modern format like HEVC - you can only work with those if you pay for the privilege - turns out the best things in life aren’t for free), trim them, split them, add effects, a title, that kind of thing.
The interface feels very outdated at best, and cumbersome at worst. But still it is possible for you to produce something with it that’s half decent. There’s even the possibility to create vertical projects (9:16 instead of 16:9 for instance). But to be fair, there are free competing products that are better and offer more, like not charging for using modern formats.
Ultimately, it's fine for what it does. And it's one of the best free video editing software for low-end PCs. But there's a good reason we dubbed the tool "Windows Movie Maker without any of the charm (or nostalgia, for that matter)".
Read our full Microsoft Video Editor 2022 review
Movie Maker Online is a free online video editor that allows you to cut clips straight from your web browser. There’s no financial risk to try it - the only thing you might lose is your time.
You see, the service offers a simple, novel interface, a bunch of transitions and effects you can apply either to individual clips or an entire column (think of a column as a layer in a more traditional video editor). All this sounds fine, except for the fact we were unable to preview the clips we were adding, or altering. The render was stuck on 0% for as long as we dared to wait.
This applied through every stage of the process, even once the video was fully rendered; even then we had to wait for what seems like for ever to get to see the end result. The downloaded file worked great though.
So, if you like guesswork when editing a video, this might be a good service to try. Anyone who likes to see what they work on should wait until they’ve fixed this pretty glaring glitch.
Read our full Movie Maker Online review
Other free options to try:
Adobe Spark (opens in new tab)
If you need to trim a video and don't mind the watermark, Adobe Spark can get the job done quickly and easily online. The basic version is free to use, but you'll need a premium account to remove the watermark and perform more advanced video editing tasks.
EZGif (opens in new tab)
When you need to crop a video to a specific aspect ratio, this simple online tool could be just what you need. It's not suitable for very large files, but you can set the dimensions, select from a list of presets, and position the crop area yourself.
How to choose the best free video editing software for you
There are several key factors to consider. What kind of video do you intend to make, and where is it for? There’s a world of difference between quick editing of home videos you’ll watch on TV and editing something for Netflix or cinema distribution.
You’ll need to consider what formats the software needs to export in, what level of quality it needs to output (HD? 4K? 8K?) and whether it can deliver the kind of visual effects you want to use. If you’ll be collaborating, your app will need to be compatible with the other people’s apps too.
There’s also you to consider. Are you experienced, or would a simpler app that takes you step by step through the whole process be more helpful? Do you want to have complete control over every pixel, or would you rather let the computer do most of the work? How future-proof do you need your app to be?
Remember that most, if not all, free video editing apps are limited while not all high-end editors are frighteningly expensive. Think about whether a free-to-use option is best for you or if you're willing to pay a little more for a bit more functionality.
Remember too that the more you can do, the more you’ll want it to do. Can your chosen app grow with your imagination?
How we test free video editing software
Free video editing software may not be as involved as paid ones, but many of the best ones are still full of features that are worth taking a deep dive. So, when testing free video editing software, we go beyond its most basic and most used features.
Naturally, we still start with its user interface, checking to see just how easy (or how difficult) it is to use and navigate for beginners as well as expert users. After all, even pros need a seamless, unencumbered workflow so they can focus more on the creative process.
We take stock of its available tools, testing the important ones to see how they fare against those on paid-for video editors like Premiere Pro, as well as check out the filters and effects on hand. We also make a note of just how many of them are free and how many are stuck behind a paywall. A number of free apps typically come bundled with bloatware, so we make sure to mention in our review if that specific app comes with it.
Finally, we test its exporting prowess, from how efficient it exports a video to how many video formats it has available.
Free video editors FAQs
Is free video editing software good enough?
It can be. Movies made in Apple’s iMovie have wowed crowds at film festivals over the years, and some people have made perfectly good movies using just it and an iPhone.
There are many decent free video apps out there, but there are a few things to consider. Performance, especially encoding and exporting, isn’t always up there with the big hitters, and you’ll often find that features are only available if you buy in-app purchases or just aren’t there at all. Some stick an enormous watermark over everything you output; few offer any kind of technical support. Pro-level features are rarely offered because these apps aren’t designed for video pros.
It’s worth being a bit pedantic here and differentiating between free commercial software and free open source software. The former is often a cut-down version of a full product offered for free in the hope you’ll buy its big brother. The latter is usually a full product made available by individuals or teams of volunteers with no expectation of any financial reward. While open source acts can sometimes lack the polish and/or user-friendliness of commercial software they may well deliver all the features you need without requiring you to spend any money.
Why should I care about free software?
Video is the new rock’n’roll: where children used to dream of being rock stars, now they dream of being YouTube vloggers. Meanwhile video has become the lingua franca of the internet, from viral clips and video responses to indie films and glossy corporate presentations.
The one thing they almost all have in common is editing. That could be simple trimming to cut a clip at the appropriate place, or it could involve mixing multiple clips together, changing the soundtrack and adding a whole bunch of special effects. To do these things you’ll need a video editing app.
Should I pay for a premium video editor?
To state the blindingly obvious, premium video editors tend to have advantages that free ones don’t. Those advantages tend to come in the form of resources: resources to develop apps that squeeze the most performance out of high-end hardware, resources to develop better effects, resources to fix show-stopping bugs, resources to make sure the app works on the latest hardware, resources to polish the interface and create help files and how-tos and all the other things you’d expect from professional software. But of course, that comes at a price.
If you’re a pro, time is money so you spend money to save time, whether that’s the time it takes to render your footage or the time you can’t afford to spend shouting "WHY GOD, WHY?" when the app doesn’t do exactly what you want or crashes mid-edit.
Free apps are aimed at a more forgiving and less demanding kind of user. That’s not to say they can’t do great things. They can. But they often take a hand-holding approach that focuses on the basics and doesn’t give you access to the fine detail. They might take a good-enough approach to performance rather than a “Steven Spielberg needs this NOW!” no-compromise approach, and their effects may be simpler than the pro ones.
What video editing software features should I look out for?
That depends on the kind of editing you’d like to do. For example, you might not need much in the way of visual effects if you’re just splicing together clips from Uncle George’s 90th birthday party. But there are some key things to consider.
First up, what formats and resolutions does the app support? Can it use the footage from your camera without converting? Can it export to the places you want to share your finished footage?
Do you need features such as green screen or picture in picture (if you’re a YouTuber, the answers to those to are probably yes)? Can you share directly with social media, if that’s your thing?
How many tracks can you use? Can you pull in footage and audio from multiple files, swapping between them as needed, or will you need to do some pre-production first because the app can only handle a couple of tracks at once?
Does the app have any smart features to make everyday editing easier, such as smart trimming of clips or simple editing modes? Is it easy to add titles, transitions between scenes or to adjust the colours?
If it’s a mobile app, can you transfer your project to continue editing in a desktop equivalent of the app?
Which programs do professionals use?
That depends on your definition of 'professionals' and the industry or sector you’re thinking of. Go to Hollywood or a major TV studio and the editing’s almost certainly being done in Avid Media Composer Ultimate.
In ad agencies, indie film studios and businesses making YouTube films you’re more likely to see Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Apple Final Cut Pro X and associated apps such as Adobe’s After Effects, a motion graphics and visual effects app - see above for how well we rate those. These are very, very good tools designed to run on very, very good computers.
Which programs do most YouTubers use?
Generally speaking YouTubers tend to go for simple, effective and affordable apps. One of the best free apps is Lightworks, which you can get for Windows, Mac and Linux devices. It has integrated YouTube exporting and a bunch of really impressive real-time effects. It looks absolutely terrifying compared to something like Microsoft Photos but it doesn’t take long to learn and it’s a really good editing app.
There are lots of other good options too. HitFilm Pro has a free version but also offers a powerful professional version. The free app DaVinci Resolve is very good, especially on colour correction, and while the VSDC Free Video Editor lacks the hardware acceleration of paid-for editing apps that’s not really an issue if you’re not in a busy working environment.