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The best free video editing software in 2021: make great movies at no cost!

Best free video editing software: Da Vinci Resolve
(Image credit: Blackmagic Design)

The best free video editing software enables you to make the most of the high-quality video you shoot with your DSLR, phone or tablet. So in this post, we've rounded up the very best tools around for you to choose from.

Whether you're a professional video editor, an enthusiastic YouTuber or just someone wanting to make your holiday video look slick and professional, we've gathered together some great apps, and all of them are free to download. Not as in a free trial, which only lasts for a short time, or only free for students, but free for everyone, forever.

We begin our list with the best free video editing software for desktop, but if you're just interested in tools for your phone or tablet, then jump ahead to the best video editing software for mobile

Be warned: some of these tools are limited free versions of full software, so they may not contain the complete feature set, and there may be restrictions on the format and size of the videos you can export. Where that's the case, though, we'll make the differences between the free and paid versions clear, so you know exactly where you stand. 

Other apps on this list, meanwhile, are totally free, with no limitations or in-app purchases to worry about at all.

The best free video editing software in 2021

Desktop video editors

(Image credit: Blackmagic Design)

1. DaVinci Resolve

The best free video editing software overall

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux | Difficulty level: Intermediate to pro | Export resolution with free version: 4K

Sophisticated features
Export at 4K for free
Familiar interface for pros
Learning curve

You may come across outdated posts and tutorials on the web that refer to DaVinci Resolve as a color grading tool, because that’s how it began life back in 2003. But it’s since evolved into a full-featured video editing suite, combining sophisticated color correction tools such as HDR Grading, Color Warper and Magic Mask, along with tools for video editing, VFX, motion graphics and audio post-production. 

With a familiar interface consisting of a timeline, monitor window, and a media pool, anyone coming from Premiere Pro should feel right at home. You can import, edit and grade video up to 8K with the free version of Da Vinci, and you can export up to 4K (3840px by 2160px). 

Admittedly, you’ll need the paid version to export at higher resolutions, as well as unlocking efficiency features including GPU/hardware accelerated encoding, H.264 and H.265 accelerated decoding and the AI neural engine, along with noise reduction, face detection, motion blur and object removal. But unless you’re actually working day-to-day on a TV show or movie, you’re unlikely to need most of these. For this reason, Da Vinci Resolve is our pick as the best free video editing software overall.

A word of warning, though. The very sophistication of this software makes for a tough learning curve if you’ve never used video editing software before (although there are some great tutorials to get you started). So if you’re a beginner, or just want to make a few quick edits to your footage without fuss, you're better off looking at tools 4-6 on our list.

(Image credit: Lightworks)

2. Lightworks

The best free video editing software for would-be professionals

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux | Difficulty level: Intermediate to pro | Export resolution with free version: 720p

Industry favourite
Sophisticated features
Switch between free & pro
720p max export with free version

Not yet working in the movie business, but keen to do so eventually? Then we recommend Lightworks, another high-end tool used by Hollywood pros, on movies including The Wolf of Wall Street, LA Confidential, Pulp Fiction and Heat. 

As with Da Vinci Resolve, nearly all of Lightworks’ pro features are available in its free version, including precision trimming, multicam editing, and the ability to edit while importing new content. You also get advanced effects, such as primary and secondary colour correction, blurs, mattes and masks, and over 100 inbuilt effect presets. The latest version (2021.1), released in January, added some cool new features besides these, including social media templates, and the ability to set a default frame rate on importing footage.

The free version of Lightworks requires that you re-register your licence every seven days, but this only takes a few minutes. The main limitation is that you can only export at up to 720p. 

You’ll need the paid-for version for a fuller range of export options, along with some extra features like stereoscopic output and timeline rendering. But if you’re not actually producing a Hollywood movie (yet), these are limitations worth living with. Plus, if you do want to export a project into a different format, you can buy a one-month licence and then revert to the free version later.

(Image credit: Hitfilm)

3. Hitfilm Express

The best free video editing software for special effects

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux | Difficulty level: Intermediate | Export resolution with free version: 4K

VFX presets
Customisable interface
Export in 4K for free
Learning curve

Hitfilm Express is the third option on our list to offer pro-level video editing features for free. And this one stands out for its huge library of more than 400 special effects.

Hitfilm Express also comes with some excellent transition effects, supports 360-degree editing, and is also nicely customisable, allow you to tweak the interface to suit your personal workflow. And it’s getting more sophisticated all the time. Recent updates include a Crop/Pan and Zoom tool which allows you to pan across a photo or video clip over time, and a Track Select Tool, which lets you highlight all the audio or video to the right or left of your selection.

The free version allows you to export up to 4K at 100fps. If you want to export at higher resolution, or want even more prepackaged special effects, you may be tempted to upgrade to the paid version. But otherwise the free version of Hitfilm Express is surprisingly powerful, and compares well with paid-for tools such as Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. 

(Image credit: Shortcut)

4. Shotcut

The best free video editing software for YouTubers

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux | Difficulty level: Intermediate | Export resolution with free version: 4K

Customisable interface
Export at 4K for free
No limits on free version
Not suitable for pro editors

Getting cut-through on YouTube these days is increasingly tough these days, so it’s worth sharpening your editing skills with an intermediate-level video editing tool. And for those purposes, we’d recommend Shotcut. 

While it’s a steep learning curve for total newbies, anyone with a bit of experience in video editing will get a lot out of Shotcut. You’ll find everything you need here to give your YouTube videos that slick and polished look, including intuitive, timeline-based editing, colour grading, audio and video effects, keyframing, green screen edits with Chromakey, and export at 4K. 

Brilliantly, the interface starts out super-basic, and then you can customise it by adding the features you need, rather than cluttering it up with things you don’t. Best of all, Shotcut is open source, which means there’s no need to choose between a free and paid-for version; it's all totally free.

(Image credit: Luxea)

5. Luxea Video Editor

The best free video editing software for beginners on Windows

Platform: Windows | Difficulty level: Beginner | Export resolution with free version: 4K

Easy to use
Export 4K for free
Watermarks on free version
Windows only

You won’t find Luxea Video Editor on many lists of the best free video editing software, because the Windows-only tool has only been around since August last year. It’s more basic as the other software we've listed so far... but on the plus side, that makes it a great choice for beginners. And that's no accident: indeed, its express purpose is simplify the video editing process for people. 

The paid version of Luxea Video Editor is relatively cheap, but there’s also a version that’s free forever, which includes all the features, free updates, and free tech support. The catch is that the makers add a short intro and outro to all your videos, along with a watermark throughout. But if you just want to get on board with video editing, or edit video for friends and family, that may well be a compromise you’re happy to make. 

Luxea supports resolutions up to 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) and frame rates up to 60 frames per second, includes presets for outputting at social media sizes, and there’s an in-built audio recorder for record voiceovers for your footage. The latest update, in May 2021, adds timeline markers, making it easy to align your tracks, as well as new colour grading tools, real-time MP4 generation and targeted screen recording.

(Image credit: Apple)

6. iMovie for Mac

The best free video editing software for beginners on Mac

Platform: Mac | Difficulty level: Beginner | Export resolution with free version: 4K

You already have it
No limits on free version
Apple's trademark slickness
Fairly limited tool
No Windows version

If you own a Mac or MacBook, you’ll already have Apple’s free video editing software, iMovie. So it’s well worth checking out. It’s a particularly good choice for beginners, as it adds a layer of typical Apple finesse to your videos, without the need for expertise. 

With iMovie, you get plenty of high-quality typefaces to use for your titles, credits and captions, some very decent filters and transitions, plus some soundtracks too. Colour grading, green-screen and audio tools are included, as is 4K export. 

iMovie also integrates nicely with Apple's own Photos app, which is particularly useful if you want to create slideshow-style videos. Don’t get us wrong: this isn't pro video editing software by any means. But there’s a lot you can do with it, and as it’s already installed on your machine, it’s well worth giving it a try.

Mobile video editors

(Image credit: Adobe)

7. Premiere Rush

The best free video editing software on mobile overall.

Platform: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows | Difficulty level: Beginner to intermediate | Export resolution with free version: 4K

Strong editing features
Automates social media upload
Export at 4K for free
Only 2GB cloud storage for free

Want to edit video on your phone or tablet? Then good news. Free video editing apps are surprisingly powerful these days, and our favourite is Premiere Rush. Essentially a simplified version of Adobe’s Premiere Pro, Premiere Rush is marketed as a paid-for, subscription-based app. But there are a very impressive free versions for both iOS and Android devices.

With Premiere Rush, you get all the basic video editing features of Premiere Pro, such as adding videos to the timeline through drag-and-drop, applying transitions, and adding background music and voiceovers. You can also add credits and titles to your footage through templates, and apply either preset and manual colour correction. You can export up to 4K, even in the free version, and there’s a tool to let you export to Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo in the correct aspect ratio.

The app is being constantly updated, and one of the big additions in the March 2021 update was a useful range of colour presets. The main limitation of the free version of Premiere Rush is that you only get 2GB of cloud storage. Upgrade to the paid version, and that rises to 100GB, and you can also sync projects across mobile and desktop devices.

(Image credit: Kinemaster)

8. Kinemaster

The best free video editing software on mobile for features

Platform: iOS, Android, Chromebooks | Difficulty level: Beginner to intermediate | Export resolution with free version: 4K

Advanced features
Sophisticated effects
Only 720p export for free
Watermarks on free version

KInemaster works on phones and tablets, iOS and Android, as well as Chromebooks. You can either capture video natively on your device or import project files from elsewhere, then you can do pretty much everything you’d expect to do with a desktop app. That includes cutting, splicing and cropping your videos; combining and editing clips; and adding special effects, text, music, voiceovers and sound effects. 

KInemaster also offers visual effects include reversing, speeding up, slow-mo, and applying blending modes. Plus there are good colour adjustment features, controls for immersive audio, and a keyframe animation tool to add motion to layers. 

The app itself is free to download, and allows you to export your video at 720p. The catch is that your videos will come with watermarks. You can remove these, export at up to 4K, and have an ad-free experience by taking out a subscription. 

(Image credit: Wondershare)

9. Wondershare FilmoraGo

The best free video editing software on mobile for easy use

Platform: iOS, Android | Ease of use: Beginner | 4K support: No

Intuitive interface
Strong feature set
720p max export with free version
Watermarks with free version

Whether you’re an iOS or Android user, FilmoraGo is another very capable, free video-editing tool that’s worth considering. Its interface is simple and intuitive, but contains a host of features, allowing you to import your video clips, trim them, add transitions between them, overlay titles and apply themes. 

With some excellent filters and effects, it’s easy to make your footage look professional without having much experience of video editing. On the downside, if you’re on a screen with a super-wide display, it doesn’t take advantage of that width, instead applying heavy letterboxing.

Once you’re done, you can export your project to Facebook, Vimeo, or YouTube directly, or save it to your device. However, be aware that using the free version your video will be watermarked, and you’ll be limited to exporting at 720p resolution. For those who do wish to upgrade, there’s a handy option to mix and match the features you want; so for example you can pay to just remove the watermark, or just unlock 1080p export.

(Image credit: InShot)

10. InShot

The best free video editing software on mobile for social media

Platform: iOS, Android | Difficulty level: Beginner | Export resolution with free version: 1080p

Easy to use
Simple export to social media
Watermarks with free version
Lacks advanced features

InShot is firmly honed towards creating social media videos and sharing them easily. And so if that’s your main interest, this is the video editing app we’d recommend.

Don’t bother with this app if you need to do anything particularly sophisticated or advanced. But if you just want to make a short and simple video on your phone, and get it live quickly, it’s a great option. The interface, which is portrait-only, is very easy to use, allowing you to trim, split, duplicate and delete clips, as well as reverse and rotate them, changing the volume, create freeze frames, and more. 

You can also apply filters and effects, tweak factors like contrast, tint, saturation, sharpness and shadows, and add animated stickers, transitions and sound effects. Be warned, though: some (but not all) of these require in-app purchases.

The app makes it easy to share your clips to social apps too, including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, at pre-built canvas sizes. The main downside is that your videos will be watermarked with the free version, and you’ll need to take out a subscription to remove them. 

(Image credit: Apple)

11. iMovie for iPhone & iPad

Apple’s own free video editing software for iOS

Platform: iPhone, iPad | Difficulty level: Beginner | Export resolution with free version: 4K

Trailer templates
Export at 4K
Add music & sound effects
Fairly limited app

As well as being among the best video editing software for Macs, iMovie is also pre-installed on all iPhones and iPads. And rather than the throwaway app you might assume, it’s quite a decent option for video editing. Especially as it has none of the limitations presented by the freemium apps on our list.

Aimed at ordinary people rather than professionals, iMovie is suitable easy to use, but still packs in plenty of features. You can preview, trim and split clips on the timeline using drag and drop, add music and sound effects, and iMovie automatically adds transitions between videos and still images. There are eight pre-installed themes, special templates for crafting your own trailers, and you can export at 4K and 60fps. 

Using iMovie is a little clunky and restricted at times: for example, you can only import video via the Photos app, and background songs must last for the entire length of your video. But for a totally free app, it’s still pretty impressive.

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.