You don't have to spend thousands of dollars on the best video editing software. That's right: You don't need the deep pockets of Disney to take all those videos languishing on your smartphone, DSLR or compact camera, and turn them into the next Star Wars. In fact, you can spend less than $100 and still make a professional-looking movie, complete with lightsabers, starships, and more. Or maybe you just want to make a supercut of your cat doing funny things.
The best video editing software has gone from high-end and hard to use to accessible and affordable. Features, such as animated titles, special effects, and more are now no more than a few mouse clicks away for anyone editing video on their laptop or desktop.
However, even though the best video editing software is only around $100, there's still a lot of factors to consider, such as if you're using a Mac or PC, as well as your overall comfort and experience level.
What is the best video editing software?
Among the programs we've reviewed Adobe Premiere Elements 2020 came out as the best video editing software. Despite its lack of emerging popular technologies, like 360-degree video handling and multicam editing features, it's the easiest video editor to learn and use, and offers plenty of advanced functions, such as guided edits and a revised home screen. And, it's one of the few programs that works on both Macs and PCs.
Plus, Premiere Elements also works with Adobe's other products, and the company often offers both Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements as a bundle.
For Windows users, CyberLink PowerDirector 18 is the best video editing software. It features a dazzling array of tricks and treats, and has an interface that's easy to grasp for novices. Plus, PowerDirector also supports editing 360-degree videos, too.
If you're looking for something even less expensive, check out HitFilm Express 14. It's our top pick among the best free video editing software because of its robust interface and comprehensive tools. Plus, it works with Macs and PCs. If you want to pay a measly $9, you the starter package, which includes a Dark theme, picture-in-picture, vertical video support, and some basic color editing tools. HitFilm Express also offers a host of other add-ons that increase its functionality.
The best video editing software you can buy today
1. Adobe Premiere Elements 2020
The best video editing software overall
Compatible with: Mac, PC | Minimum system requirements: Windows 8.1 (64-bit), 2GHz processor, 6.8GB hard disk space; MacOS 10.13, 4GB RAM, 7.4GB hard disk space
When it comes to user-friendliness, sophisticated features and ways to output your video, the best video editing software under $100 is the cross-platform Adobe Premiere Elements. For 2020, Adobe imported its artificial intelligence Sense.ai to make it easier to perform edits. Its Guided Edits feature remains a great tool for demystifying the entire process for novice filmmakers, and there's now additional support for 4K resolutions and stabilized video.
However, Adobe only made some minor improvements over the previous year, so if you have a recent version, you may not see the need to upgrade. And, it still lacks features such as 360-degree video editing, or support for multicam editing. But Adobe's program is the most well-rounded of all the video editing software we've tested.
Read our full Adobe Premiere Elements 2020 review.
2. CyberLink PowerDirector 18
Best video editing software for Windows users
Compatible with: Windows | Minimum system requirements: Windows 7 (64 bit); Processor: Intel Core i-series or AMD Phenom II; Memory: 4 GB RAM; Graphics: 128 MB VGA VRAM; Storage: 7 GB
CyberLink PowerDirector is the best video editing software for Windows users, in that it offers a dazzling array of fun, advanced video editing features wrapped in a stunning, easy-to-use package. New features include a refreshed interface and the ability to edit and export video in a social-app-friendly 1:1 ratio. While PowerDirector is a consumer product, it appeals to the most creative and adventurous of amateur filmmakers.
CyberLink offers two versions: PowerDirector Ultra ($99) and PowerDirector Ultimate ($129). Several features (including 4K video editing, audio scrubbing, library preview) available for Ultimate version only. Additionally, Cyberlink has a subscription version, PowerDirector 365, currently available for $52 per year, and includes PowerDirector Ultimate, as well as unlimited access to plugins, backgrounds, and soundclips, as well as 50GB of online storage.
Read our full review of CyberLink PowerDirector 18.
3. HitFilm Express 14
Best free video editing software
Compatible with: Mac, Windows | Minimum system requirements: Windows 8 (64-bit), Mac OS 10.13 Sierra
Hitfilm Express is one of the best values among the best video editing software, not just because it's free to start, but also because you can add on more features at reasonable prices. The program is compatible with both Macs and PCs, and also supports discrete Nvidia and AMD GPUs for threaded rendering and decoding.
HitFilm Express 14 has a new Light theme, which is the default interface; if you pay $9, you get a Dark theme, as well as color-editing tools, picture-in-picture support, and more. And if you want to add even more functionality, HitFilm offers a variety of add-on packs for visual effects such as neon lights, 360 video, and more.
Read our full Hitfilm Express 14 review.
4. Apple iMovie
Best video editing software for novice Mac users
Compatible with: Mac | Minimum system requirements: macOS 10.14.6; 2GB of RAM (4GB recommended); OpenCL-capable graphics card; 1280 x 800-pixel display
Apple iMovie is the best video editing software for novice filmmakers on Macs, combining professional trailers and themes, abundant special effects and an easy-to-learn interface. In addition, it's free, so this is a great place to start, or if you need to do simple video edits. Version 10.1 of iMovie added 4K editing and sharing, as well as extended handling to video shot at 1080p and 60 fps. Recent updates tweaked the interface and added Touch Bar support for the latest MacBooks.
iMovie is now on version 10.1.12. Recent updates have disabled sharing videos to iMovie Theater and Facebook; you have to save your movies to iCloud Photos to watch them on other devices including Apple TV.
Read our full Apple iMovie review.
5. Corel VideoStudio Ultimate
Great video editing software for novices on Windows
Compatible with: Windows | Minimum system requirements: Windows 7 (64 bit); Processor: Core i3 or AMD A4 series; Memory: 4 GB (8+ GB highly recommended); Display resolution: 1024 x 768
Corel has long been a competitor to Adobe for video editing software, and continues that rivalry with VideoStudio Ultimate, an outstanding editing package for beginners on the Windows platform.
VideoStudio is a powerful but easy-to-learn app for anyone who wants to make simple videos quickly without fussing around with complex controls. Its spare but inviting interface offers a huge array of tools, including 4K support, 360-degree video editing, multicam support, more than 2,000 effects, enhanced lens-correction tools, and 3D text editing.
Editor's Note: Corel VideoStudio 2020 has been released; stay tuned for our review.
Read our full Corel VideoStudio review.
Best video editing software for YouTubers
Compatible with: Windows | Minimum system requirements: Windows 10, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1; Processor: 1.5 GHz; Memory: 4 GB; Storage: 100 MB
VideoPad is one of the few video editing software programs that works on both Macs and PCs, which broadens its appeal and reach. You can download a non-commercial version of VideoPad for free, but a Home Edition ($39) and Master's Edition ($69) offer more features. For example, the Master's Edition gives you unlimited audio tracks and plugins, while the Home Edition only lets you use two audio tracks and no plugins.
While VideoPad lacks the flashy, whiz-bang appeal of some commercial apps, it’s still a rock-solid choice for simple video editing. The app offers a number of YouTube choices ranging from 480p to 4K, as well as Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox and Google Drive.
Read our full VideoPad review.
7. DaVinci Resolve 15
Best video editing software for advanced enthusiasts
Compatible with: Windows, Mac, Linux | Minimum system requirements: PCs: Windows 10; Memory: 16GB; GPU: OpenCL 1.2 or CUDA 10 support, 2GB VRAM. Macs: macOS 10.14.6; Memory: 16GB; GPU: OpenCL 1.2 or Metal support, 2GB VRAM. Linux: CentOS 7.3; Memory: 32GB; Discrete GPU with at least 2GB of VRAM and support for OpenCL 1.2 or CUDA 10
A powerful pro-level, cross platform app, you’ll want to use DaVinci Resolve on a system with discrete graphics to get the most out of this video editor. The latest version of DaVinci incorporates Fusion, previously a stand-alone application, which brings with it four high-end video-production modules for editing, color correction, audio production, and video effects and motion graphics.
DaVinci is quite powerful, but has a bit of a learning curve. If its 256-page manual doesn't intimidate you, high-level enthusiasts will find a lot of tools at their disposal.
Note: DaVinci Resolve is now on version 16, and includes such new features as a Neural Engine that uses machine learning for such things as facial recognition and speed warp. It also has a new Cut Page, a streamlined interface for editors who need to turn projects around quickly.
Read our full DaVinci Resolve review.
How to choose the best video editing software for you
Free or Fee?
There’s no reason for the occasional video jockey to fork over any cash, as there are plenty of free apps available for both Windows and Mac. But while the deciding factors for free and paid software may appear to be based on cold hard cash, that’s not the whole story.
People who are looking for a more powerful editor with a variety of built-in resources, responsive technical support and more would be better off dropping some cash on a video editing program.
However, there’s a third option: You can download software such as VideoPad or HitFilm (which offer all of the basics) for free, and then purchase additional features à la carte as your experience and needs grow.
How we test video editing software
We tested more than a dozen programs — paid and free — on consumer Mac and Windows laptops for more than 100 hours, to see which are the best for editing, as well as sharing your videos with friends and family.
We evaluated all of the software based on functionality, ease of use, performance, sharing options and new features in the latest versions. We also judged the packages based on real-life uses for a number of categories, including best overall, best free app, best for beginners, best for YouTube maestros, best for Mac users and best for Windows platforms.
Performance results are important, but they’re not critical components of software evaluations, because depending on your hardware setup, your mileage will vary. By comparison, ease of use, interface and features carry more weight than export clock speed. Nonetheless, as a single measure among many, speed testing provides valuable comparative information.
As several of the programs on this page have been updated with newer versions since their initial review, we are currently in the process of re-testing them. At the same time, we are upgrading our testing platforms, from laptops with integrated graphics to those with discrete GPUs. This will better reflect the improvement in performance from apps that can take advantage of discrete graphics cards. Stay tuned for the results.