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If I had the time and motivation, I would re-badge Ubuntu Linux as 'Newbie Linux', like the CentOS and Scientific Linux folks did with Redhat Enterprise Linux. It would be misleading, because all of the major distros are fine as long as they have adequate hardware to run them, but it would probably head-off a lot of questions like this one.
None of them meaning no one is best. And all of them meaning, at least, more than one. Nothing wrong with starting with Ubuntu or Mint or various others, but do try another distro sometime.
It really depends on what your experience is (presumably not with Linux - how comfortable are you with windows or mac?), what you want to get out of it (play multimedia, browse the web, do some programming, ...) etc.
And even what people around you are using. Sometimes you want friends you can ask for help, not just characters on a screen.
They're all free in cash terms, except for the cost of CDs and if you live in a remote area - like Africa - cost of bandwidth to download things.
My biased opinion is Debian, but as is mentioned in other similar threads, the best thing to do is download and burn discs with several operating systems and try them all, then stay with the one you like best. Try the major distributions: Debian, Fedora, Mint, Ubuntu, Mandriva, etc. It is only an investment of a little time that will pay large dividends after you find the one, or more, systems you like.
If you ask five Linux users that question, you will get 10 answers.
I suggest you download some Live CDs--you can boot to them without installing them to the hard drive--play around with them, then pick one that feels most comfortable for you. Install it and stick with it for a while before you consider trying another one. You can find links on the LQ Download Linux page.
Ubuntu and Mint are often recommended for persons new to Linux. I started with Slackware and it's still my first Linux love (in fact, I finally got fed up the factory-installed Ubuntu on this here Dell and replaced with Slack today). Debian is my second choice.