Significant advances in our knowledge of fatty acid breakdown in plants have been made since the subject was last comprehensively reviewed in the early 1990s. Many of the genes encoding the enzymes of peroxisomal beta-oxidation of straight chain fatty acids have now been identified. Biochemical genetic approaches in the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, have been particularly useful not only in the identification and functional characterisation of genes involved in fatty acid beta-oxidation but also in establishing the role of beta-oxidation at different stages in plant development. Advances in our understanding of branched chain amino acid catabolism have provided convincing evidence that mitochondria play an important role in this process. This work is discussed in the context of the long running debate on the sub-cellular localisation of fatty acid beta-oxidation in plants. A significant aspect of this review is that it provides the opportunity to present a comprehensive analysis of the complete Arabidopsis genome sequence for each of the different gene families that are known to be involved in beta-, alpha-, and omega-oxidation of fatty acids in plants. Inevitably, this increase in information, as well as providing many answers also raises many new intriguing questions, particularly as regards the regulation and physiological role of fatty acid catabolism throughout the higher plant life cycle.