The p53 tumor suppressor acts to integrate multiple stress signals into a series of diverse antiproliferative responses. One of the most important p53 functions is its ability to activate apoptosis, and disruption of this process can promote tumor progression and chemoresistance. p53 apparently promotes apoptosis through transcription-dependent and -independent mechanisms that act in concert to ensure that the cell death program proceeds efficiently. Moreover, the apoptotic activity of p53 is tightly controlled, and is influenced by a series of quantitative and qualitative events that influence the outcome of p53 activation. Interestingly, other p53 family members can also promote apoptosis, either in parallel or in concert with p53. Although incomplete, our current understanding of p53 illustrates how apoptosis can be integrated into a larger tumor suppressor network controlled by different signals, environmental factors, and cell type. Understanding this network in more detail will provide insights into cancer and other diseases, and will identify strategies to improve their therapeutic treatment.