The Aurora family kinases are pivotal to the successful execution of cell division. Together they ensure the formation of a bipolar mitotic spindle, accurate segregation of chromosomes and the completion of cytokinesis. They are also attractive drug targets, being frequently deregulated in cancer and able to transform cells in vitro. In this review, we summarize current knowledge about the three family members, Aur-A, Aur-B and Aur-C. We then focus on Aur-A, its roles in mitotic progression, and its emerging roles in checkpoint control pathways. Aur-A activity can be controlled at several levels, including phosphorylation, ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis and interaction with both positive regulators, such as TPX2, and negative ones, like the tumor suppressor protein p53. In addition, work in Xenopus oocytes and early embryos has revealed a second role for Aur-A, directing the polyadenylation-dependent translation of specific mRNAs important for cell cycle progression. This function extends to post-mitotic neurons, and perhaps even to cycling somatic cells.