Apicomplexan parasites have evolved an efficient mechanism to gain entry into non-phagocytic cells, hence challenging their hosts by the establishment of infection in immuno-privileged tissues. Gliding motility is a prerequisite for the invasive stage of most apicomplexans, allowing them to migrate across tissues, and actively invade and egress host cells. In the late 1960s, detailed morphological studies revealed that motile apicomplexans share an elaborate architecture comprising a subpellicular cytoskeleton and apical organelles. Since 1993, the development of technologies for transient and stable transfection have provided powerful tools with which to identify gene products associated with these structures and organelles, as well as to understand their functions. In combination with access to several parasite genomes, it is now possible to compare and contrast the strategies and molecular machines that have been selectively designed by distinct life stages within a species, or by different apicomplexan species, to optimize infection.