Apoptosis is a genetically controlled form of cell death that is an important feature of animal development and homeostasis. The genes involved in the control and execution of apoptosis are conserved throughout evolution. However, the actual molecular mechanisms used by these genes vary from species to species. In this review, we focus on the genetic components of apoptosis in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, and compare their mode of action to the one employed by the homologous genes in mammals. We also cover recent advances that show that apoptotic genes have a requirement in processes other than apoptosis.