As a first step in reconstructing the phylogeny of world stag beetles (Coleoptera: Lucanidae), phylogenetic relationships among the major members of Japanese stag beetles were explored by analyzing a sequence of 1030 nucleotides from the mitochondrial 16S ribosomal RNA (16S rRNA) gene. A total of 20 species and three additional subspecies representing 13 genera were examined to provide basic information on the phylogeny of world Lucanidae. The resultant phylogenetic tree indicates that the family Lucanidae is monophyletic, and contains two major lineages: one consists of the genera Platycerus, Aesalus, Ceruchus, and Nicagus, and the other includes Dorcus, Rhaetulus, Prosopocoilus, Aegus, Neolucanus, Prismognathus, Lucanus, Figulus, and Nigidius. Generic members of the latter lineage are further divided into the following four sublineages: i) Figulus and Nigidius; ii) Prismognathus and Lucanus; iii) Aegus and Neolucanus; and iv) Dorcus, Rhaetulus, and Prosopocoilus. These molecular phylogenetic relationships are used as a basis for a preliminary exploration of the evolution of sexual dimorphism in the shape of the mandible. The results of this investigation suggest that strong sexual dimorphism with well-developed mandibles in males evolved independently at least twice, once in the genus Aegus and once in the ancestor of the Lucanus-Prismognathus and Dorcus-Rhaetulus-Prosopocoilus clades. Alternatively, it is possible that sexual dimorphism of mandibles has undergone secondary loss in the genera Figulus and Nigidius.