Caspases are intracellular proteases that propagate programmed cell death, proliferation, and inflammation. Activation of caspases occurs by a conserved mechanism subject to strict cellular regulation. Once activated by a specific stimulus, caspases execute limited proteolysis of downstream substrates to trigger a cascade of events that culminates in the desired biological response. Much has been learned of the mechanisms that govern the activation and regulation of caspases, and this minireview provides an update of these areas. We also delineate substantial gaps in knowledge of caspase function, which can be approached by techniques and experimental paradigms that are currently undergoing development.