Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a leading cause of chronic liver disease. The majority of infected individuals develop a persistent infection, which is associated with a high risk of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Since its discovery 20 years ago, progress in our understanding of this virus has been suboptimal due to the lack of good model systems. However, in the past decade this has greatly accelerated with the development of various in vitro cell culture systems and in vivo small-animal models. These systems have made a major impact on the field of HCV research, and have provided important breakthroughs in our understanding of HCV infection and replication. Importantly, the in vitro cell culture systems and the small-animal models have allowed preclinical testing of numerous novel antiviral compounds for the treatment of chronic HCV infection. In this article, we give an overview of current models, discuss their limitations, and provide future perspectives for research directed at the prevention and cure of hepatitis C.