We identified a series of 128 patients who had unilateral open reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) by a single surgeon between 1993 and 2000. In all, 79 patients were reviewed clinically and radiologically eight to 15 years after surgery. Assessment included measurement of the Lysholm and Tegner scores, the ACL quality-of-life score and the Short Form-12 score, as well as the International Knee Documentation Committee clinical assessment, measurement of laxity by the KT-1000 arthrometer, a single-leg hop test and standardised radiography of both knees using the uninjured knee as a control. Of the injured knees, 46 (57%) had definite radiological evidence of osteoarthritis (Kellgren-Lawrence grade 2 or 3), with a mean difference between the injured and non-injured knees of 1.2 grades. The median ACL quality-of-life score was 80 (interquartile range (IQR) 60 to 90), the Lysholm score 84 (IQR 74 to 95), the Short Form-12 physical component score 54 (IQR 49 to 56) and the mean Hop Index 0.94 (0.52 to 1.52). In total 58 patients were graded as normal, 20 as nearly normal and one as abnormal on the KT-1000 assessment and pivot-shift testing. Taking the worst-case scenario of assuming all non-attenders (n = 48), two septic failures and one identified unstable knee found at review to be failures, the failure rate was 40%. Only two of the patients reviewed stated that they would not have similar surgery again. Open reconstruction of the ACL gives good, durable functional results, but with a high rate of radiologically evident osteoarthritis.