Bioluminescence spans all oceanic dimensions and has evolved many times--from bacteria to fish--to powerfully influence behavioral and ecosystem dynamics. New methods and technology have brought great advances in understanding of the molecular basis of bioluminescence, its physiological control, and its significance in marine communities. Novel tools derived from understanding the chemistry of natural light-producing molecules have led to countless valuable applications, culminating recently in a related Nobel Prize. Marine organisms utilize bioluminescence for vital functions ranging from defense to reproduction. To understand these interactions and the distributions of luminous organisms, new instruments and platforms allow observations on individual to oceanographic scales. This review explores recent advances, including the chemical and molecular, phylogenetic and functional, community and oceanographic aspects of bioluminescence.