By now, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is considered to be among the most common liver diseases world-wide. NAFLD encompasses a broad spectrum of pathological conditions ranging from simple steatosis to steatohepatitis, fibrosis and finally even cirrhosis; however, only a minority of patients progress to end-stages of the disease, and the course of the disease progression to the later stages seems to be slow, developing progressively over several years. Key risk factors including overweight, insulin resistance, a sedentary life-style and an altered dietary pattern, as well as genetic factors and disturbances of the intestinal barrier function have been identified in recent years. Despite intense research efforts that lead to the identification of these risk factors, knowledge about disease initiation and molecular mechanisms involved in progression is still limited. This review summarizes diet-induced and genetic animal models, as well as cell culture models commonly used in recent years to add to the understanding of the mechanisms involved in NAFLD, also referring to their advantages and disadvantages.