Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Advances in sequencing technologies have enabled the examination of liver cancer genomes at high resolution; somatic mutations, structural alterations, HBV integration, RNA editing and retrotransposon changes have been comprehensively identified. Furthermore, integrated analyses of trans-omics data (genome, transcriptome and methylome data) have identified multiple critical genes and pathways implicated in hepatocarcinogenesis. These analyses have uncovered potential therapeutic targets, including growth factor signalling, WNT signalling, the NFE2L2-mediated oxidative pathway and chromatin modifying factors, and paved the way for new molecular classifications for clinical application. The aetiological factors associated with liver cancer are well understood; however, their effects on the accumulation of somatic changes and the influence of ethnic variation in risk factors still remain unknown. The international collaborations of cancer genome sequencing projects are expected to contribute to an improved understanding of risk evaluation, diagnosis and therapy for this cancer.