This work reviews the increasing evidence that many-body van der Waals (vdW) or dispersion interactions play a crucial role in the structure, stability and function of a wide variety of systems in biology, chemistry and physics. Starting with the exact expression for the electron correlation energy provided by the adiabatic connection fluctuation-dissipation theorem, we derive both pairwise and many-body interatomic methods for computing the long-range dispersion energy by considering a model system of coupled quantum harmonic oscillators within the random-phase approximation. By coupling this approach to density functional theory, the resulting many-body dispersion (MBD) method provides an accurate and efficient scheme for computing the frequency-dependent polarizability and many-body vdW energy in molecules and materials with a finite electronic gap. A select collection of applications are presented that ascertain the fundamental importance of these non-bonded interactions across the spectrum of intermolecular (the S22 and S66 benchmark databases), intramolecular (conformational energies of alanine tetrapeptide) and supramolecular (binding energy of the 'buckyball catcher') complexes, as well as molecular crystals (cohesive energies in oligoacenes). These applications demonstrate that electrodynamic response screening and beyond-pairwise many-body vdW interactions--both captured at the MBD level of theory--play a quantitative, and sometimes even qualitative, role in describing the properties considered herein. This work is then concluded with an in-depth discussion of the challenges that remain in the future development of reliable (accurate and efficient) methods for treating many-body vdW interactions in complex materials and provides a roadmap for navigating many of the research avenues that are yet to be explored.