The expanding spectrum of both established and candidate oncogenic driver mutations identified in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), coupled with the increasing number of clinically available signal transduction pathway inhibitors targeting these driver mutations, offers a tremendous opportunity to enhance patient outcomes. Despite these molecular advances, advanced-stage NSCLC remains largely incurable due to therapeutic resistance. In this Review, we discuss alterations in the targeted oncogene ('on-target' resistance) and in other downstream and parallel pathways ('off-target' resistance) leading to resistance to targeted therapies in NSCLC, and we provide an overview of the current understanding of the bidirectional interactions with the tumour microenvironment that promote therapeutic resistance. We highlight common mechanistic themes underpinning resistance to targeted therapies that are shared by NSCLC subtypes, including those with oncogenic alterations in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), ROS1 proto-oncogene receptor tyrosine kinase (ROS1), serine/threonine-protein kinase b-raf (BRAF) and other less established oncoproteins. Finally, we discuss how understanding these themes can inform therapeutic strategies, including combination therapy approaches, and overcome the challenge of tumour heterogeneity.