With the centenary of the first descriptions of ‘hypersensitiveness’ following pathogenic challenge upon us, it is appropriate to assess our current understanding of the hypersensitive response (HR) form of cell death. In recent decades our understanding of the initiation, associated signalling, and some important proteolytic events linked to the HR has dramatically increased. Genetic approaches are increasingly elucidating the function of the HR initiating resistance genes and there have been extensive analyses of death-associated signals, calcium, reactive oxygen species (ROS), nitric oxide, salicylic acid, and now sphingolipids. At the same time, attempts to draw parallels between mammalian apoptosis and the HR have been largely unsuccessful and it may be better to consider the HR to be a distinctive form of plant cell death. We will consider if the HR form of cell death may occur through metabolic dysfunction in which malfunctioning organelles may play a major role. This review will highlight that although our knowledge of parts of the HR is excellent, a comprehensive molecular model is still to be attained.