Trypanosomatid protozoans cause important diseases of humans and their domestic livestock. Various molecular genetic tools are now allowing rapid progress in understanding many of the unique aspects of the molecular and cell biology of these organisms. Diploidy and the lack or difficulty of sexual crossing has been a challenge for forward genetics, but powerful selections and functional complementation have helped to overcome it in Leishmania. RNA interference has been adapted for forward genetics in trypanosomes, in which it is also a powerful tool for reverse genetics. Interestingly, the efficacy of different genetic tools has steered research into different aspects of the biology of these parasites.