This article contains a new critical review of six predominant themes that have evolved over the last 40 years related to studies of alluvial fan dynamism. The themes include the development of conceptual models, field experiments, physical models, numerical models, high-resolution morphometric analyses, and climate change scenarios. Each theme is presented independently, but as highlighted in our concluding statements there should be greater efforts placed on integrating scientists from these disparate approaches. A case study is also presented in support of the review and pertains to ongoing work at the Colorado Natural Debris Flow Laboratory near Buena Vista, CO, USA. The case study uses repeat high-resolution topographic data to assess the 2- and 3-dimensional changes that occurred on a fan surface. The case study presents new field information to expand, support, and refute findings from the six research themes related to alluvial fan dynamics. Also, the case study provides a medium by which we show the need get back to more field-oriented data acquisition and analyses.