Apple snails (Ampullariidae) are a diverse family of pantropical freshwater snails and an important evolutionary link to the common ancestor of the largest group of living gastropods, the Caenogastropoda. A clear understanding of relationships within the Ampullariidae, and identification of their sister taxon, is therefore important for interpreting gastropod evolution in general. Unfortunately, the overall pattern has been clouded by confused systematics within the family and equivocal results regarding the family's sister group relationships. To clarify the relationships among ampullariid genera and to evaluate the influence of including or excluding possible sister taxa, we used data from five genes, three nuclear and two mitochondrial, from representatives of all nine extant ampullariid genera, and species of Viviparidae, Cyclophoridae, and Campanilidae, to reconstruct the phylogeny of apple snails, and determine their affinities to these possible sister groups. The results obtained indicate that the Old and New World ampullariids are reciprocally monophyletic with probable Gondwanan origins. All four Old World genera, Afropomus, Saulea, Pila, and Lanistes, were recovered as monophyletic, but only Asolene, Felipponea, and Pomella were monophyletic among the five New World genera, with Marisa paraphyletic and Pomacea polyphyletic. Estimates of divergence times among New World taxa suggest that diversification began shortly after the separation of Africa and South America and has probably been influenced by hydrogeological events over the last 90 Myr. The sister group of the Ampullariidae remains unresolved, but analyses omitting certain outgroup taxa suggest the need for dense taxonomic sampling to increase phylogenetic accuracy within the ingroup. The results obtained also indicate that defining the sister group of the Ampullariidae and clarifying relationships among basal caenogastropods will require increased taxon sampling within these four families, and synthesis of both morphological and molecular data. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 98, 61–76.