Papain-like cysteine proteases (PLCPs) play crucial roles in plant–pathogen/pest interactions. During these parasitic interactions, PLCPs act on non-self substrates, provoking the selection of counteracting inhibitors and other means to evade proteolysis. We review examples of PLCPs acting on molecular battlefields in the extracellular space, plant cytoplasm and herbivore gut. Examples are maize Mir1 (Maize inbred resistance 1), tomato Rcr3 (Required for Cladosporium resistance-3), Pseudomonas AvrRpt2 and AurPphB, insect DvCAL1 (Diabrotica virgifera cathepsin L-like protease-1) and nematode MiCpl1 (Meloidogyne incognita cathepsin L-like protease 1). The data suggest that PLCPs cleave specific proteins and that their translocation, activation and inhibition of PLCPs are tightly regulated.