Rice blast, caused by the fungal pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae, is the most devastating disease of rice and severely affects crop stability and sustainability worldwide. This disease has advanced to become one of the premier model fungal pathosystems for host—pathogen interactions because of the depth of comprehensive studies in both species using modern genetic, genomic, proteomic and bioinformatic approaches. Many fungal genes involved in pathogenicity and rice genes involved in effector recognition and defence responses have been identified over the past decade. Specifically, the cloning of a total of nine avirulence (Avr) genes in M. oryzae, 13 rice resistance (R) genes and two rice blast quantitative trait loci (QTLs) has provided new insights into the molecular basis of fungal and plant interactions. In this article, we consider the new findings on the structure and function of the recently cloned R and Avr genes, and provide perspectives for future research directions towards a better understanding of the molecular underpinnings of the rice–M. oryzae interaction.