Brachypodium distachyon (Brachypodium) is a temperate wild grass species and is a powerful model system for studying grain, energy, forage and turf grasses. Exploring the natural variation in the drought response of Brachypodium provides an important basis for dissecting the genetic network of drought tolerance. Two experiments were conducted in a greenhouse to assess the drought tolerance of 57 natural populations of Brachypodium. Principle component analysis revealed that reductions in chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv/Fm) and leaf water content (LWC) under drought stress explained most of the phenotypic variation, which was used to classify the tolerant and susceptible accessions. Four groups of accessions differing in drought tolerance were identified, with 3 tolerant, 16 moderately tolerant, 32 susceptible and 6 most susceptible accessions. The tolerant group had little leaf wilting and fewer reductions in Fv/Fm and LWC, while the most susceptible groups showed severe leaf wilting and more reductions in Fv/Fm and LWC. Drought stress increased total water soluble sugar (WSS) concentration, but no differences in the increased WSS were found among different groups of accessions. The large phenotypic variation of Brachypodium in response to drought stress can be used to identify genes and alleles important for the complex trait of drought tolerance.