Biotrophic and hemibiotrophic fungi are successful groups of plant pathogens that require living plant tissue to survive and complete their life cycle. Members of these groups include the rust fungi and powdery mildews and species in the Ustilago, Cladosporium and Magnaporthe genera. Collectively, they represent some of the most destructive plant parasites, causing huge economic losses and threatening global food security. During plant infection, pathogens synthesize and secrete effector proteins, some of which are translocated into the plant cytosol where they can alter the host's response to the invading pathogen. In a successful infection, pathogen effectors facilitate suppression of the plant's immune system and orchestrate the reprogramming of the infected tissue so that it becomes a source of nutrients that are required by the pathogen to support its growth and development. This review summarizes our current understanding of the function of fungal effectors in infection.