Autophagy and apoptosis play important roles in the development, cellular homeostasis and, especially, oncogenesis of mammals. They may be triggered by common upstream signals, resulting in combined autophagy and apoptosis. In other instances, they may be mutually exclusive. Recent studies have suggested possible molecular mechanisms for crosstalk between autophagy and apoptosis. Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, the well-characterized apoptosis guards, appear to be important factors in autophagy, inhibiting Beclin 1-mediated autophagy by binding to Beclin 1. In addition, Beclin 1, Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL can cooperate with Atg5 or Ca2+ to regulate both autophagy and apoptosis. Thus, Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL represent a molecular link between autophagy and apoptosis. Here, we discuss the possible roles of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL in apoptosis and autophagy, and the crosstalk between them.