Autophagy has important functions in normal physiology to maintain homeostasis and protect against cellular stresses by the removal of harmful cargos such as dysfunctional organelles, protein aggregates and invading pathogens. The deregulation of autophagy is a hallmark of many diseases and therapeutic targeting of autophagy is highly topical. With the complex role of autophagy in disease it is essential to understand the genetic and molecular basis of the contribution of autophagy to pathogenesis. The model organism, Drosophila, provides a genetically amenable system to dissect out the contribution of autophagy to human disease models. Here we review the roles of autophagy in human disease and how autophagy studies in Drosophila have contributed to the understanding of pathophysiology.