The past century has witnessed a number of significant breakthroughs in the study of extinction in the fossil record, from the discovery of a bolide impact as the probable cause of the end-Cretaceous (K/T) mass extinction to the designation of the “Big 5” mass extinction events. Here, I summarize the major themes that have emerged from the past thirty years of extinction research and highlight a number of promising directions for future research. These directions explore a central theme—the evolutionary consequences of extinction— and focus on three broad research areas: the effects of selectivity, the importance of recovery intervals, and the influence of spatial patterns. Examples of topics explored include the role that trait variation plays in survivorship, the comparative effects of extinctions of varying magnitudes on evolutionary patterns, the re-establishment of macroevolutionary patterns in the aftermath of extinction, and the extent to which spatial autocorrelation affects extinction patterns. These topics can be approached by viewing extinctions as repeated natural experiments in the history of life and developing hypotheses to explicitly test across multiple events. Exploring the effects of extinction also requires an interdisciplinary approach, applying evolutionary, ecological, geochronological, geochemical, tectonic, and paleoclimatic tools to both extinction and recovery intervals.