All organisms need homologous recombination (HR) to repair DNA double-strand breaks. Defects in recombination are linked to genetic instability and to elevated risks in developing cancers. The central catalyst of HR is a nucleoprotein filament, consisting of recombinase proteins (human RAD51 or bacterial RecA) bound around single-stranded DNA. Over the last two decades, single-molecule techniques have provided substantial new insights into the dynamics of homologous recombination. Here, we survey important recent developments in this field of research and provide an outlook on future developments.