Basilar artery occlusion is assumed to carry a grave prognosis, with mortality rates of up to 90%. Diagnosis is often delayed, or even missed, as a result of the variety of clinical presentations seen with this condition. The pathogenesis of occlusion can be secondary to both local atherothrombosis or cardioembolism. The use of noninvasive imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography angiography has improved recognition of clinical syndromes associated with occlusion. Although no randomized studies have been performed, recanalization of the vascular occlusion, particularly with thrombolytic agents, appears to result in improved outcomes in selected patients. However, the optimum timing for therapy is unclear, and reperfusion therapy may need to be combined with definitive vascular treatment of underlying vascular stenosis. Increasing awareness of this condition may reveal the natural history to be more diverse than previously recognized.