The hypoxia inducible factors (HIFs) promote changes in gene expression in response to hypoxia, and mediate key physiological responses such as angiogenesis. They play important roles in development and normal physiology, as well as in ischaemic and other pathologies. The human eye is a complex organ, with tight regulation of vascularisation and oxygen delivery, with the highly specialised retina containing both highly vascularised and avascular regions. This review, written to honour the significant contribution of Lorenz Poellinger to this field, covers the role of the HIFs in normal development of the eye, specifically the vasculature, as well as their roles in numerous retinal pathologies, including ischaemic retinopathies, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The characterisation of the HIFs in the eye has improved our understanding of the development, function, and numerous pathologies of the eye, and should inform future therapeutic approaches.