Acute hepatitis and acute liver failure are severe medical conditions that require early clinical intervention. Histopathologic findings on a liver biopsy or a liver explant may help identify the underlying etiology or provide an important direction for further clinical, laboratory and radiographical investigation. This review is divided into two main portions. The first portion concentrates on various etiologies and discusses unique histologic features that can be associated with specific etiologies. The second portion describes the general morphologic features based on which the diagnosis of acute hepatitis and acute liver failure are made. Histopathologic distinction between collapse and cirrhosis and limitations of histopathologic assessment for underlying etiologies are addressed in this portion. Another focus of this review is non-necrotic acute liver failure, which typically features diffuse microvesicular steatosis secondary to various etiologies causing mitochondrial dysfunction. Molecular testing serves an increasingly important role in the diagnosis and management of this group of disorders.