Accumulating evidence demonstrated that abnormal expression of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) was closely associated with cancer development including retinoblastoma (RB). LncRNA X inactive specific transcript (XIST) has been found to function as an oncogene or a tumor suppressor in several cancers. However, the role and underlying mechanism of XIST in RB have not been clarified. The expression of XIST, microRNA (miR)- 101, zinc finger E-box binding homeobox (ZEB) 1, and ZEB2 was detected in human RB tissues and cell lines. The effects of XIST on the proliferation, migration, invasion, epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), and apoptosis of RB cells were evaluated after downregulation of XIST. Furthermore, the mechanism of XIST was mainly focused on miR-101/ZEB1 or ZEB2 signaling. We found the expression of XIST, ZEB1 and ZEB2 was increased, whereas miR-101 was reduced in RB tissues and cells. Knockdown of XIST significantly suppressed the proliferation, migration, invasion and EMT, but promoted the apoptosis and caspase-3 activity. Moreover, we found that XIST functioned as a competing endogenous RNA (ceRNA) for miR-101 to regulate the de-repression of its endogenous targets ZEB1 and ZEB2. In conclusion, these findings suggest that XIST may facilitate the progression of RB through acting as a ceRNA for miR-101 to mediate the expression of ZEB1 and ZEB2. This may provide novel therapeutic options for RB.