Insect pests are major problems for all crops, worldwide. In this review we will focus on legumes, which are attacked by a range of insect pests including pod/seed feeders, defoliators and sap feeders. We review the history of breeding for resistance to insect pests in legumes, which has had mixed success, and discuss further opportunities in this area. We also review the extraordinary array of direct and indirect mechanisms contributing to insect defence in legumes, the understanding and exploitation of which offer opportunities for both legume and non-legume crops. There is also good potential to improve insect resistance in legume crops through a detailed understanding of the signaling pathways that regulate induced responses to insect feeding, and recent progress in this area, primarily obtained from non-legume systems, is reviewed. The importance legumes play in farming systems, their wide range of novel chemistry and the emergence of model systems suitable for genomic approaches present opportunities for research in this area strongly linked to breeding programs to help develop legume crops with enhanced insect resistance.