Molecular mechanisms regulating human trophoblast differentiation remain poorly understood due to difficulties in obtaining primary tissues from very early developmental stages in humans. Therefore, the use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) as a source for generating trophoblast tissues is of significant interest. Trophoblast-like cells have been obtained through treatment of hESCs with bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) or inhibitors of activin/nodal/transforming growth factor-β signaling, or through protocols involving formation of embryoid bodies (EBs); however, there is controversy over whether hESC-derived cells are indeed analogous to true trophoblasts found in vivo. In this review, we provide an overview of previously described efforts to obtain trophoblasts from hESCs. We also discuss the merits and limitations of hESCs as a source of trophoblast derivatives. © 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.