Atomic layer deposition (ALD) is a vapour-phase deposition technique capable of depositing high quality, uniform and conformal thin films at relatively low temperatures. These outstanding properties can be employed to face processing challenges for various types of next-generation solar cells; hence, ALD for photovoltaics (PV) has attracted great interest in academic and industrial research in recent years. In this review, the recent progress of ALD layers applied to various solar cell concepts and their future prospects are discussed. Crystalline silicon (c-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) and dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) benefit from the application of ALD surface passivation layers, buffer layers and barrier layers, respectively. ALD films are also excellent moisture permeation barriers that have been successfully used to encapsulate flexible CIGS and organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells. Furthermore, some emerging applications of the ALD method in solar cell research are reviewed. The potential of ALD for solar cells manufacturing is discussed, and the current status of high-throughput ALD equipment development is presented. ALD is on the verge of being introduced in the PV industry and it is expected that it will be part of the standard solar cell manufacturing equipment in the near future.