Mitochondria are the principal site of generation of energy in form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). They contain the enzymes of the Krebs and fatty acid cycles and the respiratory pathway. Ocular tissues with high energy consumption and dependence on oxidative energy production like the optic nerve, the retina, and the pigment epithelium are often involved in mitochondrial diseases. This article reviews the genetic mitochondrial diseases involving the visual system. Their most important ocular findings include: acute or slowly progressive bilateral visual loss and visual field loss due to an optic neuropathy or retinal degeneration, bilateral progressive decreased ocular motility, and bilateral upper lid ptosis. The following diseases are discussed: Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON); Kearns-Sayre Syndrom (KSS); Chronic Progressive External Ophthalmoplegia (CPEO); Autosomal Recessive Cardiomyopathy, Ophthalmoplegia (ARCO); Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy, Lactic Acidosis, Stroke-Like Episodes (MELAS); Neuropathy, Ataxia, Retinitis Pigmentosa (NARP); Mitochondrial Neuropathy, Gastro-Intestinal Encephalomyopathy (MNGIE); Myoclonus Epilepsy, Ragged-Red-Fibers (MERRF); Wilson's disease; Friedreich's ataxia. Diagnosis of mitochondrial encephalomyopathies is established by screening for mutations in blood or muscle biopsy samples. No specific therapies which influence the course of mitochondrial encephalomyopathies are known. Drugs interacting with the mitochondria function, alcohol consumption and smoking should be avoided.