The leaf rust diseases of cereals cause significant yield losses, posing challenges for global food security. The deployment of resistance genes has long been considered as the most effective and sustainable way to control cereal leaf rust diseases. While genetic resistance has reduced the impact of these diseases in agriculture, losses still occur due to the ability of the respective rust pathogens to change and render resistance genes ineffective plus the slow pace at which resistance genes are discovered and characterized. This article highlights novel recently developed strategies based on advances in genome sequencing that have accelerated gene isolation by overcoming the complexity of cereal genomes. The leaf rust resistance genes cloned so far from wheat and barley belong to various protein families, including nucleotide binding site/leucine-rich repeat receptors and transporters. We review recent studies that are beginning to reveal the defense mechanisms conferred by the leaf rust resistance genes identified to date in cereals and their roles in either pattern-triggered immunity or effector-triggered immunity.