Overcoming the recalcitrance (resistance of plant cell walls to deconstruction) of lignocellulosic biomass is a key step in the production of fuels and chemicals. The recalcitrance is due to the highly crystalline structure of cellulose which is embedded in a matrix of polymers-lignin and hemicellulose. The main goal of pretreatment is to overcome this recalcitrance, to separate the cellulose from the matrix polymers, and to make it more accessible for enzymatic hydrolysis. Reports have shown that pretreatment can improve sugar yields to higher than 90% theoretical yield for biomass such as wood, grasses, and corn. This paper reviews different leading pretreatment technologies along with their latest developments and highlights their advantages and disadvantages with respect to subsequent hydrolysis and fermentation. The effects of different technologies on the components of biomass (cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin) are also reviewed with a focus on how the treatment greatly enhances enzymatic cellulose digestibility.