The affinities as well as the circumscription of the Orthotrichaceae (Bryopsida), one of the most diverse families of mosses, have been the focus of a controversy for much of the last century. We obtained rbcL sequences for 37 arthrodontous mosses, including 27 taxa of the Orthotrichales. The sequences were analyzed using maximum parsimony and neighbor joining in order to (1) test the monophyly of the Orthotrichales and the Orthotrichaceae; (2) determine their phylogenetic relationships; and (3) test the current subfamilial classification within the Orthotrichaceae. Both analyses suggest that the Orthotrichales are polyphyletic. The Erpodiaceae and the Rhachitheciaceae as well as Amphidium and Drummondia, two genera of the Orthotrichaceae, are shown to be of haplolepideous affinity. The Splachnales, the Bryales sensu lato, and the Orthotrichales form a monophyletic clade sister to the Haplolepideae. Both neighbor joining and maximum parsimony also suggest that the Orthotrichaceae are composed of two major lineages dominated either by acrocarpous or cladocarpous taxa. The monophyly of the family is, however, only well supported by Tamura's distances. The genera Macrocoma, Macromitrium, Orthotrichum, Ulota, and Zygodon all appear to be artificial assemblages. This study illustrates the contribution of rbcL sequence data to bryophyte systematics and, particularly, in determining the affinities of taxa lacking a peristome, whose characters are central to the classification of mosses.