Autophagic cell death is a prominent morphological form of cell death that occurs in diverse animals. Autophagosomes are abundant during autophagic cell death, yet the functional role of autophagy in cell death has been enigmatic. We find that autophagy and the Atg genes are required for autophagic cell death of Drosophila salivary glands. Although caspases are present in dying salivary glands, autophagy is required for complete cell degradation. Further, induction of high levels of autophagy results in caspase-independent autophagic cell death. Our results provide the first in vivo evidence that autophagy and the Atg genes are required for autophagic cell death and confirm that autophagic cell death is a physiological death program that occurs during development.