Emerging applications (e.g. electric vehicles, renewable energy systems, more electric aircrafts, etc.) have brought more stringent reliability constrains into power electronic products because of safety requirements and maintenance cost issues. To improve the reliability of power electronics, better understanding of failure modes and failure mechanisms of reliability–critical components in power electronic circuits are needed. Many efforts have been devoted to the reduction of IGBT failures, while the study on the failures of freewheeling diodes is less impressive. It is of importance to investigate the catastrophic failures of freewheeling diodes as they could induce the malfunction of other components and eventually the whole power electronic circuits. This paper presents an overview of those catastrophic failures and gives examples of the corresponding consequences to the circuits.