Slope movements (e.g. landslides) are dynamic systems that are complex in time and space and closely linked to both inherited and current preparatory and triggering controls. It is not yet possible to assess in all cases conditions for failure, reactivation and rapid surges and successfully simulate their transient and multi-dimensional behaviour and development, although considerable progress has been made in isolating many of the key variables and elementary mechanisms and to include them in physically-based models for landslide hazard assessments. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to review the state-of-the-art in the understanding of landslide processes and to identify some pressing challenges for the development of our modelling capabilities in the forthcoming years for hazard assessment. This paper focuses on the special nature of slope movements and the difficulties related to simulating their complex time-dependent behaviour in mathematical, physically-based models. It analyses successively the research frontiers in the recognition of first-time failures (pre-failure and failure stages), reactivation and the catastrophic transition to rapid gravitational processes (post-failure stage). Subsequently, the paper discusses avenues to transfer local knowledge on landslide activity to landslide hazard forecasts on regional scales and ends with an outline how geomorphological investigations and supporting monitoring techniques could be applied to improve the theoretical concepts and the modelling performance of physically-based landslide models at different spatial and temporal scales.