Esophageal cancer (EC) is the eighth most common cancer and is the sixth leading cause of death worldwide. The incidence of histologic subtypes of EC, esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) and esophageal squamous carcinoma (ESCC), display considerable geographic variation. EAC arises from metaplastic Barrett's esophagus (BE) in the context of chronic inflammation secondary to exposure to acid and bile. The main risk factors for developing ESCC are cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption. The main somatic genetic abnormalities showed a different genetic landscape in EAC compared to ESCC. EAC is a heterogeneous cancer dominated by copy number alterations, a high mutational burden, co-amplification of receptor tyrosine kinase, frequent TP53 mutations. The cellular origins of BE and EAC are still not understood: animal models supported a cellular origin either from stem cells located in the basal layer of esophageal epithelium or from progenitors present in the cardia region. Many studies support the existence of cancer stem cells (CSCs) able to initiate and maintain EAC or ESCC. The exact identification of these CSCs, as well as their role in the pathogenesis of EAC and ESCC remain still to be demonstrated. The reviewed studies suggest that current molecular and cellular characterization of EAC and ESCC should serve as background for development of new treatment strategies.