Abstract Optical reflection, or in other words the loss of reflection, from a surface becomes increasingly crucial in determining the extent of the light-matter interaction. The simplest example of using an anti-reflecting (AR) surface is possibly the solar cell that incorporates an AR coating to harvest sunlightmore effectively. Researchers have now found ways to mimic biological structures, such as moth eyes or cicada wings, which have been used for the AR purpose by nature herself. These nanoscopic biomimetic structures lend valuable clues in fabricating and designing gradient refractive index materials that are efficient AR structures. The reflectance from a selected sub-wavelength or gradient index structures have come down to below 1% in the visible region of the spectrum and efforts are on to achieve broader bands of such enhanced AR regime. In addition to the challenge of broader bands, the performance of AR structures is also limited by factors such as omnidirectional properties and polarization of incident light. This review presents selected state-of-the-art AR techniques, reported over the last half a century, and their guiding principles to predict a logical trend for future research in this field.