The transcription factor p53 plays pivotal roles in numerous biological processes, including the suppression of tumours. The rich availability of biophysical data aimed at understanding its structure–function relationships since the 1990s has enabled the application of a variety of computational modelling techniques towards the establishment of mechanistic models. Together they have provided deep insights into the structure, mechanics, energetics, and dynamics of p53. In parallel, the observation that mutations in p53 or changes in its associated pathways characterize several human cancers has resulted in a race to develop therapeutic modulators of p53, some of which have entered clinical trials. This review describes how computational modelling has played key roles in understanding structural-dynamic aspects of p53, formulating hypotheses about domains that are beyond current experimental investigations, and the development of therapeutic molecules that target the p53 pathway.