Most eukaryotic mRNAs are translated in a cap-dependent fashion; however, under stress conditions, the cap-independent translation driven by internal ribosomal entry sites (IRESs) can serve as an alternative mechanism for protein production. Many IRESs have been discovered from viral or cellular mRNAs to promote ribosome assembly and initiate translation by recruiting different trans-acting factors. Although the mechanisms of translation initiation driven by viral IRESs are relatively well understood, the existence of cellular IRESs is still under debate due to the limitations of translation reporter systems used to assay IRES activities. A recent screen identified > 1000 putative IRESs from viral and human mRNAs, expanding the scope and mechanism for cap-independent translation. Additionally, a large number of circular RNAs lacking free ends were identified in eukaryotic cells, many of which are found to be translated through IRESs. These findings suggest that IRESs may play a previously unappreciated role in driving translation of the new type of mRNA, implying a hidden proteome produced from cap-independent translation.