Incorporation of nanostructures is a recent trend in the photovoltaic community, aimed at improving light absorption and consequently cell efficiency. In this regard, semiconductor nanowires provide an attractive research platform for a new generation of cost-effective and efficient solar cells. Thanks to their unique geometry, silicon nanowires enhance light trapping and anti-reflection effects by means of multiple scattering between individual nanowires, and by coupling the light into confined eigenmodes over a broad range of the solar spectrum. Moreover, radial junction solar cells built around nanowires decouple the light absorption and carrier collection directions, which allows for a higher internal field and better carrier collection. Thus, arrays of radial junction solar cells bring advantages of high efficiency with reduced material amount. This is particularly attractive for devices based on hydrogenated amorphous and microcrystalline silicon thin films. In this paper, after reviewing different approaches to fabricate silicon nanowires, we focus on nanowires grown using the plasma-assisted vapour-liquid-solid method because of the simplicity and compatibility with current silicon thin-film technology. Their application to a-Si : H based radial junction solar cells has already resulted in ∼8% of stable devices with an absorber layer thickness of only 100 nm. Moreover, current challenges and perspectives such as the use of a microcrystalline silicon absorber are also reviewed.