Star clusters stand at the intersection of much of modern astrophysics: the
interstellar medium, gravitational dynamics, stellar evolution, and cosmology.
Here we review observations and theoretical models for the formation,
evolution, and eventual disruption of star clusters. Current literature
suggests a picture of this life cycle with several phases: (1) Clusters form in
hierarchically-structured, accreting molecular clouds that convert gas into
stars at a low rate per dynamical time until feedback disperses the gas. (2)
The densest parts of the hierarchy resist gas removal long enough to reach high
star formation efficiency, becoming dynamically-relaxed and well-mixed. These
remain bound after gas removal. (3) In the first $sim 100$ Myr after gas
removal, clusters disperse moderately fast, through a combination of mass loss
and tidal shocks by dense molecular structures in the star-forming environment.
(4) After $sim 100$ Myr, clusters lose mass via two-body relaxation and shocks
by giant molecular clouds, processes that preferentially affect low-mass
clusters and cause a turnover in the cluster mass function to appear on $sim
1-10$ Gyr timescales. (5) Even after dispersal, some clusters remain coherent
and thus detectable in chemical or action space for multiple galactic orbits.
In the next decade a new generation of space- and AO-assisted ground-based
telescopes will enable us to test and refine this picture.