Honokiol, a naturally occurring neolignan mainly found in Magnolia species, has been shown to have the anti-angiogenic, anti-invasive and cancer chemopreventive activities, but the molecular mechanism of actions has not been fully elucidated yet. In the present study, we investigated the effect of honokiol on the growth inhibitory activity in cultured SNU-638 human gastric cancer cells. We found that honokiol exerted potent anti-proliferative activity against SNU-638 cells. Honokiol also arrested the cell cycle progression at the G0/G1 phase and induced the apoptotic cell death in a concentration-dependent manner. The cell cycle arrest was well correlated with the downregulation of Rb, cyclin D1, cyclin A, cyclin E, and CDK4 expression, and the induction of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27. The increase of sub-G1 peak by honokiol was closely related to the induction of apoptosis, which was evidenced by the induction of DNA fragmentation, the cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, and the sequential activation of caspase cascade. These findings suggest the cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis might be one possible mechanism of actions for the anti-proliferative activity of honokiol in human gastric cancer cell.