Turbidity flows - underwater avalanches - are large-scale physical disturbances that are believed to have profound and lasting impacts on benthic communities in the deep sea, with hypothesized effects on both productivity and diversity. In this review we summarize the physical characteristics of turbidity flows and the mechanisms by which they influence deep-sea benthic communities, both as an immediate pulse-type disturbance and through longer-term press-type impacts. Further, we use data from turbidity flows that occurred hundreds to thousands of years ago as well as three more recent events to assess published hypotheses that turbidity flows affect productivity and diversity. We find, unlike previous reviews, that evidence for changes in productivity in the studies was ambiguous at best, whereas the influence on regional and local diversity was more clear-cut: as had previously been hypothesized, turbidity flows decrease local diversity but create mosaics of habitat patches that contribute to increased regional diversity. Studies of more recent turbidity flows provide greater insights into their impacts in the deep sea, but without pre-disturbance data, the factors that drive patterns in benthic community productivity and diversity, be they physical, chemical, or a combination thereof, still cannot be identified. We propose criteria for data that would be necessary for testing these hypotheses and suggest that studies of KaikÅura Canyon, New Zealand, where an earthquake-triggered turbidity flow occurred in 2016, will provide insights into the impacts of turbidity flows on deep-sea benthic communities as well as the impacts of other large-scale disturbances such as deep-sea mining.