The role of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression is well established, however the regulatory mechanisms modulating this phenomenon remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that transcription factor glioma-associated oncogene 1 (GLI1) modulates EMT through direct up-regulation of SNAI1 and serves as a downstream effector of the transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFβ1) pathway, a well-known regulator of EMT in cancer cells. Overexpression of GLI1 increased proliferation, viability, migration, invasion, and colony formation by HCC cells. Conversely, GLI1 knockdown led to a decrease in all the above-mentioned cancer-associated phenotypes in HCC cells. Further analysis of GLI1 regulated cellular functions showed that this transcription factor is able to induce EMT and identified SNAI1 as a transcriptional target of GLI1 mediating this cellular effect in HCC cells. Moreover, we demonstrated that an intact GLI1-SNAI1 axis is required by TGFβ1 to induce EMT in these cells. Together, these findings define a novel cellular mechanism regulated by GLI1, which controls the growth and EMT phenotype in HCC.