Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the most lethal cancers worldwide. Novel prognostic and/or predictive biomarkers are urgently needed to improve patient management. Alpha-fetoprotein is a well-established and widely used biomarker for hepatocellular carcinoma. However, diagnostic accuracy of static alpha-fetoprotein values is limited and the clinical potential is a matter of ongoing scientific discussion. Objective: We here evaluated the prognostic impact of pre-treatment static and dynamic alpha-fetoprotein variables on overall survival of hepatocellular carcinoma patients in a Western cohort. Methods: Patients with confirmed hepatocellular carcinoma (n = 809) treated at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz between 1998 and 2014 and two available pre-treatment alpha-fetoprotein-values (AFP-slope) were retrospectively analysed. Clinico-pathological baseline parameters, pre-treatment static values and AFP-slope were assessed. Prognostic impact was determined by Kaplan–Meier analyses and Cox regression models. Results: High static and dynamic alpha-fetoprotein variables prior to therapy were associated with reduced survival rates of hepatocellular carcinoma patients. Several known clinical parameters such as Child–Pugh B (p < 0.01) and C stage (p < 0.001), portal vein thrombosis (p < 0.001) and extrahepatic spread (p < 0.001) were confirmed as independent predictors for overall survival. Addition of static and/or dynamic alpha-fetoprotein variable resulted in higher time-dependent area under the curves. Notably, in patients with more favourable prognosis, AFP-slope prior to therapy was a slightly stronger predictor for overall survival compared with static alpha-fetoprotein values. Conclusion: Static and dynamic alpha-fetoprotein variables prior to therapy are predictive for overall survival of hepatocellular carcinoma patients. Addition of AFP-slope to established prognostic parameters might improve prognostic classification for a subgroup of hepatocellular carcinoma patients with preserved liver function and without portal vein tumour thrombosis.