Interface delamination during indentation of micron-scale ceramic coatings on metal substrates is modeled using discrete dislocation (DD) plasticity to elucidate the relationships between delamination, substrate plasticity, interface adhesion, elastic mismatch, and film thickness. In the DD method, plasticity in the metal substrate occurs directly via the motion of dislocations, which are governed by a set of physically based constitutive rules for nucleation, motion and annihilation. A cohesive law with peak stress sigma characterizes the traction-separation response of the metal/ceramic interface. The indenter is a rigid flat punch and plane strain deformation is assumed. A continuum plasticity model of the same problem is studied for comparison. For low interface strengths (e.g. sigma textless sigma(y)), DD and continuum plasticity results are quantitatively similar, with delamination being nearly independent of interface strength, and easier for thinner, lower-modulus films. For higher interface strengths (sigma/sigma(y) textgreater 2), continuum plasticity predicts no delamination up to very high loads while the DD model shows a smooth increase in the critical indentation force for delamination with increasing interface strength. Tensile delamination in the DD model is driven by the accumulation of dislocations, and their associated high stresses, at the interface upon unloading. The DD model is thus capable of predicting the nucleation of cracks, and its dependence on material parameters, in realms of realistic constitutive behavior and/or small length scales where conventional continuum plasticity fails. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.