Al doped ZnO (AZO) thin films were prepared on silica substrates by sol-gel method. The films showed a hexagonal wurtzite structure with a preferred orientation along c-axis. Suitable Al doping dramatically improved the crystal quality compared to the undoped ZnO films. Dependent on the Al dopant concentration, the diffraction peak of (0 0 2) plane in XRD spectra showed at first right-shifting and then left-shifting, which was attributed to the change in defect concentration induced by the Al dopant. Photocatalytic properties of the AZO film were characterized by degradation of methyl orange (MO) under simulated solar light. The transmittance of the films was enhanced by the Al doping, and the maximum transmittance of 80 % in the visible region was observed in the sample with Al concentration of 1.5 at.% (mole fraction). The film with 1.5 at.% Al doping achieved also maximum photocatalytic activity of 68.6 % under solar light. The changes in the film parameters can be attributed to the variation in defect concentration induced by different Al doping content.