Buckling of an axially loaded thin-walled laminated composite is studied. A general analytical model applicable to the flexural, torsional and flexural–torsional buckling of a thin-walled composite box beam subjected to axial load is developed. This model is based on the classical lamination theory, and accounts for the coupling of flexural and torsional modes for arbitrary laminate stacking sequence configuration, i.e. unsymmetric as well as symmetric, and various boundary conditions. A displacement-based one-dimensional finite element model is developed to predict critical loads and corresponding buckling modes for a thin-walled composite bar. Governing buckling equations are derived from the principle of the stationary value of total potential energy. Numerical results are obtained for axially loaded thin-walled composites addressing the effects of fiber angle, anisotropy and boundary conditions on the critical buckling loads and mode shapes of the composites.