Because of its ability to image all of the tissues in a diarthrodial joint, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has an ever-increasing role in the evaluation, diagnosis, and monitoring of joint disorders. Standard MRI techniques can delineate morphologic abnormalities. Techniques on the horizon offer improved morphologic analysis as well as previously unavailable information about the biochemical composition and functional properties of joint tissues. While research and development efforts are rapidly growing, the current review focuses on techniques that are most advanced and that have demonstrated feasibility in basic science and clinical studies. As such, we report mainly on cartilage imaging but hasten to add that ongoing research efforts offer promise for the imaging of all joint structures. These techniques should improve our ability to understand the healthy joint and the disease process, to provide earlier diagnoses, and to evaluate the effects of therapeutic procedures. With these capabilities, we can more effectively establish strategies to maintain joint health and to identify indications for intervention at an early stage of degeneration.