Atherosclerotic plaque disruption accounts for the major part of cardiovascular mortality and the risk of disruption appears to depend on plaque composition. Carotid plaques in patients, scheduled for endarterectomy, have been successfully characterised with MRI. MRI has the advantage of combining information about morphology and function. Unfortunately, the tortuosity and size of the coronary arteries, and the respiratory and cardiac motion hinder the in vivo characterisation of human coronary plaque. In addition to plaque composition several molecular markers of the different processes involved in atherosclerosis, such as integrins, matrix metalloproteinases and fibrin seem to correlate with risk of plaque rupture and clinical outcome. These molecular markers can be targeted with antibodies coupled to carriers, which are loaded with gadolinium for detection (molecular MRI). Several cellular/molecular MRI studies in animal models and some in human patients have been conducted with varying levels of success. The advent of clinical high field magnets, the development of contrast agent carriers with high relaxivity and the development of relatively new MR contrast techniques are promising in the field of plaque imaging. Future MRI studies will have to focus on the molecular target of the atherosclerotic process, which has the highest prognostic value with regard to acute coronary syndromes and on the most suitable contrast agent to visualize that target.