Malignant melanoma is considered to be a chemotherapy-refractory tumour and the commonly used anticancer drugs do not seem to modify the prognosis of metastatic disease. The cellular resistance mechanisms involved in melanoma chemoresistance have not yet been elucidated. Melanoma-derived cell lines are often markedly chemoresistant. Using the in vitro soft agar culture system to predict tumour cell sensitivity in well-established human melanoma cell lines, a high degree of resistance against all the cytostatic agents studied has been reported, suggesting the presence of intrinsic cellular resistance mechanisms. The relevance of the well-defined resistance mechanisms mediated by P-glycoprotein, multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP), the glutathione/glutathione S-transferase system and topoisomerase II enzyme are reviewed. Mutated N-Ras oncogene has recently been implicated in melanoma resistance to cisplatin, both in vitro and in vivo, and the role of two other oncogenes, Bcl-2 and p53, which are already involved in the chemoresistance of haematological and solid malignancies, is beginning to be better elucidated. The finding that many chemotherapeutic agents can kill susceptible cells through the apoptosis pathway provides new molecular insight into chemoresistance mechanisms and suggests that apoptosis and/or resistance to apoptosis of melanoma cells should be investigated to better clarify the mechanism of melanoma chemoresistance.