Malformations of cerebral cortical development are common birth defects that can cause delayed development, epilepsy, focal neurologic deficits, and mental retardation. Rational classification of these disorders is essential for proper prognosis, genetic testing and counseling, and investigation of the underlying molecular causes. A rational approach to this classification is a framework based on whether these disorders are the result of abnormal cell proliferation or apoptosis, abnormal migration of immature neurons, or abnormal horizontal and radial orientation in the cortex. Superimposed on this framework are subclassifications that are based on topology of the malformation, associated central nervous system (CNS) or extra-CNS malformations, and results of molecular genetic testing. Characteristics that correlate with and enforce this system of classification can be identified by modern neuroimaging studies.