The correct diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is important for prognostic and therapeutic reasons and is essential for clinical research. Investigations of the diagnostic accuracy for the disease and other forms of parkinsonism in community-based samples of patients taking antiparkinsonian medication confirmed a diagnosis of parkinsonism in only 74% of patients and clinically probable Parkinson's disease in 53% of patients. Clinicopathological studies based on brain bank material from the UK and Canada have shown that clinicians diagnose the disease incorrectly in about 25% of patients. In these studies, the most common reasons for misdiagnosis were presence of essential tremor, vascular parkinsonism, and atypical parkinsonian syndromes. Infrequent diagnostic errors included Alzheimer's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and drug-induced parkinsonism. Increasing knowledge of the heterogeneous clinical presentation of the various parkinsonisms has resulted in improved diagnostic accuracy of the various parkinsonian syndromes in specialised movement-disorder units. Also genetic testing and various other ancillary tests, such as olfactory testing, MRI, and dopamine-transporter single-photon-emission computed-tomography imaging, help with clinical diagnostic decisions.