Dopaminergic neurons in the mammalian brain have received substantial attention in the past given their fundamental role in several body functions and behaviours. The largest dopaminergic population is found in two nuclei of the ventral midbrain. Cells of the substantia nigra pars compacta are involved in the control of voluntary movements and postural reflexes, and their degeneration in the adult brain leads to Parkinson's disease. Cells of the ventral tegmental area modulate rewarding and cognitive behaviours, and their dysfunction is involved in the pathogenesis of addictive disorders and schizophrenia. Because of their clinical relevance, the embryonic development and maintenance of the midbrain dopaminergic cell groups in the adult have been intensively studied in recent years. In the present review, we provide an overview of the mechanisms and factors involved in the development of dopaminergic neurons in the mammalian brain, with a special emphasis on the midbrain dopaminergic population.