The inflammatory myopathies are a group of acquired diseases, characterized by an inflammatory infiltrate of the skeletal muscle. On the basis of clinical, immuno-pathological and demographic features, three major diseases can be identified: dermatomyositis (DM); polymyositis (PM); and inclusion body myositis (IBM). New diagnostic criteria have recently been introduced, which are crucial for discriminating between the three different subsets of inflammatory myopathies and for excluding other disorders. DM is a complement-mediated microangiopathy affecting skin and muscle. PM and IBM are T cell-mediated disorders, where CD8-positive cytotoxic T cells invade muscle fibres expressing MHC class I antigens, thus leading to fibre necrosis. In IBM, vacuolar formation with amyloid deposits are also present. This article summarizes the main clinical, laboratory, electrophysiological, immunological and histologic features as well as the therapeutic options of the inflammatory myopathies.