Although subcellular mRNA trafficking has been demonstrated as a mechanism to control protein distribution, it is generally believed that most protein localization occurs subsequent to translation. To address this point, we developed and employed a high-resolution fluorescent in situ hybridization procedure to comprehensively evaluate mRNA localization dynamics during early Drosophila embryogenesis. Surprisingly, of the 3370 genes analyzed, 71% of those expressed encode subcellularly localized mRNAs. Dozens of new and striking localization patterns were observed, implying an equivalent variety of localization mechanisms. Tight correlations between mRNA distribution and subsequent protein localization and function, indicate major roles for mRNA localization in nucleating localized cellular machineries. A searchable web resource documenting mRNA expression and localization dynamics has been established and will serve as an invaluable tool for dissecting localization mechanisms and for predicting gene functions and interactions.