Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is useful in the characterization of renal masses. The MR imaging manifestations and pathologic diagnoses of 82 renal masses were reviewed and correlated. The MR imaging appearance of clear cell type renal cell carcinoma varies depending on the presence of cystic components, hemorrhage, and necrosis. Papillary renal cell carcinomas appear as well-encapsulated masses with homogeneous low signal intensity on T2-weighted images and homogeneous low-level enhancement after the intravenous administration of contrast material, or as cystic hemorrhagic masses with peripheral enhancing papillary projections. Transitional cell carcinoma may be seen as an irregular, enhancing filling defect in the pelvicaliceal system or ureter. Lymphomatous masses are usually hypointense relative to the renal cortex on T2-weighted images and enhance minimally on delayed gadolinium-enhanced images. Bulk fat is a distinguishing feature of angiomyolipoma. Oncocytoma has a variable and nonspecific appearance at MR imaging. MR imaging findings may allow the characterization of various renal masses and can provide valuable information for their clinical management.