In this review we chart recent advances in what is at once an old and very new field of endeavour--the achievement of control of motion at the molecular level including solid-state and surface-mounted rotors, and its natural progression to the development of synthetic molecular machines. Besides a discussion of design principles used to control linear and rotary motion in such molecular systems, this review will address the advances towards the construction of synthetic machines that can perform useful functions. Approaches taken by several research groups to construct wholly synthetic molecular machines and devices are compared. This will be illustrated with molecular rotors, elevators, valves, transporters, muscles and other motor functions used to develop smart materials. The demonstration of molecular machinery is highlighted through recent examples of systems capable of effecting macroscopic movement through concerted molecular motion. Several approaches to illustrate how molecular motor systems have been used to accomplish work are discussed. We will conclude with prospects for future developments in this exciting field of nanotechnology.