Rodent models of focal cerebral ischemia are essential tools in experimental stroke research. They have added tremendously to our understanding of injury mechanisms in stroke and have helped to identify potential therapeutic targets. A plethora of substances, however, in particular an overwhelming number of putative neuroprotective agents, have been shown to be effective in preclinical stroke research, but have failed in clinical trials. A lot of factors may have contributed to this failure of translation from bench to bedside. Often, deficits in the quality of experimental stroke research seem to be involved. In this article, we review the commonest rodent models of focal cerebral ischemia - middle cerebral artery occlusion, photothrombosis, and embolic stroke models - with their respective advantages and problems, and we address the issue of quality in preclinical stroke modeling as well as potential reasons for translational failure.