Atherosclerotic carotid plaque represents a major cause of cerebral ischemia. The detection of vulnerable plaque is important for preventing future cardiovascular events. The key factors in advanced plaque that are most likely to lead to patient complications are the condition of the fibrous cap, the size of the necrotic core and hemorrhage, and the extent of inflammatory activity within the plaque. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has excellent soft tissue contrast and can allow for a more accurate and objective estimation of carotid wall morphology and plaque composition. Recent advances in MR imaging techniques have permitted serial monitoring of atherosclerotic disease evolution and the identification of intraplaque risk factors for accelerated progression. The purpose of this review article is to review the current state of techniques of carotid wall MR imaging and the characterization of plaque components and surface morphology with MR imaging, and to describe the clinical practice of carotid wall MR imaging for the determination of treatment plan.