Brain metastasis is associated with a particular poor prognosis. Novel insight into the brain metastatic process is therefore warranted. Several preclinical models of brain tumor metastasis have been developed during the last 60 years, and they have in part revealed some of the mechanisms underlying the metastatic process. This review discusses mechanisms of brain metastasis with a key focus of the development of animal model systems. This includes the use of rodent, syngeneic brain metastasis models (spontaneous, chemically induced and genetically engineered models) and human xenotransplantation models (ectopic inoculation and orthotopic models). Current information indicates that none of these fully reflect tumor development seen in patients with metastatic disease. The various model systems used, however, have provided important insight into specific mechanisms of the metastatic process related to the brain. By combining the knowledge obtained from animal models, new important information on the molecular mechanisms behind metastasis will be obtained, leading to the future development of new therapeutic strategies.