Inflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of ischemic stroke and other forms of ischemic brain injury. Increasing evidence suggests that inflammatory response is a double-edged sword, as it not only exacerbates secondary brain injury in the acute stage of stroke but also beneficially contributes to brain recovery after stroke. In this article, we provide an overview on the role of inflammation and its mediators in acute ischemic stroke. We discuss various pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses in different phases after ischemic stroke and the possible reasons for their failures in clinical trials. Undoubtedly, there is still much to be done in order to translate promising pre-clinical findings into clinical practice. A better understanding of the dynamic balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory responses and identifying the discrepancies between pre-clinical studies and clinical trials may serve as a basis for designing effective therapies.