The prognosis of colorectal cancer (CRC) is largely dependent on the early detection of hepatic metastases. With the advantages of nonradioactivity and the availability of multiple scanning sequences, the efficacy of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the detection of colorectal liver metastases (CRLM) is not yet clear. We performed this meta-analysis to address this issue. PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library were searched for studies reporting diagnostic performance of MRI for CRLM. Descriptive and quantitative data were extracted. The study quality was evaluated for the identified studies and a random effects model was used to determine the integrated diagnosis estimation. Meta-regression and subgroup analyses were implemented to investigate the potential contributors to heterogeneity. As a result, seventeen studies were included for analysis (from the year 1996 to 2018), comprising 1121 patients with a total of 3279 liver lesions. The pooled sensitivity, specificity, and diagnostic odds ratio were 0.90 (95% confidence intervals (CI): 0.81-0.95), 0.88 (0.80-0.92), and 62.19 (23.71-163.13), respectively. The overall weighted area under the curve was 0.94 (0.92-0.96). Using two or more imaging planes and a quantitative/semiquantitative interpretation method showed higher diagnostic performance, although only the latter demonstrated statistical significance (P < 0.05). Advanced scanning sequences with DWI and liver-specific contrast media tended to increase the sensitivity for CRLM detection. We therefore concluded that contemporary MRI has high sensitivity and specificity for screening CRLM, especially for those with advanced scanning sequences. Using two or more imaging planes and adopting a quantitative/semiquantitative imaging interpretation may further improve diagnosis. However, the MRI results should be interpreted with caution because of substantial heterogeneity among studies.