The clinical, pathologic, and imaging characteristics of clival chordomas in 14 patients who underwent magnetic resonance examinations were evaluated. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was compared with skull series, tomography, computed tomography (CT), and magnification angiography in the diagnosis of clival chordomas. Although all examinations were highly sensitive for the detection of clival chordomas, MRI was the best single study because of its ability to image in orthogonal planes, its excellent soft-tissue contrast, and its demonstration of the relationship between the neoplasm and regional vital structures, particularly the brainstem, cavernous sinus, cranial nerves, and neighboring vessels. The deficiencies of MRI are poor visualization of tumoral calcification and osseous destruction--findings that are better identified on CT. In all 14 cases, MRI revealed the neoplasms to be black on inversion-recovery, gray on partial-saturation, and white on T2-weighted pulse sequences. Three chordomas had a speckled signal void pattern, typical of tumor calcification.