Macrophages are key players in atherosclerotic lesions, regulating the local inflammatory milieu and plaque stability by the secretion of many inflammatory molecules, growth factors and cytokines. Monocytes have long been considered to be the main source of plaque macrophages. However, recent findings provide evidence for proliferation of local macrophages or transdifferentiation from other vascular cells as alternative sources. Recent years of research focused on the further identification and characterisation of macrophage phenotypes and functions. In this review we describe the advances in our understanding of monocyte and macrophage heterogeneity and its implications for specific therapeutic interventions, aiming to reduce the ever growing significant risk of cardiovascular events without any detrimental side effects on the patient's immune response.