Mononuclear phagocytes have been generally recognized as a barrier to drug delivery. Recently, a new understanding of mononuclear phagocytes (MPS) ontogeny has surfaced and their functions in disease have been unveiled, demonstrating the need for re-evaluation of perspectives on mononuclear phagocytes in drug delivery. In this review, we described mononuclear phagocyte biology and focus on their accumulation mechanisms in disease sites with explanations of monocyte heterogeneity. In the ‘MPS as a barrier’ section, we summarized recent studies on mechanisms to avoid phagocytosis based on two different biological principles: protein adsorption and self-recognition. In the ‘MPS as a target’ section, more detailed descriptions were given on mononuclear phagocyte-targeted drug delivery systems and their applications to various diseases. Collectively, we emphasize in this review that mononuclear phagocytes are potent targets for future drug delivery systems. Mononuclear phagocyte-targeted delivery systems should be created with an understanding of mononuclear phagocyte ontogeny and pathology. Each specific subset of phagocytes should be targeted differently by location and function for improved disease-drug delivery while avoiding RES clearance such as Kupffer cells and splenic macrophages.