Imaging is indispensable in the evaluation of patients presenting with central nervous system emergencies. Although computed tomography (CT) is the mainstay of initial assessment and triage, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has become vital in expanding diagnostic capabilities, refining management strategies, and developing our understanding of disease processes. Ischemic stroke and cerebral venous thrombosis are 2 areas wherein MRI is actively revolutionizing patient care. Familiarity with the imaging manifestations of these 2 disease processes is crucial for any radiologist reading brain MR studies. In this review, the fundamentals of image interpretation will be addressed in-depth. Furthermore, advanced imaging techniques which are redefining the role of emergency MRI will be outlined, with a focus on the pathophysiological mechanisms that underlie image interpretation. In particular, emerging data surrounding the use of MR perfusion imaging in acute stroke management portend dramatic shifts in neurointerventional management. To this end, a review of the recent stroke literature will hopefully enhance the radiologist's role in both meaningful reporting and multidisciplinary teamwork.