Polymyositis and dermatomyositis are inflammatory myopathies that differ in their clinical features, histopathology, response to treatment, and prognosis. Although their clinical pictures differ, they both present with symmetrical, proximal muscle weakness. Treatment relies mainly upon empirical use of corticosteroids and immunosuppressive agents. A deeper understanding of the molecular pathways that drive pathogenesis, careful phenotyping, and accurate disease classification will aid clinical research and development of more efficacious treatments. In this review we address the current knowledge of the epidemiology, clinical characteristics, diagnostic evaluation, classification, pathogenesis, treatment, and prognosis of polymyositis and dermatomyositis.