Imaging samples in liquids with electron microscopy can provide unique insights into biological systems, such as cells containing labelled proteins, and into processes of importance in materials science, such as nanoparticle synthesis and electrochemical deposition. Here we review recent progress in the use of electron microscopy in liquids and its applications. We examine the experimental challenges involved and the resolution that can be achieved with different forms of the technique. We conclude by assessing the potential role that electron microscopy of liquid samples can play in areas such as energy storage and bioimaging. © 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.