In vivo applications of cells for the monitoring of their cell dynamics increasingly use non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging. This imaging modality allows in particular to follow the migrational activity of stem cells intended for cell therapy strategies. All these approaches require the prior labeling of the cells under investigation for excellent contrast against the host tissue background in the imaging modality. The present review discusses the various routes of cell labeling and describes the potential to observe both cell localization and their cell-specific function in vivo. Possibilities for labeling strategies, pros and cons of various contrast agents are pointed out while potential ambiguities or problems of labeling strategies are emphasized.