The serendipitous discovery of the anticancer drug cisplatin cemented medicinal inorganic chemistry as an independent discipline in the 1960s. Luminescent metal complexes have subsequently been widely applied for sensing, bio-imaging, and in organic light-emitting diode applications. Transition-metal complexes possess a variety of advantages that make them suitable as therapeutics and as luminescent probes for biomolecules. It is thus highly desirable to develop new luminescent metal complexes that either interact with DNA through different binding modes or target alternative cellular machinery such as proteins as well as to provide a more effective means of monitoring disease progression. In this Review, we highlight recent examples of biologically active luminescent metal complexes that can target and probe a specific biomolecule, and offer insights into the future potential of these compounds for the investigation and treatment of human diseases.