Malignant melanoma (MM) is a life-threatening disease characterized by a highly aggressive biologic behavior in both humans and dogs. Despite improvements in diagnosis and patient care, most deaths from MM are due to metastases that are resistant to conventional treatment modalities. To ultimately reduce the mortality associated with metastatic disease, it is necessary to better define the fundamental molecular mechanisms of malignant tumor progression. The progression of disease is a consequence of the complex interactions between malignantly transformed cells and host factors. Characterization of the stages of tumor progression and the changes occurring in highly malignant cells is important for the development of effective treatment regimens. The dys-regulated molecular mechanisms of transformed melanocytes are presently being characterized. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of the molecular phases in the progression of MM, which include genetic instability, dysregulated proliferation of melanocytes, increased invasion and metastasis, and angiogenesis.