The dopamine D1 receptor (D1R) is essential for neurotransmission in various brain pathways where it modulates key functions including voluntary movement, memory, attention and reward. Not surprisingly, the D1R has been validated as a promising drug target for over 40 years and selective activation of this receptor may provide novel neurotherapeutics for neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders. Several pharmacokinetic challenges with previously identified small molecule D1R agonists have been recently overcome with the discovery and advancement of new ligands, including drug-like non-catechol D1R agonists and positive allosteric modulators. From this, several novel molecules and mechanisms have recently entered clinical studies. Here we review the major classes of D1R selective ligands including antagonists, orthosteric agonists, non-catechol biased agonists and positive allosteric modulators, highlighting their structure-activity relationships and medicinal chemistry. Recent chemistry breakthroughs and innovative approaches to selectively target and activate the D1R also hold promise for creating pharmacotherapy for several neurological diseases.