The discovery of materials has often introduced new physical paradigms and enabled the development of novel devices. Two-dimensional magnetism, which is associated with strong intrinsic spin fluctuations, has long been the focus of fundamental questions in condensed matter physics regarding our understanding and control of new phases. Here we discuss magnetic van der Waals materials: two-dimensional atomic crystals that contain magnetic elements and thus exhibit intrinsic magnetic properties. These cleavable materials provide the ideal platform for exploring magnetism in the two-dimensional limit, where new physical phenomena are expected, and represent a substantial shift in our ability to control and investigate nanoscale phases. We present the theoretical background and motivation for investigating this class of crystals, describe the material landscape and the current experimental status of measurement techniques as well as devices, and discuss promising future directions for the study of magnetic van der Waals materials.