Morphological magnetic resonance imaging is currently the best imaging technique for local staging in patients with rectal cancer. However, morphological sequences have some limitations, especially after preoperative chemoradiotherapy (pCRT). Diffusion-weighted imaging has been applied to rectal cancer for detection of lesions, characterization of tissue, and evaluation of the response to therapy. In 2005, a non-Gaussian diffusion model called diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) was suggested. Several electronic databases were evaluated in the present review. The search included articles published from January 2000 to May 2018. The references of all articles were also evaluated. All titles and abstracts were assessed, and only the studies of DKI in patients with rectal cancer were retained. We identiﬁed 35 potentially relevant references through the electronic search. According to the inclusion and exclusion criteria, we retained five clinical studies that met the inclusion criteria. DKI is a useful tool for assessment of tumor aggressiveness, the nodal status, and the risk of early metastases as well as prediction of the response to pCRT. The results of DKI should be considered in treatment decision-making during the work-up of patients with rectal cancer.