This article introduces and considers the fundamental understanding of ionic polymer–metal composites (IPMCs) functioning as electroactive actuators and sensors. IPMCs consist of ion-exchange polymers acting as base materials and metal layers functioning as electrodes. The actuation and sensing abilities of IPMCs are dependent upon the components of ion-exchange polymers (ionic groups and cations) and electrode materials. In order to improve the bending and sensing performance of the IPMCs, an integral, two-step electroplating technique and a requisite dispersion agent are used during fabrication. Electroding materials also play a key role in determining the properties of IPMCs, and numerous methods in electroding have been tried, making use of various metals, carbon nanotubes, and composites. So far, IPMCs have been adapted as robotic actuators, artificial muscles, and electrical sensors. In the future, it is expected that IPMCs will broadly spread their roles from small-sized biomedical devices to large-scale actuators for aerospace as well as many industrial applications.