Nanocarriers, due to their unique features, are of increased interest among researchers working with pharmaceutical formulations. Polymeric nanoparticles and nanocapsules, involving non-toxic biodegradable polymers, liposomes, solid lipid nanoparticles, and inorganic-organic nanomaterials, are among the most used carriers for drugs for a broad spectrum of targeted diseases. In fact, oral, injectable, transdermal-dermal and ocular formulations mainly consist of the aforementioned nanomaterials demonstrating promising characteristics such as long circulation, specific targeting, high drug loading capacity, enhanced intracellular penetration, and so on. Over the last decade, huge advances in the development of novel, safer and less toxic nanocarriers with amended properties have been made. In addition, multifunctional nanocarriers combining chemical substances, vitamins and peptides via coupling chemistry, inorganic particles coated by biocompatible materials seem to play a key role considering that functionalization can enhance characteristics such as biocompatibility, targetability, environmental friendliness, and intracellular penetration while also have limited side effects. This review aims to summarize the "state of the art" of drug delivery carriers in nanosize, paying attention to their surface functionalization with ligands and other small or polymeric compounds so as to upgrade active and passive targeting, different release patterns as well as cell targeting and stimuli responsibility. Lastly, future aspects and potential uses of nanoparticulated drug systems are outlined.