The objective of this review article is to provide a concise discussion of atomistic modeling efforts aimed at understanding the nanoscale behavior and the role of grain boundaries in plasticity of metallic polycrystalline materials. Atomistic simulations of grain boundary behavior during plastic deformation have focused mainly on three distinct configurations: (i) bicrystal models, (ii) columnar nanocrystalline models, and (iii) 3D nanocrystalline models. Bicrystal models facilitate the isolation of specific mechanisms that occur at the grain boundary during plastic deformation, whereas columnar and 3D nanocrystalline models allow for an evaluation of triple junctions and complex stress states characteristic of polycrystalline microstructures. Ultimately, both sets of calculations have merits and are necessary to determine the role of grain boundary structure on material properties. Future directions in grain boundary modeling are discussed, including studies focused on the role of grain boundary impurities and issues related to linking grain boundary mechanisms observed via atomistic simulation with continuum models of grain boundary plasticity.