Health care and medicine were revolutionized in recent years by the development of biomaterials, such as stents, implants, personalized drug delivery systems, engineered grafts, cell sheets, and other transplantable materials. These materials not only support the growth of cells before transplantation but also serve as replacements for damaged tissues in vivo. Among the various biomaterials available, those made from natural biological sources such as extracellular proteins (collagen, fibronectin, laminin) have shown significant benefits, and thus are widely used. However, routine biomaterial-based research requires copious quantities of proteins and the use of pure and intact extracellular proteins could be highly cost ineffective. Gelatin is a molecular derivative of collagen obtained through the irreversible denaturation of collagen proteins. Gelatin shares a very close molecular structure and function with collagen and thus is often used in cell and tissue culture to replace collagen for biomaterial purposes. Recent technological advancements such as additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping, and three-dimensional printing, in general, have resulted in great strides toward the generation of functional gelatin-based materials for medical purposes. In this review, the structural and molecular similarities of gelatin to other extracellular matrix proteins are compared and analyzed. Current strategies for gelatin crosslinking and production are described and recent applications of gelatin-based biomaterials in cell culture and tissue regeneration are discussed. Finally, recent improvements in gelatin-based biomaterials for medical applications and future directions are elaborated. Impact statement In this study, we described gelatin's biochemical properties and compared its advantages and drawbacks over other extracellular matrix proteins and polymers used for biomaterial application. We also described how gelatin can be used with other polymers in creating gelatin composite materials that have enhanced mechanical properties, increased biocompatibility, and boosted bioactivity, maximizing its benefits for biomedical purposes. The article is relevant, as it discussed not only the chemistry of gelatin, but also listed the current techniques in gelatin/biomaterial manufacturing and described the most recent trends in gelatin-based biomaterials for biomedical applications.