Background This review focuses on exosomes derived from various cancer cells. The review discusses the possibility of differentiating macrophages in alternatively activated anti-inflammatory pro-tumorigenic M2 macrophage phenotypes and classically activated pro-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic M1 macrophage phenotypes in the tumor microenvironment (TME). The review is divided into two main parts, as follows: (1) role of exosomes in alternatively activating M2-like macrophages-breast cancer-derived exosomes, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell-derived exosomes, lung cancer-derived exosomes, prostate cancer-derived exosomes, Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC)-derived exosomes, epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC)-derived exosomes, Glioblastoma (GBM) cell-derived exosomes, and colorectal cancer-derived exosomes, (2) role of exosomes in classically activating M1-like macrophages, oral squamous cell carcinoma-derived exosomes, breast cancer-derived exosomes, Pancreatic-cancer derived modified exosomes, and colorectal cancer-derived exosomes, and (3) exosomes and antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC). This review addresses the following subjects: (1) crosstalk between cancer-derived exosomes and recipient macrophages, (2) the role of cancer-derived exosome payload(s) in modulating macrophage fate of differentiation, and (3) intracellular signaling mechanisms in macrophages regarding the exosome's payload(s) upon its uptake and regulation of the TME. Evidence Under the electron microscope, nanoscale exosomes appear as specialized membranous vesicles that emerge from the endocytic cellular compartments. Exosomes harbor proteins, growth factors, cytokines, lipids, miRNA, mRNA, and DNAs. Exosomes are released by many cell types, including reticulocytes, dendritic cells, B-lymphocytes, platelets, mast cells, and tumor cells. It is becoming clear that exosomes can impinge upon signal transduction pathways, serve as a mediator of signaling crosstalk, thereby regulating cell-to-cell wireless communications. Conclusion Based on the vesicular cargo, the molecular constituents, the exosomes have the potential to change the fate of macrophage phenotypes, either M1, classically activated macrophages, or M2, alternatively activated macrophages. In this review, we discuss and describe the ability of tumor-derived exosomes in the mechanism of macrophage activation and polarization.