Oceanic red beds are widely distributed in the global oceans and across the entire Phanerozoic period, which mostly appeared after oceanic anoxic events. They represent typical oxygen-rich sedimentary environment and play a significant role on ocean science research. Numerous studies have been carried out since the oceanic red beds were discovered. However, previous studies mainly focused on the Cretaceous oceanic red beds, and the understanding of the characteristics and scientific significance of oceanic red beds are not comprehensive. Therefore, we here summarized the global distribution characteristics and compared mineral and element compositions of various lithological oceanic red beds, including marly, clayey and cherty oceanic red beds. The main mineral and element components of oceanic red beds have no direct relationship with the color of the sediments, and mainly are affected by the regional environment and provenances. Therefore, the mineralogical and geochemical characteristics of oceanic red beds should be analyzed in combination with the regional background. The red coloration of oceanic red beds is controlled mainly by hematite, goethite and manganese-bearing calcite, which have two main mechanisms: ① Colored minerals formed in oxic conditions; ② Colored minerals formed due to low deposition rates. These two mechanisms are not completely independent, but complement one another with either dominance in most oceanic red beds. Lithological characteristics of oceanic red beds are controlled by three factors, including water depth, productivity and nutrients. Therefore, the formation of oceanic red beds should be considered with global changes and regional events. The unique origin mechanism and global distribution characteristics of long time-scale oceanic red beds can be used to indicate sedimentary paleoenvironment, paleo-oceanic current, and paleoclimate change. In addition, hydrothermal or magmatic activities on the ocean floor could also produce red-color deposits that are strongly different from sedimentary oceanic red beds. Based on the existing research, we also put forward the future in-depth studies on the oceanic red beds from multidisciplinary perspectives.