Organic-inorganic halide perovskites present a number of challenges for first-principles atomistic materials modeling. Such “plastic crystals” feature dynamic processes across multiple length and time scales. These include the following: (i) transport of slow ions and fast electrons; (ii) highly anharmonic lattice dynamics with short phonon lifetimes; (iii) local symmetry breaking of the average crystallographic space group; (iv) strong relativistic (spin-orbit coupling) effects on the electronic band structure; and (v) thermodynamic metastability and rapid chemical breakdown. These issues, which affect the operation of solar cells, are outlined in this perspective. We also discuss general guidelines for performing quantitative and predictive simulations of these materials, which are relevant to metal-organic frameworks and other hybrid semiconducting, dielectric and ferroelectric compounds.