The ribonucleic acid (RNA) helicases retinoic acid-inducible gene-I (RIG-I) and melanoma differentiation–associated gene 5 (MDA5) recognize distinct viral and synthetic RNAs, leading to the production of interferons. Although 5′-triphosphate single-stranded RNA is a RIG-I ligand, the role of RIG-I and MDA5 in double-stranded (ds) RNA recognition remains to be characterized. In this study, we show that the length of dsRNA is important for differential recognition by RIG-I and MDA5. The MDA5 ligand, polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, was converted to a RIG-I ligand after shortening of the dsRNA length. In addition, viral dsRNAs differentially activated RIG-I and MDA5, depending on their length. Vesicular stomatitis virus infection generated dsRNA, which is responsible for RIG-I–mediated recognition. Collectively, RIG-I detects dsRNAs without a 5′-triphosphate end, and RIG-I and MDA5 selectively recognize short and long dsRNAs, respectively.