A hierarchy of mathematical models describing viscosity-stratified flow in a Hele-Shaw cell is constructed. Numerical modelling of jet flow and development of viscous fingers with the influence of inertia and friction is carried out. One-dimensional multi-layer flows are studied. In the framework of three-layer flow the interpretation of the Saffman–Taylor instability is given. A kinematic-wave model of viscous fingering taking into account friction between the fluid layers is proposed. Comparison with calculations on the basis of two-dimensional equations shows that this model allows to determine the propagation velocity of the viscous fingers.