Intermediate filament proteins (IFs) maintain cell and tissue integrity, based on evidence of their polymerization and mechanical properties, abundance and disease-associated phenotypes. This 'traditional' function is now augmented by organelle-related and protein-targeting roles. Mitochondrial location and function depend on intact IFs, as demonstrated for desmin, keratins and neurofilaments. Golgi positioning is regulated by several IFs, and endosomal/lysosomal protein distribution by vimentin. IFs dramatically affect nuclear function and shape and play a role in subcellular and membrane targeting of proteins. These functions have been noted in tissues but in some cases only in cell culture. The IF-related organelle-specific and protein-targeting roles, which are likely interrelated, provide functions beyond cell scaffolding and integrity and contribute to the cytoprotective and tissue-specific functions of IF proteins.