Intermediate filament (IF) proteins and heat shock proteins (HSPs) are large multimember families that share several features, including protein abundance, significant upregulation in response to a variety of stresses, cytoprotective functions, and the phenocopying of several human diseases after IF protein or HSP mutation. We are now coming to understand that these common elements point to IFs as important cellular stress proteins with some roles akin to those already well-characterized for HSPs. Unique functional roles for IFs include protection from mechanical stress, whereas HSPs are characteristically involved in protein folding and as chaperones. Shared IF and HSP cytoprotective roles include inhibition of apoptosis, organelle homeostasis, and scaffolding. In this report, we review data that corroborate the view that IFs function as highly specialized cytoskeletal stress proteins that promote cellular organization and homeostasis.