Epidemics caused by viral infections pose a significant global threat. Cytoskeletal vimentin is a major intermediate filament (IF) protein, and is involved in numerous functions, including cell signaling, epithelialtextendashmesenchymal transition, intracellular organization and cell migration. Vimentin has important roles for the life cycle of particular viruses; it can act as a co-receptor to enable effective virus invasion and guide efficient transport of the virus to the replication site. Furthermore, vimentin has been shown to rearrange into cage-like structures that facilitate virus replication, and to recruit viral components to the location of assembly and egress. Surprisingly, vimentin can also inhibit virus entry or egress, as well as participate in host-cell defense. Although vimentin can facilitate viral infection, how this function is regulated is still poorly understood. In particular, information is lacking on its interaction sites, regulation of expression, post-translational modifications and cooperation with other host factors. This Review recapitulates the different functions of vimentin in the virus life cycle and discusses how they influence host-cell tropism, virulence of the pathogens and the consequent pathological outcomes. These insights into vimentintextendashvirus interactions emphasize the importance of cytoskeletal functions in viral cell biology and their potential for the identification of novel antiviral targets.