The action of interferons (IFNs) on virus-infected cells and surrounding tissues elicits an antiviral state that is characterized by the expression and antiviral activity of IFN-stimulated genes. In turn, viruses encode mechanisms to counteract the host response and support efficient viral replication, thereby minimizing the therapeutic antiviral power of IFNs. In this review, we discuss the interplay between the IFN system and four medically important and challenging viruses -- influenza, hepatitis C, herpes simplex and vaccinia -- to highlight the diversity of viral strategies. Understanding the complex network of cellular antiviral processes and virus-host interactions should aid in identifying new and common targets for the therapeutic intervention of virus infection. This effort must take advantage of the recent developments in functional genomics, bioinformatics and other emerging technologies.