Since the first generation of a negative-sense RNA virus entirely from cloned cDNA in 1994, similar reverse genetics systems have been established for members of most genera of the Rhabdo- and Paramyxoviridae families, as well as for Ebola virus (Filoviridae). The generation of segmented negative-sense RNA viruses was technically more challenging and has lagged behind the recovery of nonsegmented viruses, primarily because of the difficulty of providing more than one genomic RNA segment. A member of the Bunyaviridae family (whose genome is composed of three RNA segments) was first generated from cloned cDNA in 1996, followed in 1999 by the production of influenza virus, which contains eight RNA segments. Thus, reverse genetics, or the de novo synthesis of negative-sense RNA viruses from cloned cDNA, has become a reliable laboratory method that can be used to study this large group of medically and economically important viruses. It provides a powerful tool for dissecting the virus life cycle, virus assembly, the role of viral proteins in pathogenicity and the interplay of viral proteins with components of the host cell immune response. Finally, reverse genetics has opened the way to develop live attenuated virus vaccines and vaccine vectors.