This review summarizes the major features of CD1 genes and proteins, the patterns of intracellular trafficking of CD1 molecules, and how they sample different intracellular compartments for self- and foreign lipids. We describe how lipid antigens bind to CD1 molecules with their alkyl chains buried in hydrophobic pockets and expose their polar lipid headgroup whose fine structure is recognized by the TCR of CD1-restricted T cells. CD1-restricted T cells carry out effector, helper, and adjuvant-like functions and interact with other cell types including macrophages, dendritic cells, NK cells, T cells, and B cells, thereby contributing to both innate and adaptive immune responses. Insights gained from mice and humans now delineate the extensive range of diseases in which CD1-restricted T cells play important roles and reveal differences in the role of CD1a, CD1b, and CD1c in contrast to CD1d. Invariant TCR alpha chains, self-lipid reactivity, and rapid effector responses empower a subset of CD1d-restricted T cells (NKT cells) to have unique effector functions without counterpart among MHC-restricted T cells. This review describes the function of CD1-restricted T cells in antimicrobial responses, antitumor immunity, and in regulating the balance between tolerance and autoimmunity.