Innate immunity is a primordial system that has a primary role in lung antimicrobial defenses. Recent advances in understanding the recognition systems by which cells of the innate immune system recognize and respond to microbial products have revolutionized the understanding of host defenses in the lungs and other tissues. The innate immune system includes lung leukocytes and also epithelial cells lining the alveolar surface and the conducting airways. The innate immune system drives adaptive immunity in the lungs and has important interactions with other systems, including apoptosis pathways and signaling pathways induced by mechanical stretch. Human diversity in innate immune responses could explain some of the variability seen in the responses of patients to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections in the lungs. New strategies to modify innate immune responses could be useful in limiting the adverse consequences of some inflammatory reactions in the lungs.