Levels of cognitive function are often compromised with increasing levels of stress and fatigue, as is often the norm in certain complex, high-intensity fields of work. Aviation, aeronautics, and product manufacturing have come to rely heavily on checklists to aid in reducing human error. The checklist is an important tool in error management across all these fields, contributing significantly to reductions in the risk of costly mistakes and improving overall outcomes. Such benefits also translate to improving the delivery of patient care. Despite demonstrated benefits of checklists in medicine and critical care, the integration of checklists into practice has not been as rapid and widespread as with other fields. This narrative is a guide to the evolution of medical and critical care checklists, and a discussion of the barriers and risks to the implementation of checklists.