Over recent years it has become increasingly clear that innate immune responses can shape the adaptive immune response. Among the most potent molecules of the innate immune system are the interleukin-1 (IL-1) family members. These evolutionarily ancient cytokines are made by and act on innate immune cells to influence their survival and function. In addition, they act directly on lymphocytes to reinforce certain adaptive immune responses. This Review provides an overview of both the long-established and more recently characterized members of the IL-1 family. In addition to their effects on immune cells, their involvement in human disease and disease models is discussed.