Despite 30 years of study, there is no HIV-1 vaccine and, until recently, there was little hope for a protective immunization. Renewed optimism in this area of research comes in part from the results of a recent vaccine trial and the use of single-cell antibody-cloning techniques that uncovered naturally arising, broad and potent HIV-1-neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs). These antibodies can protect against infection and suppress established HIV-1 infection in animal models. The finding that these antibodies develop in a fraction of infected individuals supports the idea that new approaches to vaccination might be developed by adapting the natural immune strategies or by structure-based immunogen design. Moreover, the success of passive immunotherapy in small-animal models suggests that bNAbs may become a valuable addition to the armamentarium of drugs that work against HIV-1.