Major mechanisms for the recognition of pathogens by immune cells have evolved to employ classical and non-classical major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) molecules. Classical MHC I molecules present antigenic peptide ligands on infected cells to CD8(+) T cells, whereas a key function for non-classical MHC I molecules is to mediate inhibitory or activating stimuli in natural killer (NK) cells. The structural diversity of MHC I puts immense pressure on persisting viruses, including cytomegaloviruses. The very large coding capacity of the human cytomegalovirus allows it to express a whole arsenal of immunoevasive factors assigned to individual MHC class I targets. This review summarizes achievements from more than two decades of intense research on how human cytomegalovirus manipulates MHC I molecules and escapes elimination by the immune system.