Hard and soft structural composites found in biology provide inspiration for the design of advanced synthetic materials. Many examples of bio-inspired hard materials can be found in the literature; far less attention has been devoted to soft systems. Here we introduce deterministic routes to low-modulus thin film materials with stress/strain responses that can be tailored precisely to match the non-linear properties of biological tissues, with application opportunities that range from soft biomedical devices to constructs for tissue engineering. The approach combines a low-modulus matrix with an open, stretchable network as a structural reinforcement that can yield classes of composites with a wide range of desired mechanical responses, including anisotropic, spatially heterogeneous, hierarchical and self-similar designs. Demonstrative application examples in thin, skin-mounted electrophysiological sensors with mechanics precisely matched to the human epidermis and in soft, hydrogel-based vehicles for triggered drug release suggest their broad potential uses in biomedical devices.