Unprecedented advances have been made in the treatment of cancer through the use of immune checkpoint blockade, with approval of several checkpoint blockade regimens spanning multiple cancer types. However, responses to this form of therapy are not universal, and insights are clearly needed to identify optimal biomarkers of response and to combat mechanisms of therapeutic resistance. A working knowledge of the hallmarks of cancer yields insight into responses to immune checkpoint blockade, although the focus of this is rather tumour-centric and additional factors are pertinent, including host immunity and environmental influences. Herein, we describe the foundation for pillars and hallmarks of response to immune checkpoint blockade, with a discussion of their relevance to immune monitoring and mechanisms of resistance. Evolution of this understanding will ultimately help guide treatment strategies to enhance therapeutic responses.