In the absence of an intact interferon (IFN) response, mammals may be susceptible to lethal viral infection. IFNs are secreted cytokines that activate a signal transduction cascade leading to the induction of hundreds of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs). Remarkably, approximately 10% of the genes in the human genome have the potential to be regulated by IFNs. What do all of these genes do? It is a complex question without a simple answer. From decades of research, we know that many of the protein products encoded by these ISGs work alone or in concert to achieve one or more cellular outcomes, including antiviral defense, antiproliferative activities, and stimulation of adaptive immunity. The focus of this review is the antiviral activities of the IFN/ISG system. This includes general paradigms of ISG function, supported by specific examples in the literature, as well as methodologies to identify and characterize ISG function.