The ESCRT machinery is an ancient, evolutionarily conserved membrane remodelling complex that is deployed by cells to perform a diverse collection of physiological and pathophysiological processes. ESCRT proteins are needed for multivesicular body biogenesis, release of enveloped retroviruses, reformation of the nuclear envelope and cytokinetic abscission during mitotic exit. These events all share the requirement for a topologically equivalent membrane remodelling for their completion that is thought to be performed by ESCRT-III. More recently, ESCRTs have been shown to play essential roles in repairing damaged cellular membranes, so preserving cellular viability and organellar function. Here, we will examine new advances in our understanding of the cell biology of this fascinating cellular machinery.