The cellular immune response to human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) has different components originating from both the adaptive and innate immune systems. There is a significant global interest in understanding how the immune system keeps HCMV under control, in particular with a view to situations where HCMV infection causes severe damage. Such settings include HIV infection, transplantation, and maybe most importantly perinatal medicine, HCMV being a major cause of sometimes catastrophic birth defects. The development of an active HCMV vaccine has proven very difficult but some recent successes raise hope that this might be available in the future. However, adoptive transfer of HCMV-specific T cells has been successfully used to prevent CMV disease after bone marrow transplantation for many years. In fact, the CD8 T cell response has been thought to be the most important effector response, with numerous reports focusing on specific T cell subsets recognizing select peptides in select human leukocyte antigen (HLA) contexts. However, it is becoming increasingly clear now that other cells, first and foremost CD4 T cells, but also gamma/delta (γ/δ) T cells and natural killer cells, are critically involved in the cellular immune response to HCMV. This commentary aims to provide a brief overview of the field.